Improving my research process and learning to cite sources

As I’ve mentioned, I have created HUGE family trees. And they are a HUGE mess. I want to  start over, making sure all information I include on my trees is correct. I feel I need to focus on three areas – improving my research process, documenting sources, and organizing my digital images.

Todd gave me Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills for my birthday, and he bought it just days before the 3rd edition was published. Had I known it was being updated I would have advised him to wait! It seems most genealogists consider this book to be THE source for citing sources. It’s a huge book, 885 pages. It is suggested that you read the first couple of chapters, and then use the book as reference. I hadn’t settled down to get started with it when I learned about Amazon’s buyback program. I sold the book back for $20 less than he paid, and will eventually order the 3rd edition. It’s pricey, almost $60. I want the most recent edition because there’s more focus on online research, which is what I do (so far.)

I was checking out the other websites from Thomas MacEntee, whose website Geneabloggers provided helpful information when I started my blog. He has Hack Genealogy, where he offers quite a few Genealogy Boot Camp webinars. They are prerecorded and include handouts.

When I saw the title Research Right, I immediately wanted to take this class because it addressed two areas I need to improve – research process and citing of sources. And, it was on sale! For under $8, I got 3 hours of instruction which I can re-watch for up to a year.

The first half of the webinar focuses on the use of a research log. I was interested, but it seemed so overwhelming and tedious, until I saw it in action. An Excel research log is included with the class, and I started using it the next day. I was afraid of Excel because I haven’t worked in it. I’m a writer, not an accountant. It looks so complicated, and it is, but from the hour and a half of instruction I learned a lot about how to use Excel and how to use the research log in my genealogy process. I started with my blog post about Albert Gibson Cowan and logged all research referred to – 28 sources.

The second half of the webinar focuses on citing and evaluating evidence. I love the idea of source citations, and have fond memories (seriously!) of putting together citations for research papers in high school and college. But I haven’t used them in my genealogy research . . . I haven’t even tracked where I’ve gotten information. But from now on, as I fill out the research log, I will know exactly where the information is from and how to find it again, and I will write a source. I wrote source citations for those 28 sources from the Albert Gibson Cowan post, and will soon add them to the article.

Research Right Boot Camp actually ended up helping me with all three things I need to improve, because organizing digital images is briefly addressed. Through watching the instructor’s process I saw his organization system and have created my own organization system. I’ll have a consistent way of naming files with last name first in all capital letters, and I’ll have folders for the major last names in my trees. I’ve already started the process, and thought I’d share a fun photo I found that my mom took in about 1965:

My beautiful picture

Las Vegas NV –  Fremont Hotel is the tall building at the right.

I hope to list source citations for the information I post on this blog, and go back and do source citations for my previous articles.

Hack Genealogy has other Genealogy Boot Camps that I hope to learn from soon. I’ll get the most recent Evidence Explained and learn from that. I’m interested in checking out Evidentia. How did you learn to do genealogy research? What other sources could I use to further my education in genealogy?

4 thoughts on “Improving my research process and learning to cite sources

  1. Hello Suzanne, this is Donna,

    Enjoyed taking a look at one of your posts on “Filling in the Family Tree.”

    Looking forward to more challenges with Bloggers 101 on WordPress.


  2. I took Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over and it GREATLY benefited me. I didn’t “do-over” my whole genealogy but I did go back and checked for source citation. I call mine process my “Genealogy Go-Over”! As Thomas said about his genealogy before his do-over, I had not done a very good job of citation from the beginning. But besides getting citations in order, I created research logs for each family. I have never been so well-organized as I am now thanks to Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over. And the great thing about his Genealogy Do-Over is that you can do it at your own pace.


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