The Way of the Turtle

courtesy Pixabay

Sheer Joy of Research 

Sometimes you've got the bull by the horns and rush along researching recklessly, breathlessly. That's fun! But we all know that details are missed this way and sometimes, in your hurry, you take the wrong road, pick the wrong parents, mix the records of two people with the same name. . .we've all been there! 

It's fun, but there is sometimes quite a bit of cleanup to do after the rampage.  

Professional Approach

Professional researchers do it differently. Time is of the essence, and getting results efficiently is what creates success. So the pros will plan their work by working out a research question or a series of questions with the client, and then begin by doing a literature and record set survey. 

Then is it time to assess what websites will yield the information needed? What repositories will need to be visited, or contacted? After the planning stage, the professional will consult the client for any fine-tuning.


Most of us are not professionals, and don't need to be so strict and efficient. However, perhaps we would get more enjoyment out of our search time with more self-discipline, focusing searches in the record sets which have the best chance of success, and keeping track of what has been searched and where.

Keeping Track

Localities: Some people keep track of needed records by repository, so if they get the chance to go, they are ready! Some genealogy programs will track this for you. You can do this for cemeteries as well, which in a sense are repositories. 

File Names: Creating a file-naming standard will save time in the long run. Will you file by surname, or date, or place? Think about how you want to search, and name (or rename) your files to make that easier.

ToDo Lists, research logs, correspondence tracking, DNA match spreadsheets are other ways to keep yourself organized.

Building Productive Routines

Creating a routine/checklist can tame the reckless beast within. Once you have starting on a person or family, you can use the Power of Three as we have written about before: begin with a locality search, then begin searching by name, then start on the FAN club before moving to another site, where you repeat the pattern: locality, name, then FANs. Then on to the third site, generating ever more records to examine, transcribe and analyze.


Pay attention to the timeline. Any site where you have a tree has a timeline feature, as do all the genealogy programs on your devices. The timeline automatically structures the facts you have found, and helps you evaluate the records which lead you to add those facts to your person and family of interest. 

Reasonably Exhaustive Research 

Recently Barbara wrote about reasonably exhaustive research, and urged 

"discipline yourself to use a Research Plan, Research Log, and Research Report. Even though you feel that it is slowing you down now, it will save you so much time in the future."

Genealogical Proof Standard

In fact, the whole of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) can act as a guide, not just in cleaning up your tree after a some over-hasty "research", but as you make the best use of your time. The GPS is:

There are five elements to the Genealogical Proof Standard:

  1. Reasonably exhaustive research has been conducted.
  2. Each statement of fact has a complete and accurate source citation.
  3. The evidence is reliable and has been skillfully correlated and interpreted.
  4. Any contradictory evidence has been resolved.
  5. The conclusion has been soundly reasoned and coherently written.

Any proof statement is subject to re-evaluation when new evidence arises. [1]

How does the GPS help you organize your search? If you begin with a focused research question, and build your plan to answer that question, you will automatically be more organized in your research. You will know that your research has been thorough, and will know that more may be needed eventually, as you iterate through all the parts of the GPS. 

Creating your source citations helps you begin to correlate and interpret the evidence. Remember, you can cheat! As you resolve contradictions, you prove that your research is comprehensive, which leads to your soundly reasoned and coherently written conclusion. 
Courtesy Library of Congress

At which point I think you will be ready to publish right here in the SKCGS blog! 

PS: Remember the fable of the turtle and the hare? Remember who won the race?


Valorie Cowan Zimmerman


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