Friday, November 22, 2013

How to research

Yesterday at Allen County, I found a published cemetery reading. In order to take it home, I photocopied the page it was on, the earlier page that identified the cemetery, two earlier pages that located the cemetery in a map of the township, and the title page of the book. If the authors had written an introduction explaining how they conducted their project, I could have made six copies instead of just one.

Granted, it's not the best evidence -- that would be a visit to the original record (the grave marker or sexton's list) or a photo on Find A Grave or other similar collaborative site. But in order to know about the information I did have, I really did need all those copies. No normal person would remember a year later exactly where that single page came from.

Of course, that specific procedure of photocopying is 20th-century stuff. But the same principles apply when I pull a microfilm or whisk over to check an original census page on Ancestry or an Ohio probate on FamilySearch. Unless I know where the information came from, it's not all that valuable.

Taking the time to image or write down the particulars of the source before opening it up is the best way to research -- in any century.

Harold Henderson, "How to research," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 22 November 2013 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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