As budding (or not-so-budding) genealogists, we're taught to ask specific questions that will guide our search for evidence. But on our hopeful journey to a conclusion, we may find ourselves surrounded with data, and looking for a pattern in a sea of (say) seven dozen deeds.
Now, we pulled those deeds because they might be relevant (right county or close, relevant surnames or close, right century). But which ones will actually help and how is not always so obvious -- especially since difficult cases may have us hunting for a pattern that does not appear in any particular record by itself.
Of course it's essential to be immersed in the subject and the families. Beyond that I like the "kaleidoscope" approach. How many ways can I rearrange the data? Table? Spreadsheet sortable on all different fields? Timeline? Color-coded list for particular properties? Maps? Compared to the nearest census, or church membership book?
How do you ferret out patterns in your work?
Illustration from "Rabbit-Duck Illusion," Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit%E2%80%93duck_illusion : viewed 11 May 2014), citing "Kaninchen und Ente" ("Rabbit and Duck"), Fliegende Blätter, 23 October 1892.
Harold Henderson, "Analyze This! Pattern Recognition in Genealogy," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 15 May 2014 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]