Setting Genealogical Research Goals

As the New Year begins, it is customary to make resolutions. I don’t much care for that term, but I do like to set goals at the start of each year. This includes genealogical research goals. Developing a genealogy research plan is the essential first step to making ancestral breakthroughs. To stay on track, I like to use this five-point strategy.

1. Set an objective. Write down what you want to learn–your ancestor’s marriage or immigration date? His spouse’s name? Where your ancestor was living in 1930? Be as specific as possible.

2. Note the facts. Jot down what you already know from original documents, records, or family stories. Include names and spelling variations, family relationships, and dates of birth, death and marriage.

3. Develop a hypothesis. Make a few guesses based on what you already know. Estimate when your ancestors married, speculate a date range for immigration, consider probable hometowns, etc.

4. Seek out sources. List all the records which will likely prove (or disprove) your hypothesis. Learn if they’re available, where to find them and in what format. Try not to miss any options.

5. Take action. Decide the order in which you’ll seek the records and how to get to them.