Monday, August 1, 2011

3 Challenges to a Research Plan

It is fortunate that I love research, almost more than writing, because the Herstory: Stories of the Women of East Haddam project is going to require a tremendous amount of finding and checking (and checking and checking) facts.

I saw 3 challenges for which I needed to develop strategies. 1) a method of organizing all the facts I would gather. 2) Developing a bibliography and source notes system. 3) Developing a time table schedule for this research.

For the seventeenth century, my outline includes 18 different families, with three or four women profiles within a family – Ackley, Bates, Booge, Brainerd, Chapman, Cone, Crippen, Emmons, Fuller, Gates, Hungerford, Lord, Olmstead, Rowley, Spencer, Ventris and Willey.

#1  Keeping a Good Record of Thousands of Information Bits

The first thing I did was to design a form that included a space for all the different kinds of information I sought. There are genealogical forms that researchers use but I wanted to gather more information than those forms had spaces allotted. My form starts out simple with name, birthdate, spouse, parents of both, death date, and burial place but it gets more complicated as I gather conflicting information.

#2  Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

It is very necessary to keep track of where I am getting my information but I knew right from the start that the normal footnote superscript-numbering system just would not work with this book. The page would be so full of little numbers you would not be able to read the copy. I consulted my Chicago Style Manual and came up with a system that I think would get approval by the publishing industry and genealogists but still be clear for the reader. At the end of each profile, I will list source numbers. At the end of a chapter (one family), I will have corresponding numbered source notes. At the end of Herstory will be a complete bibliography of sources consulted and quoted.

#3   Scheduling Large Block of Research Time

 I am realizing just how difficult it is to get my head into this detailed genealogy information. In the beginning, I would just grab a hour here or there for Herstory research because I was committed to other writing. That just did not work for me. I found I was taking so much time to get my head back to untangling all the alike names in a family and I would have to put the research away. Of course, when I picked it up again, I would have to get the names straight in my head again. It was common practice to carry on the family names in each branch of a family. Sometimes within the same generation, you would have a number of Marys, or Mehitables, or Johns. It can be very confusing and most of the errors I have found in family histories are because someone followed the wrong person.

I took care of that challenge by backing off from some activities and scheduling research hours just as if it were a job. This seems to be working so far. Four or five hours at a time allows me to focus on solving at least one mystery a day.

What research challenges have you faced?

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