30 January 2013

Keep a Research Log

Every family and personal historian has wished for better documentation--a journal, a diary or even a log book of past events. Writing would be so easy, we sigh, if my [grandfather, gg-grandmother, or even I] had just written something down about his/her/my life just as it happened.

Example of a research log. Use links to download
your own or make up one with your word-processing
software that suits your own needs.
So why do we sometimes feel that it is a waste of time to write down a daily log of our research into that person's life? As I write, I often remember just the right detail to put into my story, or I stop to look up some fact or detail that I need to understand it better. I find occasion to re-read something I have a vague remembrance of and lo and behold, there is a detail I missed before.

There are numerous articles, forms and instructions, video or written, for using research logs found on the Family Search website. I've included some links in the previous sentence that may be helpful. Click here for a convenient form or make up your own. My sister uses a log in her Microsoft OneNote to easily copy and paste internet excerpts and document links to her log. The free software program Evernote could work in much the same way.

All of the information I have gathered, past and present, can be at my fingertips if I just take a few moments to enter it on my log. If I have a question, I enter it. An idea of where to look may come later. If I have an idea of somewhere to search, I enter it. When I look something up, I finish the entry. It is so easy today to link the resulting webpage or document to the log, using a weblink or even a link to my own documents on my computer. To speed up my family history writing or memoir, to improve my readability, to establish my credibility, I resolve to use my log more regularly and completely.


  1. This is a great idea, and a great article! I've got a few forms I downloaded ages ago, but I've just never thought about simply logging my questions and results. You've inspired me. Thanks.

  2. I've been thinking I need something just like this - because sometimes I find myself thinking "Have I already looked for this record here before?" It would save me looking twice in the same places if I had a log of where I'd already checked. I just wish there was something like it integrated into my tree software - I like having everything in one place.