Preparing for a Research Trip – Setting Research Goals

notepadEstablishing why you want to do anything is always a good first step whether it is genealogy-related or in some other aspect of life. You can’t know if you made it if you don’t know where you are going. There are many books, blogs, magazines, TV shows and so forth about defining and researching your goals and all of those can apply to genealogy too.

What do you want to accomplish? What is the question(s) you wish to answer? If you are like me you have many, many, many research goals. Some common goals might be similar to the following:

  • Who were my immigrant ancestors?
  • Where are all of my 2xgreat grandparents’ graves?
  • Where was the family farm of my 3xgreat grandfather in Wood County, Ohio?
  • etc…

A research trip might be just the thing to find the answers to these questions. Before you go, be sure you have clearly defined your goals for the trip. These goals can take on many forms. I will go over research plans in a future post, but generally I start with a word document and I create a table for each of my research questions. In this table I will list each repository I wish to visit and what documents or record sets I plan on exploring. An electronic document is great because you can add to it and change it to meet your needs. I can add notes right into the table regarding my findings. This later helps with analysis and correlation of my data as well.

Defining your goals and research plans will save you a lot of time when you arrive at your research destination. I have been known to spend at least the first day during a research trip using the repository catalogs. What a waste of time! Working in the catalog of a repository is something that can usually be done at home now, there’s no reason not to be prepared.

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