The webinar that I took today was about becoming a “genealogy detective”.  Essentially it focused on some of the more advanced tools that genealogists can employ to finding missing facts and ancestors.

My favorite point was when the speaker talked about the difference between a genealogy “search” and genealogy “research”.  As someone who is happy to dive into an internet search without much rhyme or reason (with predictable results), this concept particularly spoke to me.

A search is basically what I just described – jumping into the internet or any other resource with a very general idea of what you want (I’ll see if I can find anyone named Joe Smith who lived in Kansas in 1890).  You get one result and go off down that path.  Then you find another result and go off down that path.  By the time you are done, you are frustrated and can’t even remember the sources you looked at and what you learned!

Research is very different.  Research is the process of defining a very specific problem that you want to research (I want to find out the date of birth of my grandmother).  You relook at all of the information you already have and confirm it.  Then, you make a list of new potential records to check and alternative records that might provide clues.  Finally, you incorporate FAN (friends, associates, neighbors) research to identify if there are clues there.  Basically, research is a methodical, carefully thought out process that looks at all available information possibilities, not just the obvious ones.

I intend to go back to my current search focus and define a research process that is much more careful and intentional than what I’ve done in the past.  Who knows?  I might actually learn something!  Happy research.