1. Parenting
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Think Like a Detective - Developing a Genealogy Research Plan


If you like mysteries, then you have the makings of a good genealogist. Why? Just like detectives, genealogists must use clues to formulate possible scenarios in their pursuit for answers.

Whether it is as simple as looking up a name in an index, or as comprehensive as looking for patterns among neighbors and communities, turning those clues into answers is the goal of a good research plan.

How to Develop a Genealogy Research Plan
A major goal in developing a genealogy research plan is to identify what you want to know and formulate the questions which will provide the answers you seek.

Elements of a genealogy research plan include:

  • Objective - What specifically do you want to learn about your ancestor? Their marriage date? Spouse's name? Where they lived at a particular point in time?

  • Known Facts - What have you already learned about your ancestors? This should include facts -- identities, relationships, dates and places -- that are supported by original records.

  • Working Hypothesis - What are the possible or probable conclusions that you hope to prove or disprove through your research?

  • Identified Sources - Which records are most likely to provide support for your hypothesis? Census records? Marriage records? Land deeds? Create a list of possible sources, and identify the repositories, including libraries, archives, societies or published Internet collections where these records and resources can be researched.

  • Research Strategy - Plan the order in which to consult or visit the various repositories, considering the available records and your research needs. If you require information from one resource to use in checking another, be sure to take that into account.

Next Page > An Example Genealogy Research Plan

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.