When working on genealogy, sometimes its hard to stay focused on a single ancestor or project, especially if you are in Ancestry.com or on the internet. One online database can send you down the proverbial rabbit hole. You “wake” up hours later in some obscure place with a distant memory of whatever goal you original started with. My friend Kate calls this “genealogical ADD”.
I have found a few ways to keep my own sometimes fragmented approach to research under control. It is usually a combination of my next travel plan and/or project and then creating a timeline and research plan for a specific ancestor or family group. When I knew that I would be in Rochester, New York for my daughter’s birthday and wedding this year, I created a project focusing on my relatives that had lived in Buffalo from 1850’s to 1915.
I created timelines with sources for Bernard Knorr, his daughter Mary Knorr, John C. Mattson and his son Ellis Mattson. I then pulled all of that information into a research plan for each one to fill in gaps.
In the example below for Ellis Matson, I believed he married Mary Knorr, but needed proof of a marriage. I also needed to find out when Ellis died. I suspected it was just prior to 1880, as I couldn’t find him in any census after that, but there is a one year old child with the name Ellis Mattson living with her grandfather and mother in the 1880 census.
Example: Ellis Mattson- Timeline & Research Questions
Through this process I was able to then create a research log and document the results of new information that was/was not found.
Example: Ellis Mattson – Research Calendar
Eureka! I was able to confirm the marriage of Ellis and Mary Knorr in a book at the Seattle Public Library. And when I made the trip to Buffalo, I was able to find a record for Ellis Mattson dying in 1879. I looked up the notice in the newspaper and found out it was by drowning. The research plan helped me find the marriage record and the death record and to finally make sense of a very short life and to make the connections to another generation.
So what is next? I really do need a project to help me stop meandering through my family tree and not making much progress. I have decided to focus on creating a coffee table book on my Bucks County Revolutionary War ancestors to give to my family for the holidays. So time to start working on the timeline for William Keith, James McNair and James McMasters, read Revolutionary War history, watch documentaries etc. My friend Val and I are even trying to see if we can fit in a trip to Pennsylvania by the end of the year! I really do thrive with a project.