We're often told to "review our notes" when our genealogy research has stalled. But just digging out our old notes and reading them isn't always effective. Here are three things I've done when my research has stalled and needs a jumpstart.
1. Create a Timeline
Timelines are my "go to" tool when I'm stumped on a genealogical problem or I need to see what I have in a new way. Creating a timeline lets me see the details of a person's life that aren't easily captured on an ancestor chart or family group sheet. I can also add events that aren't specific to that person, but that had an effect on him or her. I routinely add county creation dates, starts of wars, and major events in the area where the person was living.
(If you use Excel to create timelines, check out my method for getting the dates to sort correctly.)
2. Print a Family Group Sheet
Even though many of us are trying to get all of our genealogy to be digital, there are times when a paper copy is useful. I find that printing a family group sheet, as opposed to seeing the family on my computer screen, helps me better visualize what I have.
Depending on your genealogy software, the view on your screen might not list all of the facts that you have for all of the children, but a printed copy of the family group sheet does. Having that in hand helps me spot gaps in my research, such as missing dates and spouses for the children. Researching those other people in the family can be the key that we need!
3. Review Your List of Sources
This goes hand-in-hand with printing a family group sheet. When you print it, make sure that you set it so that it includes the source citations. Review what it is that you've used for those names, dates, and places on that family group sheet.
Have you used original records, such as wills and birth records? Have you relied mostly on derivative sources, such compiled family histories or published abstracts of records? Are most of your sources other people's family trees?
Let's say that the death date that you have for your great-great-grandfather came from a list of tombstone readings. Is there something better you could use? Are there death records for that area when he died? Do you have a photo of the tombstone so you can evaluate it? Do you have an obituary? Seeing where your sources could be improved can further your research.
What your favorite way to jumpstart your genealogy research? Leave a comment below!