Taking Notes in Archives
One of the richest sources of genealogy related information is a country’s national archives. Records extending back to the 18th century or earlier may be found in them, and one can easily become overwhelmed when faced with the mountains of material they possess. You may find a different language spoken in archives, their particular reference systems can seem like code, and many records are even written in Latin.
This being so, it is absolutely important to take clear, concise note when exploring archives, this article will give you some pointers on how to do that. Note taking of index and reference numbers can be tedious and monotonous, but if executed thoroughly and professionally, can yield outstanding results. Of course the principles discussed should be applied when researching any records, anywhere.
8 Things to Consider When Researching Archives
- Clarity of Notes – One of the most difficult things for any genealogist to do is keep clear notes. Oftentimes we may find our selves in the middle of an information frenzy. We are discovering new information, and the excitement overtakes us to the point that we scribble and doodle when we should be calmly taking accurate notes. It is so important that we develop the habit of comprehensible note taking in order to avoid mixing up our notes and causing ourselves confusion and the ensuing frustration that follows.
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- Have a Plan of Action – Knowing exactly what you’re looking for and planning how you will seek it is vital. It can be so easy to get distracted when searching historical archives, and it doesn’t have to be information about your family that takes you off track. There have been a lot of interesting people born into this world, and finding a document or two concerning an outlaw or celebrity can be quite easy to do. Make your plan and stick to it, only veering from it if you make unexpected, yet important discoveries.
- Separate the Notes for Each Branch of the Family – keeping the notes on the different branches of your family is another way of maintaining clarity. Make sure you always make a note of the date of your research so that you’re constantly working from the most recent records.
- Use Consistent Abbreviations – Using different abbreviations at different times for the same thing can cause confusion and lost time. A good way to avoid doing this is to make and keep an abbreviation key for yourself.
- Use a rough draft of your Family Tree to write in new additions – recording new discoveries in a rough draft of your Family Tree Chart can help you to see where the gaps in your family history are so that you can efficiently focus your energy and resources.
- Keep a record of any variant spellings you find – Often we’ll come across misspellings or variances in the spellings of surnames and first names alike. Record everyone, you don’t know when they might pop up again, or when they’ll be a help to another genealogist.
- Index the Indexes – Whenever you are searching through indexes make sure to record what documents are listed in them, what you find, and the date of your search.
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- Begin at the end – Follow the basic rule of beginning your search with relatives who are nearer to the present rather than ones buried in the past. This is generally an easier and more lucrative method of searching for ancestors, especially for beginners.