Developing your genealogical research question

Whether you are working in your own family history or hiring a genealogist to help you, a detailed research question will help you develop an effective research plan and stay focused on your goal.

First of all, it is vital to understand the difference between what you know and what you only think you know. If the goal is to develop your genealogical tree, the last thing you want to do is to lose precious hours by investigating the lineage of a person who is not your ancestor.

If you work with a professional, this error loses money in more time. For this reason, a genealogist may suggest a detailed overview of the previously assembled information that will connect you to the ancestor you wish to investigate. Do not insult yourself for the suggestion. Take it as a sign that the genealogist wants to make sure that you make good use of your research dollars.

Once you have the certainty of the relationships that point to the person you want to investigate, develop a question as specific as possible. Remember that part of its purpose is to prevent you from jumping from one interesting article to another without following it on your goal. Failure to follow through can lead to errors and generate errors in genealogy as it goes back in time, generation by generation.

"When did my ancestors come to North America?" He is less likely to focus his research on a question such as: "Who were the parents of John Doe who married Jane Jones in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1843?"

When my wife and I bought our house in Warren, Rhode Island, we were interested in the original inhabitants of the old house. Who were Where did they come from? Were a large family? What happened to them?

The first maps of the city and land registries revealed that the first owner was Joseph Smith Jr. Marriage registrations at the town hall showed that he married Hannah Wheaton. The records of the federal census indicated that they spent their lives together with Warren.

To continue the investigation, we wrote down the question: "Who were the children of Joseph Smith Jr. and Hannah Wheaton of Warren, RI, who married on August 26, 1798?"

A search for birth records at the Warren City Hall revealed four children. Since it appeared Joseph and Hannah had always lived in Warren, our natural inclination was to direct our attention to the next generation. The question of research, however, kept us focused. This question can not be answered if a single source is checked. A combination of test records, newspaper ads and markers revealed four additional children. Without the orientation of the research question, we would have missed half of the family!

Well-structured research questions prevent you from wandering endlessly in a branch, taking only the little fruit hanging. They provide the focus and determination necessary to follow each branch as far as possible to your point, helping you overcome the barriers that you previously see as brick walls.