I have used research as a tool for the majority of my 55 year career. While some research can end directly with the desired result, such as a home project or item of purchase as examples, most in depth research requires some sort of documented report for posterity. Without this documented report the research goes for naught and the effort applied researching is a fruitless. While doing engineering work, statusing of projects and tests was commonplace for me and when I entered into management, most personnel problems and their productivities were researched and reported to lay in a paper trail or as I usually referred to it, a track record. This was helpful at evaluation time as well for taking corrective action to keep and maintain acceptable work flow. It was from these two end results of researching that I learned, sometimes the hard way, that a writing report is necessary. The other aspect of written reports is who will be the reader(s) or end users of the written report. Example: Essays and Thesis requirements in school are a natural outcome of the research needed to complete and submit in written form for the teacher (reader.)
Specifically, the purpose of this blog is to address the needs for written reports for research of genealogists and family historians. Most of us involved in this field of endeavor are well aware of the standard form type of reports we use during our research, primarily the two most important ones that I use are the pedigree chart and the family group sheet. My need for a research journal is different from that of standard form as I found the form type too constrictive to fluid research. What I use in lieu of a standard form is twofold, one being a single or two sheet reports to file that reflecting the research done on specific family members, which I fill in by keeping notes of what sources accessed and the conclusions I came to. The other journal type report I do is an annual report of the major research I did throughout the year. I find these two captures not only the specifics of my research, but also associated stories of the individual or location, and highlights the major research activities I was involved in. All of this allows me to build my family tree with a confidence level that assures me I have the right information and lineage. I do not adhere to most standards put forth by BCG as they are restrictive and tend to stifle free thinking in research, however they do have their place and are certainly required to garner credibility by users of their services and products.
I need to write a little on why we research our family history. The reasons are many I am sure, from gaining the knowledge of where we come from to fully fledged genealogy research for paternal, inheritance, and health reasons. These latter used to be the hallmark of genealogists, but in contemporary times, less so due to the access of data on the internet, allowing even the least interested economical means to develop a family lineage. If the hobbyist family historian follows the precepts and spirit of research, standardized by BCG he or she will automatically delve into their family history, in an orderly, perverse manner that will yield a family tree of integrity, one that is easily reconstructed from source information. The ease of building and documenting the family lineage is now readily done on the internet with little or no constraints on what I call source proofing, a slippery slope that often times yields faulty information and at times completely bastardizes credible work done for the benefit of family members. I would caution everyone using the family pedigrees provided on the internet to do extensive studying of the work being copied and utilized by checking the with the author of the lineage report in question. This would yield your family tree in a credible manner, provide you family tree with integrity, and reduce the guesswork so evident in faulty reporting and documenting. In short, go to school and learn from those who have gone before you.
Happy Researching & Writing