Amy Johnson Crow has just started a series 31 Days to Better Genealogy. For day 1, the tip was “Decide what you want to find”. I have set out some additional tips about deciding what you want to find.
When deciding what you want to find, you need to look at what information you already have, and what resources you’ve already tried. There’s nothing more frustrating than realising you’ve already tried those records, or that you already have that document. This means you need to keep your research organised, and keep track of your past research, including negative results.
You also need to know what records you’ll need to access, and where they might be located. There are still a large number of resources that can only be accessed by visiting archives or libraries, and there are some extra considerations when planning a research trip.
When planning a research trip, it is also a good idea to think about whether you have any other ancestors, or their friends, associates and neighbours, who may also be found within the records you plan to look at. You may come up empty by focusing on one ancestor, and leave feeling disappointed and frustrated, but by keeping in mind other names you can look out for, you may find other records that can help expand your tree, and help you work your way towards finding the information you want.
You also need to look at the way the records are organised. For example, in my early years of family history research, when I used to visit the State Library of Victoria, I spent a lot of time working through the Victorian Electoral rolls. These records were located on microfiche, with one box per year. Since there was a fair distance to walk between the filing cabinets with the boxes of microfiche, and the tables with the microfiche readers, it saved time to look at a number of families at a time within the one year, rather than going backwards and forwards all the time researching the one family.