Decide What You Want to Learn

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At the end of this step you should have a research log that includes—

  • The name of a person you want to research.
  • What you want to find (the objective.)
  • If appropriate, the approximate time and place of the event.

Table of Contents of Step 2. Decide What You Want to Learn[edit | edit source]

1 Step 2: Decide what you want to learn.

2 Identify Candidate Families for Further Research

3 One Family at a Time

3.1 Research a Family in Community Context

4 One Research Objective at a Time

4.1 Complete Information
4.2 Minimum Information
4.3 Insufficient Information

5 Select the Easiest Research Objective

6 Prepare a Research Log

Step 2: Decide what you want to learn.[edit | edit source]

Nothing is more important to the research process than deciding what you want to learn. What you want to accomplish may vary, but usually, building up to it with well-documented research will help. It is not practical to thoroughly document all information on all of your lines by yourself. So thoughtfully select a few families of greatest interest to you. Do the genealogical research on those families especially well. Have faith that, in time, someone else will research the families you could not, and join their work with yours through programs like the Family Tree.

Most researchers have a final destination in mind even before they begin research. This is your research quest. However, to achieve your quest, you should divide it into several achievable goals. Goals are achieved by dividing them into specific research objectives and then accomplishing each objective in turn. A research objective is a specific piece of information about one person. See the examples in the following box.

Setting Objectives
This example shows how a quest can lead to goals which in turn lead to research objectives. Goals and objectives may be either genealogical or reference. They may be easy or difficult to achieve.

Possible Quests:
A. I want to visit my immigrant ancestor's home town in the old country.
B. I want to put up an Internet genealogy web site for my own family.
C. I want to submit my genealogy to the Pedigree Resource File.

Possible Goals for Quest A:
1. Identify the immigrant on the Pierce line.
2. Complete the family group of the immigrant.
3. Identify Grandfather Pierce's parents and siblings.
4. Understand what it was like to be an immigrant.
5. Learn where the immigrant came from.

Possible Objectives for Goal 5:
a. What date did the immigrant arrive in America?
b. At what port did he arrive?
c. Is there a picture of the ship on which he sailed?
d. Is he on a ship passenger list?
e. When was the immigrant born?
f. In what town was he born?

A single, clearly defined research objective will—

  • Focus your efforts, one step at a time, on a single task (such as a name, event date, event place, relationship, etc.)
  • Improve your chances of selecting a record that has the information you seek.
  • Reduce the confusion of trying to work on several objectives at once.
  • Help you succeed and enjoy your research experience.

In order to select a specific research objective, you will first identify several individuals or families you could research, then you will choose one. With one individual or family in mind, you will have a goal and can then identify questions about him or her. Next, select one question as the research objective. Then you will prepare and use a research log.