Monday, February 7, 2011

Motivation Monday - Research Plans

We have all heard it before ~ in order to really focus on our research we should write up and use Research Plans.  In addition, we need to take that Research Plan and focus our research on that particular issue and not meander online or get distracted by ancillary research. 

A few points to consider:
  • Think of a research question you want to answer;
  • Write up the research question and your plan for answering the question;
  • Consider the types of research (online and bricks & mortar) you need to conduct to answer the question;
  • Set a time limit for conducting the research (use your genealogy database program to-dos or your genealogy calendar) and set benchmarks;
    • A great blog entry I read on Clue Wagon was about spending 4 hours of time researching a particular person ~ check it out.
  • After researching your question, write up your results and next steps in a Research Report.
  • Give your Research Plan and Research Report to a genealogist friend to review (and offer to do the same for your friend); and
  • Hopefully you will gain some insight into your research question (or solve it!) and you will continue to gain more experience by really focusing on your research.
I belong to one of the current ProGen Study Groups and January's assignment was to draft a Research Plan (assignments are turned in monthly and critiqued by other members of the Study Group as well as discussed during our monthly online chat).  Thanks to a member of my Study Group who was on the ball and turned in her assignment early (thank you Micki), I had an opportunity to read and use (as a template) her rather excellent Research Plan.

The research problem I chose was "to find the marriage date and place for my great great grandparents ~ Michael Daniel O'Murphy and Honora Agnes Butler."  According to information provided by their youngest granddaughter, the couple met and married in New York City in 1861.  Nice story, but I don't have any primary source information to support this "fact." 

Their published obituaries state that each was born in Ireland, each immigrated to the United States, they met and married in New York (although they list different wedding dates!) and the family bible entries list their first five children as born in New York City between 1861 and 1868.  Various later censuses show these children's birthplace as New York.  To-date I have not been able to find any immigration record or New York census record for either Michael or Honora (in the time period of 1840-1855). 

I have not spent much time on this family as we had birth, marriage and death dates and places from Murphy relatives for the more recent family (grandparents and great grandparents).  However, since I am now attempting to document the information I have received from family and do the necessary research to prove our family history and carry it back to Ireland, I need to learn more about Michael and Honora.  Writing up a Research Plan is one example of following through on my "work smarter not harder" genealogy goal for 2011.

These screenshots show the draft of my Research Plan, including "Known" Facts, Research Plan (lots of to-dos here!) and Summary of Findings (to be filled in once I conduct the research). 

I have done some research in Canadian, Norwegian and Swedish records, as well as records' research in Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Washington.  However, I have not done any research in New York records so I will need to read up on what is available and how to get to it. A terrific resource to start with is the FamilySearch Wiki for New York.  Why not check out your own "State of interest?"

Sounds like a good online research project during February and perhaps a research trip in the Spring.  Alternatively, if we share any of the above family members and you can shine any light on Michael and Honora's early years ~ I would love to hear from you!


  1. Hi, I just found your blog through Ready Seaver's Genea-musings blog. I just wanted to say how impressed I am with your blog, especially all the Irish information! Well done.

  2. Tessa excellent post! Loved it. Thanks for sharing.
    Warm regards,

  3. Great post, I loved seeing your format for a research plan.

  4. Thank you for the mention! I LOVE your research plan too...I can definitely see that helping to really focus your efforts.


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