An Ideal Entry

Often when looking through search results researchers quickly eye each returned entry and determine if it’s “close enough” match to warrant looking at or not. That analysis sometimes is done quickly and is based on what we “have in our head” about the person for whom we are searching.

Other times it is easy to get the details of the person I am searching for mixed up with details of other people. To help keep me on track, I quickly jot down what the search results should look like if I were to find the person.

If I’m looking for a person in the 1850 US census, I have written down their name, what their approximate age should be in 1850, where they were roughly born, and whatever else I know. (or think I know) about them and their desired census entry that I can’t find. This serves two purposes: I can look at my guess of the entry to see if the person on my search results is relatively close and it gets me thinking about how to search for them. If the search is of manifest entries, I tweak my cheat sheet to match what’s on those records.

If look at search results and compare using only what’s in my head sometimes I overlook something. And that’s something I don’t want to do.