Documenting your research is also about including in your notes why a record caused you to reach the conclusion that you did. Some records state things pretty clearly and explicitly–we say those are “direct” statements. Other times the researcher needs to take statements from several documents, combine them with other known facts to reach a conclusion not specifically stated in any one document. We say those statements are “indirect.” That reasoning needs to be included in your notes. Just in case anyone else wonders how you got a “piece of information” that’s not explicitly stated in any one record. Or in case you forget. But that would never happen, right?
We’ve mentioned it before, but.. Never delay asking that relative questions about your family history. That person may not be able to answer questions tomorrow. And go back and ask them more questions once you’ve done some research–they may be able to provide more information than was in the records you located and the information you’ve discovered may help them remember things they could not remember before.
When you find a person of interest in a census, do you look at all the contexts in which that person appears? There are not as many details in pre-1850 census records, but for enumerations after that date, do you look at how many of your ancestors neighbors are from the same state or country as he? Do you look and see how many homes in the neighborhood are rented, owned or mortgaged? How common is his occupation? How common is it for the wife to have an occupation outside of the home? Not all census enumerations provide these details, but there are multiple layers of context that can be easy to overlook.
When was the last time you checked the appropriate state or provincial website to see if they had compiled indexes or finding aids to records you could use? Many state or provincial level archives have created finding aids or partial indexes to records in their collection. Some of these are indexes to state or provincial records and some are indexes to local records that have been deposited with state or provincial authorities.
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