Beginners struggle with the task of planning and conducting efficient research, and the ready availability of online records and databases can actually add to the confusion. Would-be genealogists have easy access to information that may or may not relate to their own families. Many newcomers to genealogy spend hours at the computer gathering whatever scraps they can find to connect to names on their trees. They don’t realize that sound research leading to valid conclusions starts with well-defined research goals and strategic plans.
All projects should begin with a clear problem—a specific question that can be answered through genealogical research. “Who,” “what,” and “when” are the most appropriate questions. Researchers could seek, for example, a person’s spouse or parent (“who”); a person’s occupation, religion, or ethnicity (“what”); or the date a person married, died, migrated, or naturalized (“when”). Genealogists should state their questions with as much detail as possible. Focused questions help genealogists plan, research, and analyze.
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