Research Notes Revisited

Do you keep research notes? This is a part of the genealogy process that professional genealogists have incorporated into their research process for years. However, this is a process that I’ve never truly adopted.

My first exposure to the process of creating such notes was in an Ancestry video that I watched several years ago where Crista Cowan explains the difference between NOTEES and COMMENTS on the Ancestry family tree.

After watching that video, I tried creating notes for some of my ancestors. In the process of creating these notes, I found that I could create a PERSON NOTE in my RootsMagic file.

RootsMagic 8 Person Notes – Judson Crawford

With TreeShare, I can upload those PERSON NOTES to my tree on Ancestry where they appear as NOTES.

While this process works and achieves the goal of keeping research notes, I found several drawbacks in the process.

  • No spell checker for the PERSON NOTE in RootsMagic
  • Bold formatting in RM is not transferred to Ancestry
  • Bulleted lists is not available
  • Changing the color of the font or highlighting is not available
  • The note is NOT visible or editable while working on facts/sources for the person. In other words, I can’t have both windows open at the same time.

To get around these drawbacks, I created notes in MS Word. However, this hasn’t become a habit. Thus, the files I created have not been updated. Nor have I created files for the ancestors I’ve researched since then.

And then I watched the video by Connie Knox about what she would do if starting a genealogy project from scratch. And there at about 17 minutes, she discusses research notes.

While watching this video and thinking about my recent research involving my 3rd great grandparents, I realized that research notes would be very helpful. For example, the information I have for my ancestor Ozias Wells is based on a family Bible, two biographies of a son, and someone else’s descendancy report. I have not done exhaustive research of Ozias and have a lot of holes (questions) about his life.

Thinking about this need, I watched the video by Family History Fanatics about research notes.

After watching these videos, I concluded that I need to be keeping research notes — but they need to be a regular part of my research process and easily updated. In addition, they need to allow for the use of highlighting and other formatting tools.

While others may use One Note or Evernote to organize their research and maintain research notes, I struggled with these tools. About three years ago, I discovered another tool that I’m using to keep track of my research. While actually created for authors, I’ve found Scrivener to be very useful for my research process. I talked about how I use Srivener to track my research – including transcriptions of documents in my 2019 Research Notes post.

While I’ve been using the RESEARCH portion of Scrivener to keep track of my findings, I haven’t tried to ‘write a book’ on the DRAFT portion of the program. Thinking about this need for RESEARCH NOTES, I started thinking about putting them in Scrivener along with my research – but in the DRAFT portion.

Experimenting, I created Research Notes for Ozias Wells in Scrivener.

I found that I could use various formatting tools to help organize these notes – including the use of color to highlight questions. Since these notes are stored in the surname Scrivener project, they are alongside the notes I’m taking from various sources.

While creating the notes for Ozias Wells, I also found that I’m relying on about 3 sources for all of the information I have for Ozias. This process also helped me insert notes and questions that will hopefully develop into research questions to guide future research. Hopefully, this use of Scrivener to create research notes will become a habit helping me further my research.

One thought on “Research Notes Revisited

  1. K. Steckelberg

    I watched the same Connie Knox video and found it very helpful. I’ve been keeping research notes in Word documents for a while, but not consistently. However, when I take the time to create them, I find them incredibly useful in keeping track of my research. I try to include research notes as part of the research process, along with timelines, research logs, research plans, and research reports.

Comments are closed.