Research Notes Using Narrative Reports

Do you ever feel like you are playing ‘catch up’ with your genealogy research? I know that when I first started, I would come home from a genealogy research trip with a pile of paper notes. That pile of paper would sit for weeks (months and even years) before I would get caught up working thru it.

As I’m reviewing my 3rd great grandparents, I feel like I’m in ‘catch up’ mode again. That’s because I’m finding poor citations and holes in my research. In the process, I’m finding that I need a set of research notes for each of these individuals so I know what I have and what I’m missing.

Since I use Scrivener to keep my research for a county/area along with transcriptions of records, I thought I could use Scrivener to keep these notes. However, after completing a few sets, I found that I either had to spend some time learning more about Scrivener or switch to a different tool. Thus, I re-watched several of Constance Knox’s Genealogy TV videos about research notes.

Following the tips from these videos, I started using her template (available $ here). I’m finding that I like using the ideas from the videos and this template better that what I was doing in Scrivener. Basically, this is due to the fact that my Word skills are better than my Scrivener skills.

In working thru the template, I was copying notes, transcriptions of records and citations from my RootsMagic program. Thus, I began wondering whether I could use a RM report to generate a set of notes. And I thought about using a Narrative Report. I attempted this process using the following settings for the narrative report.

  • One Generation
  • Include Notes
  • New paragraph after every fact
  • Include Private Facts
  • Include Private Notes
  • No Index
  • Endnotes: Print Research Notes
  • Endnotes: Print Comments
  • Reuse Endnote Numbers

When it comes to the Endnotes, this creates a very MESSY report. That’s because I wanted EVERYTHING that I have in RM to be included in the report, including the transcriptions of records that I put in the RESEARCH NOTE field for a citation.

By including those research notes, I discovered that I would also have to use ENDNOTES to create the report and not footnotes. This issue was discussed on the RootsMagic Community where a power user provided a very logical explanation. (See question: Unable to generate any sort of Narrative reports on my win10 laptop)

The problem arises when the footnotes take up so much space on a page that RM’s report writer gets flummoxed with pagination. That’s not an issue with endnotes which can be of any length.

I also found that editing the document containing endnotes did not allow me to remove an endnote and thus renumber the remaining endnotes. Nor, was I able to convert the Endnotes to Footnotes.

Because of these issues with ENDNOTES, I retried creating the report using FOOTNOTES and not asking the report to include the ‘research notes’ attached to the citation. While this report would provide a starting point, working with the footnotes was still problematic.

Not willing to give up, I tried creating the report without sourcing. This pulls the sentences and notes for the person that can be easily copied into the template.

Working with this document, I can add the bold headings.

As I work my way thru the document, I can see spelling and formatting errors in the RootsMagic sentences and notes. I can also add the sourcing for each event.

While creating these research notes will be time consuming, I believe that I will not only end up with better sourcing but also with a better understanding of what I’m missing.

4 thoughts on “Research Notes Using Narrative Reports

  1. Pingback: Friday’s Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

  2. I too have watched Connie’s video and think it would be a good idea to create them for key ancestors based on her template. I’ve switched to Family Historian so am curious to see if the same issues arise with endnotes. Also, I use Atlantis Word Processor rather than Word and it has some cool features…will experiment. Thanks for reminding me about Connie’s template 🙂

  3. Marian Burk Wood

    As a RootsMagic user, I appreciate the videos and reading about your experiences with sources.

  4. Marian

    Thanks very much for this detailed coverage about how to do research notes well. It can pay huge dividends if we invest a few extra minutes in arranging our hard-won notes in ways that prompt more ideas about where to look.

    For others’ reference, Connie Knox’s video about the Table of Contents is here:

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