Genealogy Sleuth Work: First Things First: Getting Organized


To work with method, one must begin from the beginning.
- Hercule Poirot

Before you start a do-it-yourself project, you prepare and get organized: You plan or draw the project, collect the tools and supplies, clear the work space, lay out materials, take measurements ("measure twice, cut once"), and do other preliminary tasks. Sometimes, getting ready takes longer than the project itself. In genealogy, preparation is just as necessary but not always as lengthy.

Method in a genealogist's madness implies, first, an organization process which allows the researcher to keep up with the accumulation of data. The sleuths do not talk much about committing evidence to paper; they seem to carry much of it around in their heads. Genealogists must not try to do that. We must accept the television commercial warning "Do not try this at home."

Most genealogists have at least a rudimentary system for organizing their efforts. Some systems are more sophisticated than others. Perhaps some resemble Adelaide Adams in Murder a la Richelieu: "Not much escapes my eyes and ears and nothing escapes my memory, although I may mislay it for a while."7 Other systems may be like the study that lady detective Loveday Brooke observed in 1893: "The room was comfortably furnished, but presented an appearance of disorder from the books and manuscripts scattered in all directions. A whole pile of torn fragments of foolscap sheets, overflowing from a wastepaper basket beside the writing-table, seemed to proclaim the fact that the scholar had of late grown weary of, or else dissatisfied with his work, and had condemned it freely."8

     Emily Anne Croom, "Genealogy Sleuth Work: First Things First: Getting Organized," extracted from The Sleuth Book for Genealogists: Strategies for More Successful Family History Research, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2008), Chapt. 1, p. 5; digital edition, ( : posted 26 Jul 2012)

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