Genealogy Sleuth Work: Spontaneity


I always think, you know, that one should have a plan.
- Miss Marple

Genealogy, like life, has to have a certain degree of spontaneity. While you are browsing in the library stacks, you want to be free to look through a book that strikes your fancy, especially if it may contain something vital on a family currently simmering on your back burner. Only you can decide whether you have time for this diversion or digression. Most of us find it hard to resist the temptation and have found great stuff this way. Besides, if you do not write down at the time the title, call number, and reason for wanting to use it, you may forget all about it. As long as you have to stop to write something, you may as well write down or photocopy whatever attracted your attention in the first place. Regardless of your plan for the day's research, sometimes it is beneficial to stop and insert something else.

However, if you want to progress on your focus family, you probably should succumb to this kind of spontaneity in moderation. Research plans have a way of keeping us focused, keeping our search on track, and motivating us to persevere. They are something like a shopping list, especially one generated over several days, with thought and planning. When we stray too much from the list, we pick up items that we do not need, add items that are already in the pantry that we forgot we had, and may even forget the main item on the list because we got sidetracked.

     Emily Anne Croom, "Genealogy Sleuth Work: Spontaneity," extracted from The Sleuth Book for Genealogists: Strategies for More Successful Family History Research, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2008), Chapt. 2, p. 12; digital edition, ( : posted 26 Jul 2012)

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