Genealogy Sleuth Work: Preliminary Planning


What is our plan of campaign?
- Captain Hastings to Hercule Poirot

Many genealogists plan their searches without being conscious of going through any particular steps. However, when we dissect and understand the process, we often make better use of it. The overall goal is to zero in on a specific research problem in a way that may lead to a solution. Granted, some genealogical questions cannot be answered, but many tough ones can be, with an appropriate research plan and a dose of luck. Ultimately, good planning should help the researcher make good choices about procedures and sources to try. Good planning should help prevent unnecessary expenses and wasted time and effort.

Chapter one discussed the initial steps in this process:

1. Identify your focus family or person.
2. For this family, update family group sheets, pedigree charts, and chronological profiles. This represents what you know to be accurate at this time.
3. From these charts, determine the holes in your information.
4. From these holes, choose a focus. What specific information are you trying to find?

From specific questions, it is easier to plan for finding answers. The ultimate question for most searches is "Who were the parents?" However, between identifying the child (maybe as an older adult) and identifying the parents may lie other more specific questions that must be answered on the road to finding the parents. The road may be short or long, straight or winding. Each search is different. The plan will have to be tailored to each specific search, and the plan may change along the way. Much depends on what is found and what it means, or what is not found.

     Emily Anne Croom, "Genealogy Sleuth Work: Preliminary Planning," extracted from The Sleuth Book for Genealogists: Strategies for More Successful Family History Research, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2008), Chapt. 2, pp. 12-13; digital edition, ( : posted 26 Jul 2012)

This content is licensed to with copyright owned by

Add a Comment

*Spam Protection (finish statement)

We live on planet .