Sunday, July 26, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over (Cycle 3) - Week 4 - Managing the Research

So we are now in Week 4 of the third cycle of the Genealogy Do-Over.

Recap of Last Week

My post from yesterday is basically my recap from last week (well, technically, it relates more to Week 2, because I am falling behind).

Two Topics for Week 4

Managing Projects and Tasks

Now, this is different than tracking research. This is a higher level, between the overall research plan and the actual searches being performed.

Thomas MacEntee loves spreadsheets. I loath them, mostly because of bad prior experiences with people overusing them.

I know people who use spreadsheets for every problem.  I believe that is like using an electric drill for every project. They are great and surprisingly versatile. However, sometimes I just need a hammer, and sometimes I need delicate manipulation of small parts.

Spreadsheets are terrible at manipulating text. They are designed to manipulate numbers and text associated with those numbers. They are insanely linear. There are many superior alternatives to spreadsheets for most other uses.

Again, I think Evernote might be a better tool, but I need to give this some thought. There are actual project management tools that may be superior. I have tried several in the past, but none that I have used are cross-platform, simple, reliable and have the features that I would want (nesting subprojects, etc.).

I need to do a little research this week.

Tracking Searches

The reason that Thomas MacEntee gives for why he proposes tracking searches is basically the very reason that I don't track searches. I will give his suggestion some consideration.

Let me back up and put this in some context. There are two major types of searches: searches within a fixed source, like a specific book, and searches within a database.

I agree with recording searches within fixed sources, since they don't change. In general, if I look for all records for a particular person on a particular roll of microfilm at the Family History Library, the roll won't change. I want to record my searches so that I don't unintentionally repeat a search of that roll. I have done it before, and it is a waste of time.

I haven't tracked searches of databases, including search engines like, because they change frequently, and I will find different results if I try again at a later date.  Hence, I want to repeat those searches.

I think a good solution might be to create a specified set of searches that I want to perform in certain databases on a regular basis. is a good candidate for that, as they are regularly updating their database collection.

Of course, if I were Steve Morse, I would probably figure out a way to automate those searches. (For those who haven't visited, stop right now and do so, and marvel in its power and simplicity.)