Finding Out What Researching Has
Already Been Done
by Lisa South, Certified
Genealogical Research is done
in two phases, the survey phase and the original
research phase. The purpose of the survey phase is
to find out what research has already been done by
other researchers. Original research is exciting
but it can be time consuming and costly, so a
thorough search of the work of others is
essential. The process for following the survey
phase is very straightforward.1.
Check home and family sources.
through the old records, bibles, and photographs
in your home as well as the homes of other family
*Call, email or mail your
relatives and ask questions. Get as much personal
knowledge as you can from living relatives (be
sure to list the source of each piece of
information). If there is a specific topic that
your family is sensitive about, think carefully
how or even if the question should be asked. When
I took my first class in genealogy, my professor
shared an old adage that I think is very
important, "We should never hurt the living to
find the dead."
2. Check the work
* Start with
OneGreatFamily. Finding your ancestor at
OneGreatFamily is a great way to connect with new
and distant relatives, plus it can open
significant new avenues of exploration.
Check out other on-line sites such as the
Ancestral File at FamilySearch.org or Rootsweb’s
* Find out if any books have
been published about your family. The Family
History Library Catalog, surname section, at a
branch of the Family History Library or at
FamilySearch.org is an excellent place to begin.
Remember that all of these are secondary sources,
so evaluate them accordingly. Consider the
author’s reputation as a genealogist, check the
sources used etc.
* Keep an accurate list
of the sources you use - someday someone will be
evaluating your work!
* Try to contact
other people who are researching your same line
and share information. Putting your genealogy in
OneGreatFamily helps others know what family lines
you are working on. I had a person from New
Zealand contact me after seeing my genealogy
on-line. We had not known of each other’s
existence, but it turned out we were third cousins
- my ancestor had immigrated to America, his to
New Zealand. We have been able to share many
family documents, pictures and stories that I
could not have found any other way.
should collect as much information as possible
before beginning the original research phase
(which will be covered in next week’s newsletter),
but the survey phase of genealogy should continue
on some level throughout your research as you find
new relatives, when new family sites go on the