Walking into a Video Arcade you come across an old pinball machine. You decide to take a closer look so you move in and to your surprise the machine is a Genealogy Pinball Machine! On the backglass you can see what appears to be a Family Tree with a list of unlit research documents on it. You get a little closer and look down at the playfield and you see the names of various documents and lots of blinking lights. This is going to be fun! You insert a couple of quarters and the balls roll out into the plunger. The first ball goes flying onto the playfield. Rolling down towards the bottom you hit the flippers and it makes contact with the ball. It shoots back up the field and hits “Death Certificate”, lighting it up and scoring 100 points. It then bounces over to “Wills” also lighting it up and scoring 50 point. You continue playing until you run out of balls. When the game is finished you look at the backglass to see your score, an impressive 10,000 points. But wait, not all of the documents names have been lit up. You missed some during the game. Now what? You pop in more quarters and try again. The outcome is the same so you decide to give up.
This is how it can be in our own research time. You decide which Ancestor you want to work on and you begin your search. You find a Death Certificate for Great-Grandma Iva. How exciting as you have searched several times before with no luck. So you continue to search and you find her Obituary. More excitement as the clipping includes her parents’ names and her childrens name. You immediately do a search for Great-Great Grandpa Chuck finding his Marriage Certificate to Mary. You discover that Mary has a very unusual last name so the hunt begins for any documents for her. Eureka! You found her in the 1840 Census along with her parents and siblings. The search continues looking for each new Ancestor that you stumble upon.
When you are finished you realize that the only documents you found for Great-Grandma Iva was her Death Certificate and Obituary. You got side tracked adding all the new information you found on the other Ancestors. It is like a pinball machine. You hit one target and it immediately bounces off, taking you in a totally different direction. You continue this way until the game is over and you find there are still a lot of missed documents and information. What can you do to avoid this pinball trap?
When you sit down to do research, do it with a purpose. Take the time to really look at what information you already have on the chosen Ancestor and make a list of what else you need to fill in the blanks. Stick to the list until you have run out of places to search. While you are examining the documents, if you find new information on another Ancestor, make a note of it so you can go back to it. They have Research Logs available for free at a lot of sites; you can use one of those or create your own. Each person does research in a different way so do what works for you.
Remember our main goal in creating our Family Tree is to make it as complete and accurate as possible. This is done with documents and other vital information. Keeping on track will help you fill in those blanks and make our trees bloom!
Click here to get various research log forms http://tinyurl.com/lyq4sbf
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.