What Do I Do With All This Data?

>> Wednesday, June 9, 2010

As you proceed with your search, you are going to be collecting a lot of information. This is how I track and make sense of what I find.
Number 1 Rule
Save everything you find including where you found it. After searching for months, you do not want to realize that you saw something on day #1 that you can use now and have to find it all over again.
Number 2 Rule
Every person you rule out puts you one closer to the truth.
Number 3 Rule
Stop and go over what you have. Analyze it. Read it out loud to someone, draw mind maps. Analyze it frequently this is when the brainstorms appear.

Useful Tools
Snag it
I use a software package called Snag-it. It costs about $40. The only software on my computer that I use more is my email and my browser. If you have a Mac or use Vista, the capability to snip and copy bits of information and pictures is built in. Check it out.
This is what it looks like:

You highlight any picture or text you want to copy. You can add arrows or do other editing and then save it as a file or copy it into a document

Word Processor
I use MS Word but any word processor will work. Start the document with the name of who you are researching. Save it to a folder in your documents folder. (i.e.if I am searching for Sandy Adams mother, both this file and the folder I put it in are called Sandy Adams.
Add the email address you need to contact whoever you are working with.
Add the phone number and any other contact info you need.
Then save copy of the initial email or a summary of the search.
From now on start adding subtitles for sections such as BIRTH FATHER, SISTER
and copy everything that you find that pertains to that title info that section. Include sources.
This document should be a record of your search, so if you go on vacation for a couple of months, you will see exactly what you have done so far.

Word Processor - document #2 or Spreadsheet
If your word processor can contain tables, insert a table into the document. Basically this is done by choosing Insert and then Table or choosing table and then "insert table."
Take the non-ID and isolate every statement like this
This is the document you will check and recheck and add things to and delete from. This is the basis of your analysis and often the difference between success and failure.

Spreadsheet Document
Keep a list of everyone you investigate
Include name, contact information, places they have lived, possible relatives and your conclusion about the person

Optional - 4th document or a card file program. Microsoft has a free one. I use Azz Card file
I use a cardfile program but you could also use a spreadsheet or document
This is where I put sources like = California birth records are on ancestry.com
OR place to write for non-ID

Online Folder
Any other thing  like the non-ID documents, articles, etc that you come across should also go in this folder.

Summary Table
A final touch. I keep a table with "clients" I am helping, contact info, the birth date and relationship they are looking for, I note when the case is closed. Once a month I go to the larger registry sites and check the dates against the entries.

Mind mapping - My last technique - think with a pencil and paper. Draw a picture of your search. Put the goal in the middle in a circle and draw lines into the circle from the major pieces of information you have to get to make that happen. Put a square around each major piece of information. Draw arrows into the squares saying where that data might come from.

Good luck with your search. Sooner or later all that data will start to make sense.


  © Blog Design by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates

Back to TOP