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I'm Jennifer, and I'm an Occasional Genealogist... sort of. For over ten years I've been a professional genealogist. I started researching my own family nearly 30 years ago. Like many of you, I started as an Occasional Genealogist. I had to squeeze research in while in school and while working full-time. Then I got my first genealogy job and for awhile, it was genealogy all the time. Now I have two kids. I do other people's genealogy constantly but my own? Coming up with ways to do great genealogy, despite all the interruptions, is now mandatory.
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The Best Way to Do Genealogy Research : Family History Month #3

One of the top requests I get from genealogists is help doing research planning. I know this was a topic I was always looking for help with even after I was a professional.

Last week I started talking about Research Plans but today I want to flesh it out and the freebie(s) in the Family History Month 2019 Collection will help you do that. [Available through November 15th as one of the bonuses in the deluxe edition of the 2020 Family History Month Kit.]

Research Plan Template from The Occasional Genealogist

Today I provided a printable and a digital "Plan to Notes to Report" template. What is this and why would you want it?

This is the template that I consider makes genealogy as fast and efficient as possible. The fastest way to (correctly) do genealogy is to keep your notes on a computer (as in only use a computer---I know that's not always possible but I'm just saying that makes the research process as fast as possible without cheating).

The template is about reducing the amount of work you redo (before we used computers you would have had to redo much of this work and even before you could take a portable device to a repository, you would have been redoing work).

Where I'm suggesting you'll save time is by planning your research (which you should always do). Then take your notes directly on your plan. That's how this template is set-up. The printable version is designed so you can print multiple generic note pages, even, while still making this part of your plan, not just note-taking.

Now here's where this gets really efficient. You should turn this plan/notes into your report. If you don't know what a report is or the concept scares you, summarize the results of your research session. The template will help you know what to do.

The skeleton of the genealogical research process is plan - research (i.e. take notes) - report - repeat. This template just simplified all of that into one template.

RELATED: I previously wrote about a Research Plan template with analysis. Read that post, here.

There are other important tasks involved in quality genealogical research. One is keeping track of your research (think research logs) which is tomorrow's topic. My favorite part is analysis and correlation which fits into the research and reporting steps (and sometimes the planning step, when you're reviewing your report/summary). There isn't one way to do analysis and correlation so that can't be completely included in a single template.

RELATED: Learn a little about simple Census Correlation in these posts. Using census instructions, Evernote template, census correlation.

I'm going to cut this topic short for now. The Family History Month 2019 Collection also includes emails and the email for this topic includes the printable "guide" to using the template. I've asked people to leave a comment on this post with any questions that guide doesn't answer (it's a very short guide to using that specific template). Any "quick" questions I'll answer in updates to this post.

If you want to get the template and its guide (which has some bonus tips), sign-up for free access to the Family History Month 2019 Collection. The guide may have already been sent out when you see this but I'll be compiling a complete Guide to the Collection which will be emailed after the Collection is closed to new sign-ups.


  1. Perfect timing! I am in the BU Principles Class and this week's unit is about creating a research plan. I have printed your template and added it to my note.
    Thank you!

  2. I took one of my brick walls and used your post to write a research plan to find the missing marriage (and parents). I was amazed (and a little embarrassed as I have always skipped formalising this step) how much I knew as background to the problem and how many lines of enquiry have now occurred to me - it is going to have to break into another 4 plans to cover the ground in doable tasks.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a clear way - my research skills have just taken another leap forward.

    1. I totally understand, WRITING up research is always like magic. I learned this in an equally "embarrasing" way. I actually started writing up a report (for myself) on a family. I got to the first child (not my ancestor) and started writing his summary. I didn't know what had happened to him and began to fumble over writing his summary.

      And then I really looked at what I knew (the info I was writing from) and realized I had him in the 1860 census and then *poof* gone. Yeah, he died in the Civil War. That should have been obvious and I should have been writing a research plan, not a report!

      I think these embarrassing writing moments are to really cement the importance of writing down what we know (whether in a plan or report or any other format) instead of just using forms or computer generated summaries (I understand, I'm always falling into this trap, especially with my personal research).

      I consider "writing it up" the only magic that happens in genealogy, and that's the first step (planning) and the last step (reporting). Not a coincidence!

      I'm so glad you've gotten this leap forward.


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