Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Mapping Our Research Pathway


One of the best tools for tackling an unyielding family history research problem is to approach it with a plan. Especially if available time is limited—which it was for so many of my working years—mapping out a way to handle that shortage of available research hours made a big difference in my progress.

Though I've tried various approaches throughout the years, I've come to like the plan I developed only a few years ago. I've found that most of my research goals evolved into a cyclical pattern, in which one year I'd work on a goal until I couldn't make any more progress, then set it aside until I could travel to access appropriate documents (or find that those documents thankfully materialized somewhere online). Then, once again, I'd pick up that research goal and take it as far as I could go, given those limited resources.

That plan, which I first launched at the end of 2019, I've dubbed my "Twelve Most Wanted" approach. At the close of the year, I pick twelve ancestors, one for each month of the upcoming year, and devote my research time to whatever goals need to be accomplished to round out the story of that selected ancestor. When the month was up for the featured person, I moved on to the next ancestor. No need to fret that I was letting that ancestor slip through my fingers on the last day of the month; I knew I'd be back to revisit that research problem in another year. After all, I've been at this genealogy quest as a near-lifelong discipline now.

Since having a plan such as the Twelve Most Wanted gives me the permission to call off the chase when the time is up, it brings with that plan an agreement—and a sense of peace—that it is okay to move on to another research target, even though the last one wasn't completed. But really, do we ever come to a point when we are "finished" with our family tree? There's always one more step, one more generation, one more story...

As for this month's goal—to find the glitch in the DNA match leading back to my father-in-law's Tully roots—this is not the first time I've grappled with this family line. Every reiteration, though, brings me a bit closer to having a clear picture of where this Irish forebear originated and who was in his circle of near relatives.

With my late start to the month's assignment, I may—or may not—find the solution to this Tully tangle. But with documentation of my progress, a research log to track which records I've found, and a finite time span, this research plan gives me the freedom to line up not just this one goal, but tackle a wide array of goals from previous years' unfinished research business. There will always be another chance to revisit the issue, gather new resources, or visit new promising repositories or online collections. And there will always be new research questions which spring up, even for those ancestors for whom I've already found so many answers.

Tomorrow, let's get started with a review of just who our Denis Tully was, and where I found him in colonial Canada.