The National Institute for Genealogical Studies


The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Research Reports

Creating Your Research Report 

The process of writing a research report is a great way to capture your analysis and collect your thoughts.  Although your report does not have to be a formal document, you will want to include your name, the date of the report, and the research question.   


Sometimes we find that we have completed an exhaustive search, but perhaps misunderstood a key point in a record, missed a relevant piece of data, or had not properly analyzed all of the data as a whole.  Seeing our research in a different perspective may have been the key to solving our problem.  If you feel that you have reached a solid answer to your question you should include a section in your report that contains your conclusion.

If a conclusion is not reached, you should include a section in your report that outlines your research plan.  In some cases, this will be a simple task of filling in obvious gaps such as a missing census year or other typical genealogy records.  When developing your research plan, think about what sources might answer your research questions. 

Once your report is complete, take a moment to review what you have found against your individual summary and family group sheets.  Be sure to follow through on your plan and do not forget to record your findings in your research log.

Our Skill-Building: Breaking Down Brick Walls” course will help you in developing these reports and research plans.    

Your Ancestor’s Locations

Your Ancestor’s Locations 

It is extremely important to learn about the location(s) our ancestors lived. We need to be aware of when certain jurisdictions were formed, what records were kept and when, which jurisdictions were responsible for keeping specific records, and what records are currently accessible.


Keep in mind that jurisdictional boundaries may have changed over time, so it is important to keep track of what jurisdictions a location was a part of during the time the family resided there. Therefore, the use of historical and modern-day maps is essential. For example, the area now known as the City of Auburn in New York was a part of Onondaga County until 1799 when Cayuga County was formed.

Another problem we run into is location name changes. Consider the city of Auburn, New York as an example. It was originally known as Hardenberg’s Corners situated in the town of Aurelius. In 1805, it became the Cayuga County seat and was renamed. We also need to learn about the history of the location. In the United States, local histories can provide a wealth of information. We can often learn about what types of groups settled in a location, where they came from, and if they later dispersed, giving us wonderful clues for further research. There are a variety of recourses available to help us learn about different locations.

Finally, we need to understand the laws that were in place for the time period and location we are studying. This includes such things as the minimum age for marriage and if parental consent was allowed for those underage. Of course, keep in mind that the law is always changing; what may have been the legal age for marriage at one time, maybe different fifty years later.

What do you need to know about your ancestor’s location? To find out, check out the course Skill-Building: Breaking Down Brick Walls which offers tips and techniques you need for researching your ancestors.

Mapping Your Ancestors

 Mapping Your Ancestors 

Geography is an important element in your family history research. Did your ancestor contend with mountains, valleys, or waterways? The best way to answer these questions and potentially uncover new research avenues is to take a look at maps, particularly those contemporary to the time periods with which you are researching.


  • Physical maps are most helpful in determining a person’s location relative to their surroundings, including boundaries, roadways, railways, waterways, and sometimes places of interest, such as churches and schools.
  • Political maps can help determine neighboring jurisdictions and that may contain records about your ancestors.
  • Plat maps, in most cases, are sketches that depict property boundaries of a particular area. Many of these maps also include a variety of physical features, such as roadways, railways, waterways, schools, churches, cemeteries and landscape elements. Plat maps may also indicate the landowner for each parcel.
  • Topographic maps are helpful for learning the details of a location’s landscape. These maps are helpful for determining if land features such as waterways, mountains, or valleys may have influenced your ancestor’s decision to attend a church or register a birth in a different place than you would have expected.

As with many resources, there are various ways to find and access maps. With our Skill Building: Breaking Brick Walls Course you will learn more ways to use these maps.

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