Find out how to Construct a Analysis Plan

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Analysis could be outlined as

an in depth research of a topic, particularly with a purpose to uncover (new) data or attain a (new) understanding

As household historians, we’re continuously attempting to find new data and attain new understandings – it’s inherent in what we do. However how ought to we go about uncovering new data if it isn’t simply out there within the sources that we’re acquainted with and have handy?

With so many attainable sources to select from, figuring out essentially the most related sources isn’t any simple activity. To climb this hill, you’ll need a analysis plan.

What’s a Analysis Plan?

A analysis plan is a prioritised checklist of potential sources and areas which we intend to seek for data related to our analysis goal. Right here is how I’m going about writing one:

  1. Outline the Analysis Goal
    Earlier than we attempt to discover a solution, we should first have a transparent query. This must be as particular as attainable. E.g. Discover the wedding file of individuals P and Q, in all probability in or close to to location L, within the vary of years YYYY – YYYZ.
  2. Construct a Timeline of Identified Info
    A fundamental rule of family tree is to begin from the identified and work to the unknown. Summarising what you at the moment know concerning the goal particular person by 12 months and placement is an enormously necessary device. It lets you simply see how a lot (or maybe how little!) you recognize about your goal particular person. It lets you analyse which of your findings are constructed on appropriately strong foundations and which could require extra supporting particulars.
  3. Determine the Hole(s) within the Timeline
    Have you ever collected data on the entire important occasions for this individual (start, baptism, marriage(s), births/baptisms of youngsters, demise/burial of partner(s), demise/burial of goal)? If the analysis goal lived throughout a interval wherein censuses can be found, have they been traced in all out there census years? In the event that they lived earlier than formal censuses, have you ever investigated attainable census substitutes akin to tax and militia data? To what degree had been they educated? Are you aware their occupation? If male, did they undertake an apprenticeship or serve within the navy? If feminine, did they apply a commerce or craft earlier than marriage? And so forth.
  4. Refine Your Analysis Goal
    If there are substantial gaps, is the unique analysis goal nonetheless a wise and related query? Ought to we even try to handle the unique goal earlier than filling in a number of the different gaps within the timeline? It’s okay to draft different, smaller, less complicated analysis questions and reply these earlier than returning to the unique goal – the place the beginning gaps are giant it’s best apply to take action.
  5. Brainstorm Sources (on-line AND in archives) which could assist meet the target
    Use card catalogues, A-Z file lists, archive catalogues, library catalogues, indexes, books, guides, on-line hyperlinks, gazetteers and Web searches to compile attainable sources to go looking. That is maybe essentially the most troublesome step. I’ve a basic strategy that I exploit for British analysis which I clarify intimately within the labored instance beneath…
  6. Organise the Supply Checklist by Precedence and Bodily Location
    Type the checklist into on-line and bodily searches, then kind every group in order that sources with the best chance of answering the query seem on the high.
  7. Write Your Plan
    Make sure that your plan is documented. A easy desk will do, outlining the supply identify, it’s kind, the URL or bodily location at which it may be discovered, and, for archive searches, add the archive reference.

    When you’ve listed all of the sources you propose to go looking then you may share and talk about your checklist with others and ask for a second opinion – “Have I considered all the best sources and areas to unravel this downside? Is there anything I might/ought to add?” In my expertise, genealogists are a pleasant and beneficiant bunch, greater than keen to cross on recommendation about sources they’ve used for comparable issues.

    Additionally, when you have a pleasant desk with all of your deliberate searches then you may simply add an additional column and use it to log your findings – see my labored instance!

Labored Instance – Mary Harnett

One among my initiatives final 12 months was to provide an entire five-generation pedigree for my spouse. I had a fantastic A1 poster printed exhibiting the entire findings, which was framed, wrapped and put below the Christmas tree to make a singular reward. The one problem was that I needed to analysis all 62 (2+4+8+16+32) of my spouse’s quick ancestors, leaving no gaps, and have the whole lot completed in good time to get it printed and framed.

You’ll be able to guess what occurred. There was one ancestor – only one! – for whom I struggled to discover a baptism file in time, which means that I used to be unable to incorporate her mother and father within the high layer of the tree. So, after weeks of labor, there have been two “Unknown” entries within the tree and I simply didn’t have any time left to unravel the issue earlier than the deadline for printing and framing forward of Christmas. Rattling it!

My spouse (and our youngsters) liked the reward and it has taken delight of place in our residence – however the presence of the 2 “unknown” entries has needled me ever since. So, for this instance of a analysis plan, I’ve chosen Mary Harnett, she of the lacking baptism.

  1. Analysis Goal

To discover a start/baptism file for Mary HARNETT and the names of her mother and father.

2. Construct a Timeline of Identified Info

Timeline of identified data for Mary GIBBONS nee HARNETT

The census data for Mary is pleasingly constant, indicating that she was born round 1795-6 at Monkton in Kent.

3. Determine Gaps within the Timeline

There are a number of gaps on this timeline that might, and in the end ought to, be addressed:

  • Baptism of Mary in or close to Monkton, Kent, c.1795-6.
  • Picture of authentic marriage licence of 1817.
  • Picture of authentic marriage register entry of 1817.
  • Baptisms of Mary’s siblings (if any)
  • Baptisms of Mary’s youngsters:
    • Fanny c.1827
    • Jane c.1829
    • Sills Clifford c.1833
    • George c.1835
    • Elizabeth c.1837
  • Newspaper clippings referring to Mary and/or her husband John. Mary and John had been center class land house owners, so newspapers might be supply.
  • Directories. As a middle-class household there’s a robust likelihood of discovering listing entries for them.
  • Passenger data. Eldest son Sills Clifford lived for some years in Texas, USA, the place he married his first spouse and had two youngsters. Did Mary ever go to her household in America?
  • GRO demise index file
  • Demise certificates
  • Probate file
  • Will

4. Refine Analysis Goal

Whereas there are vital gaps within the particulars of Mary’s life from her marriage onwards, the consistency of the census particulars with respect to time and place of origin give me confidence that discovering her baptism file is a viable analysis goal.

5. Brainstorm Sources (on-line AND in archives)

Kent is a county wherein I’ve executed little earlier analysis as most of my ancestors are from the north of England, so I start this search with no preconceived views of the place finest to seek out sources. I solely know that in my rushed searches earlier than my Christmas deadline, I failed to seek out Mary’s baptism.

When researching a brand new place within the UK, I usually begin by consulting the next references:

GENUKI – This web site has a piece for every British county after which a web page for every parish. The parish of Monkton has a web page right here:
It exhibits a up to date map of the realm and reproduces an extract from The Nationwide Gazetteer of Nice Britain and Eire 1868, which describes Monkton and tells me that the parish’s location is on the Isle of Thanet, 7 miles from Ramsgate, and that it’s “wholly agricultural”. The embedded hyperlink for the church parish church of St Mary Magdalene,, exhibits me a pleasant up to date {photograph} however gives no particulars on the present location(s) of parish data. This can be a little disappointing as I’ve beforehand come to depend on GENUKI as information to file areas.

FamilySearch Analysis WIKI – Like GENUKI, the FamilySearch Analysis WIKI has a web page devoted to the county of Kent:,_England_Genealogy from which I can drill all the way down to the parish of Monkton:,_Kent_Genealogy. This web page is extra profitable in summarising the identified parish file survival and signifies that one of the best locations to entry the baptism data I’m looking for are at both FindMyPast or Kent On-line Parish Clerks (KOPC):

Monkton On-line Parish Baptisms
FamilySearch Analysis WIKI:,_Kent_Genealogy

Having learnt this, I’ll add Discover My Previous and Kent On-line Parish Clerks to my checklist of web sites to verify for sources.

Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers – On web page 171 I discover that the registers of Monkton parish from 1700-1991 are deposited at Canterbury Cathedral Archives. So, I now add Canterbury Cathedral Archives to my on-line search checklist.

Discover My Previous – I discover one of the best ways to analysis supply areas on the massive subscription websites is to interrogate their catalogues. At Ancestry, for instance, this is called the Card Catalogue. At Discover My Previous it’s referred to as the A-Z of Document Units. Right here I choose England after which filter on “Kent”. It returns the next attainable file units:

  • Kent Baptisms
  • Kent Burials
  • Kent County Council Parish Register Browse
  • Kent Marriages and Banns
  • Kent Registers & Data
  • Kent Wills and Probate Indexes 1328-1890
  • Kent, Canterbury Archdeaconry Parish Registers Browse

Kent On-line Parish Clerks – There are quite a few On-line Parish Clerk websites for counties within the UK, and I’ve been lucky to have benefited from using a number of of them through the years. The Kent web site could be discovered right here: Navigating by means of their parish checklist, there’s a web page for Monkton right here: This features a hyperlink to a transcript of Christenings 1700-1883.

Canterbury Cathedral Archive – The principle archive web site could be discovered right here:, the place I discover a hyperlink to a information produced by Kent Historical past and Library Centre referred to as “The place to seek out Parish Registers”: This information tells me that for St Mary Magdalene, Monkton:

  • Parish Registers are at Canterbury Cathedral Archive
  • Bishop’s Transcripts are at Kent Historical past and Library Centre
  • Transcripts are at Kent Historical past and Library Centre
  • “Lots of the parish registers for Canterbury diocese are actually out there at Discover My Previous”.

I’m now able to checklist all of the attainable sources I’ve discovered which can reference the baptism of Mary Harnett c.1795-96 in Monkton, Kent :

Recognized sources for Baptisms at St Mary Magdalene, Monkton, Kent

6. Organise the Supply Checklist by Precedence and Bodily Location

Contemplating what I’ve found about Monkton and its baptismal registers, I’ll verify the transcripts at Kent OPC first, then proceed to Discover My Previous. I do know that Monkton falls below the Archdiocese of Canterbury, so I’ll prioritise these data increased than Kent County Council’s holdings. If I fail to seek out the data on-line then I might want to seek the advice of the bodily archives, first at Canterbury Cathedral after which at Kent Historical past and Library Centre. So, my prioritised checklist shall be:

Prioritised Analysis Plan

Executing the Analysis Plan

I at all times attempt to carry out an entire set of on-line searches earlier than resorting to the time and expense of an archive go to. To execute the plan, all I need to do is choose the rows for on-line searches and add an additional column for search outcomes:

Empty analysis log for on-line searches of Monkton parish baptisms

At Kent OPC I used to be shortly capable of finding a transcript for Mary’s baptism, which it states happened on twenty fifth November 1795 and provides her mother and father’ names as Thomas and Elizabeth. This can be a nice end result, however I’ve learnt that whereas transcripts are helpful, they need to at all times be backed up by sight of the unique file.

I continued the search within the Kent Baptisms assortment at Discover My Previous however was unable to seek out the baptism for Mary – or some other Harnett youngsters in Monkton – confirming the failure I skilled throughout my challenge final 12 months. From there, I proceeded to the Canterbury Archdeaconry Parish Registers, a set of unindexed pictures of the unique registers, the place I used to be profitable to find the unique file:

My analysis log for the baptism of Mary Harnett

It appears that evidently Discover My Previous haven’t but listed the baptisms & burials register for 1792-1812. I might by no means have found this from the listed data alone as the small print of which registers have and haven’t but been listed is just not simply out there (or no less than I failed to seek out it).

So, right here eventually, is the picture of the baptism of Mary Harnett, which I’m assured happened on twenty sixth November 1795, not twenty fifth as said within the transcript at Kent OPC.

Baptisms (PR), England. Monkton, Kent. 26 Nov 1795. HARNETT, Mary. Assortment: Kent, Canterbury Archdeaconry Parish Registers Browse 1538-1939.


Utilizing source-finding instruments, catalogues and reference works to construct a analysis plan workout routines an necessary ability for household historians. Figuring out sources on this means will:

  • save time by focusing efforts onto a small variety of the most probably sources;
  • cease you taking place rabbit holes, chasing the “vivid shiny objects” pushed at you by the massive subscription websites;
  • enhance your possibilities of success.

The extra that we plan and construction our analysis, the extra acquainted we’ll develop into with essentially the most helpful source-finding instruments and strategies and the extra profitable we develop into at discovering these extra elusive ancestors.

Let me know your favorite supply discovering instruments and strategies within the feedback beneath.