How To Create A Genealogy Research Plan

A person writing in a notebook with a laptop open nearby

If you’re new to genealogy research, you may not even realize that you need a research plan. This is the case for many new family researchers when they’re just starting out. It’s only when they start following trails they’ve already been down before or find themselves researching sources they’ve already explored that they realize they should have a plan in place to help keep them on track.

You don’t have to make the same errors though; here’s how you can create a stellar research plan:

Step 1: Determine Your Research Objectives

When you start genealogy research, you will start with some kind of purpose. It could be building a family tree, or establishing an ancestral connection to a certain place. Whatever the objective, write it down.

Also, break down your overall objective into smaller actionable tasks that will serve as your short-term goals. You can keep adding to these as well. This part of your plan will help you stay on track as you delve deeper into your research.

Step 2: Gather and Organize the Data You Already Have


A person checking an old book placed near a laptop


A lot of researchers make a common mistake which is ignoring the sources and information they already have at their disposal. From important documents to photographs, and older relatives who know about the people in the photographs, and relationships, places, and dates; make sure you explore these resources first.

Also, take the time to organize all of this existing information very carefully. This will help you see the gaps you need to fill, and you’ll also find new leads that can help you move forward with your research.

Step 3: Make A List of All the Sources You’d like to Explore

Once you’ve done an in-depth analysis of the facts you already know and you’ve taken the time to organize them, it’s time to look for more information.

Create a list of all the resources, both online and offline ones that you’d like to access and explore. Make sure to put them in the correct order based on which ones are most accessible and have more essential information, to the ones that are harder to access and have information that you might be able to do without.

So for instance, an online census record search would ideally come before a physical cemetery visit.

Step 4: Decide How You Want To Record and Organize Your Research

In genealogy research, you will be handling a lot of sources, information, reference documents, and their copies. This can get a little overwhelming unless you start organizing your research early on. Additionally, if you plan to publish your research for others to see, it needs to be in a presentable, and easily comprehensible format—and it must be sourced!

So, figure out how you want to organize the information, and become familiar with the acceptable format for genealogical citations. It will pay off in the end!

Step 5: Have a Crisis Plan in Place In Case Of Too Many Brick Walls

Unfortunately, for most of us, genealogy research just naturally comes along with stubborn brick walls, closed doors and seemingly unsurmountable obstacles. These can often throw you off-course and leave you feeling clueless.

In such cases, your best bet is a professional genealogist who knows their way around such research hurdles. If you’re not sure where to find one, you’re in luck. Our online DNA Detective offer family research and traditional and genetic genealogy services at DavisDNA And Family Research.

Explore our packages and pick one that suits your requirements.