Before I even say yay or nay when it comes to doing research for a client, I have a Research Request Form that I ask them to fill-out. That's right. I make them work before I take a look to see if they should pay me to work.
I do this for a number reasons. It cuts down on miscommunication, and it provides a more accurate picture of the genealogical problem. However, it also encourages the potential client to get any previous work they may have done as well as the information they already have [perhaps just in their heads] down into some viewable form for me as well as for them.
And I realize I may be discouraging potential clients because who wants to do all that work, right?
And I realize I might be giving a potential client the exact help, or coaching, they need to get the job done themselves.
And I'm comfortable with all of the above. It doesn't behoove me to work with and for someone who isn't willing to hand over the information [in whatever form it may be in] they do have. You'd be surprised at how many people like to play "Let's test the genealogist." [Um. You do know you're paying to test me, right?]
And for those who like to research and have been doing it already, helping someone out now ~ even if it means I don't get a client right now ~ goes a long way in building a relationship with someone for down the road when they truly cannot get past a brick wall.
So? In that spirit, I thought I'd share the information from my Research Request Form with some minor revisions making it the "Pre-Research Plan Worksheet". It's pretty duh-kind-of-stuff, but sometimes listing out that duh-kind-of-stuff can help you find the answer. And sometimes the answer is actually in the duh-kind-of-stuff. And I'm making it available to you downloadable as a Miscrosoft OneNote page file and a Word 2010 file, plus older version as well. Then I stuck versions of it over in a public file in Evernote as well as in a public file over in Google Drive.
Following is a description of the parts of the worksheet:
Describe your genealogical problem below.
[If you use a genealogical database software of any kind that allows you to print out or view your target research person in a pedigree chart form, then make it happen. Do it old school and print it out. Or go even older school and fill out a pedigree chart. Or get fancy [and save a tree] and pull it up on your smartphone and/or tablet of choice. And this can take the place of most of the questions below except for this first one. Something to keep in mind: do you have all the other information filled out on your pedigree chart of your Target Research Person, or TRP? How about any of the other folks near them in the pedigree chart? Any blanks?
Sometimes stating what you think is your problem [ *snort* Genealogical problem, that is.] in your own words can help you to focus and narrow the problem down into something workable. Therefore, this is the first question I ask from a potential client.
List the name of your Target Research Person [TRP], their vital information, and locations where they have lived. List as much as you know. Vital information includes dates and locations of birth, marriage, and death. If female, please give maiden name, if known.
This will definitely make you focus on that one ancestor that you need to research on. [On the worksheet, I started you off in a table, but you can add to it as needed.]
List the name of the spouse of the TRP you are wanting researched, their vital information, and the locations of where they have lived. Please list as much information as possible. If female, please include their maiden name, if known.
No, you're not looking for these folks specifically, but sometimes these 'other' people left more of a trail. So taking a look at them should not be overlooked. Remember your ancestors had social networks too. [I talk about this in an article I wrote for my column in Shades of the Departed ~ The ANCESTOR Network Method, p.76 ~ as well as in a guest post I did a while back for MyHeritage.com.]
List the children of the TRP you are wanting researched, their vital information, and the locations of where they lived. Please list as much information as possible. For female children list spouses, if known.
List the parents of the TRP you are wanting researched, their vital information, and the locations of where they lived. Please list as much information as possible. List mother's maiden name, if known.
List the siblings of the main ancestor you are wanting researched, their vital information, and the locations of where they lived. Please list as much information as possible. List spouses, if known.
So there you go. The above questions will help you get focused enough to write a research plan. Admittedly, there are more questions one could ask oneself about the genealogical problem at hand, but this should be enough to focus the researcher enough to make a research plan. Download a copy below and customize it to your heart's content. And hopefully it will help you past that brick wall.
[If you are interested, I previously did versions of an actual Research Plan Worksheet, and those versions can be found & downloaded here.]
And if you have another way of getting focused before creating a research plan, what do you do? Let everyone know in comments below.
For OneNote 2010 version:
For older versions of OneNote:
For Word 2010 version:
For older versions of Word:
For Evernote version:
For Google Drive Version: