Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Writing Research Plans - the Dellibac Example (part one)

Ok, so most of you know that I've been working on trying to isolate where my French-Canadian immigrant ancestor, Moise Dellibac, came from and hopefully be able to identify his parents in the process (or vice versa). The previous post with my Dellibac brainstorming can be found here . This is my first attempt at working with French-Canadian ancestors so much of the work is new. But anyone who has done any ethnic research knows that the very first step in working with immigrant ancestors is to start with any records they left in the US. You can't just jump ahead to their home country and hope to get lucky. So since Moise settled in and died in Kankakee County, Illinois that's where I've started.

To help myself, and maybe even others who need help staying on track and developing and following a plan, I've decided to start researching the Dellibacs by the book. That is, following the formal practices I learned in courses like ProGen and intensive tracks at the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. The first step in this process was to conduct a record survey of what is available in my target areas. Since I'm starting with Illinois records first, I focused on the counties of Kankakee, where Moise died, and Iroquois, where he is first found in US census enumerations. My results can be found here and here.

The next step in the process is to start the research plan, taking into account all of the resources uncovered in the record survey. The plan MUST begin with a clear definition of the research problem or objective. In this case, my objective is to find Moise Dellibac's father/parents. I've determined that my primary objective is to find his parents. With that information, I can presumably figure out the area they were from.

Once you have your objective clearly defined, you can start building your plan of attack. For help in this area, I am especially grateful for chapter 14 of ProGen by Elizabeth Shown Mills, "Problem Analyses and Research Plans" written by Helen Leary, CG, CGL, FASG. On page 269, Helen describes the process of writing a research plan as being developed in three stages : analysis, refinement, and logistics. Once you've gone through all three stages, you'll have a final plan which will include lists of all the records that are searched at every repository you go to, every piece of information you're looking for at each of those repositories, and any additional information or anomalies involved in one or all of those record searches (ie. is the county you're working on a burned county and if so, how will you get around that problem). Also, if you need to report your findings in a particular format you would put that in your plan as well.

Finally, if you are crafting your plan for a client you're going to have time constraints and you need to make that known in your plan as well. This will greatly effect your plan because you may not be contracted for enough time to allow you to access and view all of the records and resources you uncovered in your record survey. Instead, you'll have to conduct an analysis of your survey and pull out which records you think will be most helpful; meaning, which resources would be most likely to produce the desired results to allow you to solve the research problem you stated at the beginning of your plan. If all goes well, these records will win the game for you. If not though, you'll have to go back to your record survey and devise a new plan, then request additional time from your client.

...on to part 2...

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