President's Corner


Keeping a research log is another step in the research process that I’m learning about. It’s one of those things that makes perfect sense yet seems like it’s a waste of time. But what it actually does is make sure you aren’t wasting your time.


The idea is that every time you search for something you make a note of it and what you found or didn’t find. How many times have we just plugged in a surname, thought we found something new only to discover we already had that record saved. When you are researching several ancestors with records on different websites it’s easy to forget. There’s enough to do without duplicating our efforts! 


There are a number of templates online (links below) that can be used. Or you can make your own using Word/Pages or Excel/Numbers. I find Excel easier to use than Word, but in either case here are some of the basic headings to include:. 


ANCESTOR NAME: (can include date of birth, place of birth)


DATE: the date you searched for something. 


SOURCE: the place searched such as,, book, papers, etc.


TYPE OF RECORD: What did you look for? Census? Naturalization? Birth, Marriage or Death record?


MICROFILM / FILE #: make a note so it’s easy to find next time


NOTES: This might include the citation plus anything I feel needs to be added/explained. It should also include that “no record was found” if that’s the case.


Hopefully you’ll find that using a form will help you keep track of what you’ve looked at. For me, the harder part was deciding how to organize it. Originally I had one “master sheet” in Excel that I just kept adding to and eventually I color coded each surname so they were separated visually. 

Now I’m using one Excel file per surname with a separate sheet for each person. I haven’t decided which is better, but it’s easy to reorganize if I come up with a better plan later; at least I have the information.


Lynda Roddy Ozzauto, President, NWSGS


Next Month: Locality Guides



Midwest Genealogy Center

Bailey’s Free Genealogy Forms

Family Search    (use link on page to download)

Shoestring Genealogy (use link on page to download)  (lots of free forms)




I’m completing a 40-course certificate program in Irish Research through the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. I’m taking these courses to learn about specific Irish records but also to learn more about correct research methodology. I went to art school; we didn’t do research.

So, while it can be fun to go online, type in a surname and see what happens, it’s probably not the most productive way to go about things. It makes it too easy to lose track of both time and what you were looking for in the first place. And, more often than not, accomplish very little.

So as much as part of my brain rebels at the discipline of it, I have to admit that having a plan makes the research sessions more productive. In the past, I’d download whatever I found so I didn’t forget about it, put it in a folder, but then kind of forget about it. I didn’t really know what I did and didn’t have. I’ve looked for something months later only to realize I already had that record saved. I was collecting but not appreciating the collection.

So, what’s involved in setting up a research plan? You need a starting point which is a basic outline of the person you want to research with date and place of birth, marriage, death, and burial, places of residence, name of parents, spouse, children. What do you already know what separates them from others?

The next step is to have an objective/goal/question. The objective should focus on identifying an individual, proving a relationship or discovering actions (such as military service). Make it specific but allow some flexibility based on what you find. In other words, your objective could be to find a birth record for Mary Hamilton, born in Montreal, Canada, 1920. But be willing to look a few years before and after that date and other areas in Canada if you don’t find her.

Before you start clicking, think about the location and what records might be available for the area and time period. What’s online? Are there only indexes available or record images? What is locally held? Family Search WIKI has country and state guides that are really helpful. You can usually find out what records are available and where, plus lots of other information.

Make a list of the websites, archives, etc. you want to search. And now you can start clicking. You can ignore other records at this point; just focus on birth records. If something jumps out at you make a note or take a screenshot so you can go back but try to ignore it for now. You have a question that needs an answer.

The last step is to summarize what you’ve found, making note of any new questions or conclusions reached. Move on with the next question. Next month’s article will focus on using a Research Log to keep track of what, when and where you’ve searched.

Lynda Roddy Ozzauto President, NWSGS

The following are some websites that might be helpful: (Amy has a podcast called “Generations Café” and a book titled “ 31 Days to Better Genealogy”) (Lisa has a blog called “Are You My Cousin?” with a video about research plans and a downloadable template) (website of Diana Elder and Nicole Dyer, they have podcasts, forms and a book available titled “Research Like a Pro”)


As part of our new website design (which I hope you’ve taken a look at), it was suggested that we do a “Presidents Corner” article.

2019 is the 42nd year for NWSGS. Starting in 1976 with a genealogical research class taught in the Continuing Education Program in District 214 to its incorporation in 1977, we’ve come a long way. We now have over 100 members with an average of 65 attending our monthly meetings.

Our volunteer Board members are dedicated and a joy to work with.  We meet eight times a year and much of the discussion is about what we can do to make the group better; and how to get more information to you at the meetings and in between.

We go over the feedback sheets and talk about the interest surveys you fill out to plan for the following year.  I think Ken Siefert does a great job with the pre-meeting, which is something no other group that I know of does. They all have a business meeting before their program, but Ken always wants to add just a little more and allow time for members to get involved and share.

Jacquie Schattner has done a great job with our newsletter and will be taking a much-deserved break for now. And, we’re very happy that a new member, Debby Volpe has volunteered to take it over. She’s working with Jacquie and I’m sure will also do a great job.

Terri Blasi has been doing an amazing job managing the membership list, payments, badges and check-in, which gets really hectic sometimes but she takes it all in stride.

Sherryl Dunning, our Treasurer proposes and manages our budget, keeps track of tax payments, our bank accounts and helps Terri at check-in.

Nancy Reese could be the best editor ever; she goes over each newsletter before it’s sent to you and she also makes trips to our P.O. Box to collect and distribute the mail.

Susan Champagne, our Secretary takes notes at our Board meetings and always manages to

present it to us the following month in a clear, detailed way; she doesn’t miss a thing.

JoAnn Flynn is new to the Board as our Auditor and will doing her first audit for us this month.

Howard has gone above and beyond to give us a new website. He basically started from scratch and has added so many features that are up to date, varied and fun to look at. He and Sherryl worked to set up PayPal so that members have another way to pay their dues. Our Home page now shows the latest information including a “menu” of upcoming free webinars from LegacyFamilyTree webinars, the Illinois State Genealogical Society,

the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History and others.

There’s a list of area resources including what genealogy software the local libraries have and which are Family Search Family History affiliates.

After logging in there’s a lot more information for members. The Members Only section is where you can find the newsletters, handouts (current and archived), photos, a Full Events Calendar and more. This is wonderful; the Full Events Calendar is just that; not just our monthly meetings but presentations in the area at libraries or other societies. 

Our Social Media page is filled with information. Twitter and Pinterest have an amazing amount of posts that are genealogy related, and you don’t need to have an account to see them. They’re right there in the Members Only Section. Please log on and see what Howard has put together for us.


So now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you how fabulous we all are, we could still use a couple of people to help out on the Board. We need a Publicity person and an Archivist.  The Publicity Chair sends fliers to the libraries for posting each month and to the Arlington Heights Sr. Center so they can include it in their newsletters. They will start posting on Facebook before and after our meetings. The Archivist is responsible for taking the handouts, newsletters, meeting minutes, etc. and adding them to Dropbox.  And, we’re happy to include articles from members; did you just make a breakthrough you’d like to share? Have you been to an archive or courthouse or taken a research trip? Attended a conference, watched a webinar or gone to another society presentation that you want to tell us about? We’d like to hear about what you’re doing.

My plan for future articles is still a little vague, but I’d like to share what I’ve been learning in an online certificate program I’m in the middle of. Topics like developing a research plan, research logs, etc. And, I’m open to suggestions on what you’d like this section to include. Please click on the "comments" link at the top of the blog and give me your thoughts.


Lynda Roddy Ozzauto

President, NWSGS