My research question for the 14 Day Challenge focuses on finding a death in Halifax, Yorkshire, England.
I’ve never been there and, quite frankly, I couldn’t have picked the county out on an unmarked map a week ago. I could joke that it’s pretty tough to do locality-based research when you don’t know where you’re researching–but there’s actually a lot of truth in that. It really doesn’t take a lot of effort to learn the basics and the time spent can be well worth it.
Here’s a good example of what I mean. I Googled “halifax yorkshire engand” and learned two important things before clicking on any of the results. 1) Halifax is in the “West Riding” part of Yorkshire and 2) it is part of the Borough of Calderdale.
I had seen “West Riding” before but “Calderdale” was new. And where did that information lead? To the Calderdale Family History Society website which is rich with resources for genealogical research in the area. (I actually ended up paying the £8 membership fee so I could search their online indexes and found a match in the database that suggests that my grandfather’s sister was placed in a “fresh air” school when she was about eight years old — something that makes sense given that she died from tuberculosis a few years later. I can’t WAIT to see the transcribed information that will arrive in my inbox in about a week.)
And why is it important to go to the effort to create locality guides?
You’ve heard of the “touch it once” principle for dealing with things, right? The suggestion that we should, say, read an email and decide right then and there what needs to be done and do it rather than setting it aside and coming back to it again and again without ever getting around to acting on it?
I’m becoming more and more convinced that in order to make progress on the research that I’d like to do before I leave this planet and in order to be able to do efficient client work, I need to adopt the same principle as it applies to genealogical research. But, in this case, I think it’s more helpful to call it the “do it once and be done” principle.
Here’s what I mean:
I discovered a wonderful website in my search for my grandfather’s death that let me download burial records for the Stoney Royd Cemetery in Halifax — a place where many of my ancestors are buried. But a few days later, when I wanted to search it again, I couldn’t remember what it was called. I actually spent more time than I should have looking for it again before I realized that I could get the name from a citation that I’d created for the record that I’d obtained from it.
Just picture how easy it would have been if I had already added that website to my Yorkshire, England locality guide.
There’s another adage that applies here: “a place for everything and everything in its place.” I’m no stranger to the idea of locality guides–I maintain chicagogenealogy.com which is actually a fairly detailed locality guide presented as a website–but working on this assignment I realized that one reason I don’t create and use them more frequently for the various places I’m doing research on a day-to-day basis is that I don’t have a good place to keep them.
Google Sheets offers a simple solution for that. I have a spreadsheet with citation templates for sources I use frequently and it seems like this would also be a logical way to organize locality guides. So logical, in fact, that when I went to create a file so I could add the Yorkshire information I gathered for this challenge, I found a file titled “Locality Guides” with tabs for four different places I’ve researched in the past. The file is now bookmarked right under the citations file and it will be pretty hard to overlook it going forward.
I’m getting my act together, folks. I’m getting my act together and I’m liking the feeling that I get when I realize how far I’ve come in the last few years. My locality guide spreadsheet is sparse at the moment but now that I have a place for new discoveries to go, it’s very likely to expand.