Filling in the Blanks: Start with a Research Plan

Before you can fill-in-the-blanks with names or dates, you need a solid Research Plan

F9A4CCF4861611DEACF8A4FA0D8B3722For our weekly Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver challenged everyone to list their sixteen great-great grandparents, along with their pertinent birth and death dates and locations, in Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Your 16 Great-Great-Grands.  Many geneabloggers responded to the challenge.  Midge Frazel further encouraged participation by gently nudging us on in This is a test of your local broadcast system.  Even though a lot of folks took up the challenge, many discovered that they DO NOT know all sixteen of their sweet sixteen – myself included.  My issue has been more of focus – I went for the easiest path upwards where the records were readily available, somewhat easy to read, and the great-grandparents’ names were clear that led me to those records.  Others have said that their blanks are caused by naming issues, and some have simply said they don’t know what to do to fill in those blanks.  Because of that, this particular edition of Randy’s SNGF was more than just a chance at bragging rights around the genealogists’ round table – it’s a serious opportunity for folks to lay out their research problems and get advice and input from hundreds of other geneabloggers!

No one ever said genealogy was easy – if someone told you that, they lied.  It’s hard work.  It’s hard detective work.  Like most hard problems, the solution can only be found by taking one step at a time.  Back in January, Miriam wrote Who Are Our Brickwall Ancestors, and Why Aren’t We Blogging About Them Regularly? In this post, she challenged us to write more about our brickwall ancestors in hopes of getting help from others – sometimes all it takes is a fresh look to gain a new perspective.  Miriam even proposed a suggested format, and many bloggers have followed her advice with great posts.  Some have blogged about their brickwalls, and later blogged about breaking them down!  I prefer to call my blanks roadblocks, but no matter what you name it, it is still an opportunity for research!

My only research plan in response to Miriam’s challenge was Research Plan: Finding Death Dates for Joseph Bergmeister and Ursula Goetz.  Joseph Bergmeister and Ursula Dallmeier Bergmeister Goetz happen to be two of my sixteen great-great-grands, and while I know their names, birth dates, locations, and parents’ names, I never completed my research by finding their death dates.  By developing the research plan, I have a clear idea of both the known facts and the clues to help me solve the  unknown details.  Although I have not had time yet to follow through with the plan, it is ready and waiting for me when I have more time.

But at least I had their names!  Now that some of us have cringed at the “blanks” in our “sweet sixteens”, it’s time to come up with research plans to resolve any blank spots.  Like I said in my post Sweet Sixteen: My Great-Great Grandparents, my tree is currently lopsided.  Some branches reach high into the air and are filled with green sprouts, while other are these little twig stubs lost in the foliage.

The first branch I need to concentrate on is my patrilineal line: the PIONTKOWSKI branch.  I have several clues on where to go next.  In fact, I could learn the names of three of my missing sixteen by obtaining the marriage record of my great-grandparents, Jan Piontkowski and Rose Kieswetter.  Soon I will come up with a research plan and present it here as a “continuation” of Randy’s challenge, and then I will try to develop research plans for the remaining “missing” information.  Even if I can’t get to the actual research right away, I will have “directions” on how to get me around this particular roadblock when I have the opportunity.  It’s time to stop ignoring those barren branches while climbing higher on the healthy ones!  Are you ready to try to fill in those blanks?


6 thoughts on “Filling in the Blanks: Start with a Research Plan

  1. Great article Donna! I’m missing a few of my sweet sixteen too….I have many plans, but need to create a plan to find the time to do the research 🙂

  2. Al,

    LOL – I agree. We should do a post on “time management” or finding time to do what you want (like genealogy) instead of work or school! I think we just need to retire so we’ll have more time to research. 😉


  3. I am hoping to get some good pointers from my local genealogy society (Fairfax Genealogical Society) this fall when they hold a “Brickwall Workshop.” The thing is – the two great-great grandparents who are missing for me are the parents of my biggest brickwall, whose maiden name was Smith. There is a little more information available, but I can’t be absolutely certain of any of it. Thanks to encouragement from fellow Genea-Bloggers, I have written up what I know and don’t know about her, so I am hoping that will take me somewhere.

  4. Donner:

    A “Road Map” for a “Roadblock.” A research plan is a very important tool. To that I add a time-line. Who was where and when. Sometimes place or time blanks, inconsistencies, or clusters will scream out at you.

    I’m looking forward to your research plan and the logical progression of thought you possess.


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