Thursday, September 29, 2011

Travelogue Writing For Genealogists

I suppose I'm in the minority, but that never really bothers me too much.

For those who don't know, genealogy travelogue writing is a style that emphasis how research was conducted, the order in which certain documents were located and the path the research took. It is suggested that this type of writing is not really relevant to most genealogical researchers and that a style that lists the materials that have been located along with an analysis is preferable.

Personally I learn more from why certain things were done rather than just an analysis of documents. Don't get me wrong, I can learn from an article that discusses all the records that were applied to a specific problem. But I learn more about research and methodology when I see what a document lead that researcher to do next and why they did it.

The reason a significant number of researchers have brick walls is that they do not know where to go next in their research when they have one document and no additional information. Showing them a whole stack of documents with the completed research does not always help.

Students in my math classes learn more when I show process, when I show things that do not work and when I make mistakes. When they can see my process and ways that I "problem-solve," that helps them to develop those skills themselves.

To be certain there is a benefit in seeing the final work on a problem, all neat and clean and organized. But if I'm to learn about research, or if I am to teach about research, then I need to either see the process of research demonstrated or to demonstrate that process.

I'll stick to travelogue style writing for my research and for most of my lectures. Travelogue writing is not simply listing what was done in the order in which is was done. Researchers want to see process--particularly researchers who are stuck in their own research.

At least that's my thoughts.


  1. I agree 100%!

    The way I see it, there are 2 reasons to read a research article. The first is if the research relates to a family I am working on. The second reason and the reason I usually read research articles is to LEARN from the experiences of others. If they only write about the positive results, then I am only getting 1/2 of their experience.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post.

    Nancy Lecompte

  2. I totally agree with you, Michael. And that is why I have been reading your writing so long.

    I learn a lot from the "process" and I find it is easier to process the new information when it is laid out in an orderly fashion, from start to finish. If you write just the results I think you forget the road map on how you got there and won't learn from that trip.

  3. My brain works the same way. I also pick up on things quicker with great visual aids.

  4. I completely agree! Telling how and why you researched is a much better why to teach than just giving the final conclusions.

  5. Thanks for the comments. I know there are some who really think this style of writing is not all that instructional. Final, cleaned up proofs are good--the problem is that, like other things, not all of them are well-written.

    And it depends upon whether your goal is to instruct or to make your case. There's a difference.