Below, the various parts of a report are described, but nothing beats seeingthe real thing. Also, a few exhibit samples that accompanied that report are displayed here. A sample report is provided so that you may see a finished product. The elements that reports contain may be the same, but no two ever look alike. Research problems vary widely, and there are different methods used to give clear answers. The contents of a reportare dependent on the parameters of the problem, the portion of research covered, the types of records that are examined, and the clearest way to communicate conclusions to you.
Define An Objective. What is your question? Let's take a
couple of examples. Say you would like to discover where your
maternal great-grandparents came from and who their parents
and siblings were. Each generation grows exponentially, so this
involves tracing four separate family lines. Each paternal or
maternal line would be a separate project.
How many places have you lived? Now, apply that to your
ancestor, but put him on foot or horseback, or in a Conestoga
wagon. He may have earned a bounty land grant from a state
or the federal government for military service; moved to an
unsettled area and "tomahawked" a claim, or simply saw that
his family would have to move on so his sons would have land
Summarize Background Information. If this is the first
report, the background information will likely summarize the
information you provided. The research process builds upon
this foundation. The first report examines and corrects information, sometimes filling holes, and adding analysis of the documents. Examining client-provided documents allows the researcher to correlate and analyze what has been found while combing for clues left behind. If client-provided documents are used in the resulting report and their sources are missing, citations will be created. Examination of previous work also tells the professional if prior research meets the Genealogical Proof Standard. (See Genealogical Proof under "What We Do.") This step cannot normally be skipped.
State Key Findings. The executive summary at the beginning of a report summarizes the significant research findings so that the answer to the question can be found promptly.
Provide Research Notes. These are the "guts" of a report. The research notes include the correlation and analysis of research. They contain citations for all sources consulted, regardless of whether the findings yielded positive or negative results. They may explain why a document was created and the law that it was created under. Humanities-style citations are based on the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2010) and Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (3rd Edition) by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing 2014). The importance of citing the sources and describing any particulars that affect their use cannot be understated. Sources allow research to be verified and judgments about their validity made.
Include Exhibits. Every report contains the documentation used to draw conclusions. Federal and state censuses; deeds and grants; court, and tax records; photographs of grave markers, buildings, or people; and, historic, aerial, and topographic maps are among those commonly included. Maps showing the location of our ancestor's property are important in helping show their place in a community and relationship to their kin, associates, and neighbors. Sample exhibits can be seen here.