You Don't Need Genealogy Research Logs

Why You Don’t Need a Genealogy Research Log

If you have asked yourself, “Do I really need a genealogy research log?”, the answer is no!

As an advanced genealogy who had a personal computer throughout high school and college, I began doing genealogy in the early days of Personal Ancestral File software and very slow computers. Since those days I have gravitated towards conducting all of my research using computers because of their processing power.

Recently I heard a genealogy educator profusely insist that research logs are a must for professional and advanced genealogists. I thought to myself, “That’s so not true!”

In fact, the more I thought about research logs, the more I realized that hated them. I have a much better way to process the same data without wasting time.

What are genealogy research logs?

According to the FamilySearch Wiki, “Genealogy research logs document where you search, and what has or has NOT been found.”

A sample genealogy research log.
Sample Research Log from

Research Logs can be simple or robust but primarily they track:

  • Repositories You Searched
  • Date You Searched
  • Your Search Goals
  • Your Search Results / Notes
  • Your citations
  • “Document Numbers” – which you used to file your documents or reference in your research reports

Why I dislike genealogy research logs

I know many hackles will raise by this admission. You need to know the alternative side of researching that excludes research logs and then decide for yourself. Are you a research log fangirl/guy or a research log avoider?

Creating a research log when I have access to genealogy software, online trees, to create cited family group sheets and generate the foundation of a research report or written family history, is an unnecessary step fraught with possible points of data management errors.

In this video, I provide a full explanation (er, hem— rant) about research logs). Feel free to start the video from the beginning to understand my full bias.

Why You Don't Need Research Logs in Genealogy and What To Do Instead - Beginning Genealogy
Watch this video on YouTube.

With a genealogy software program, I can keep track of the repositories I searched and the date I searched by crafting a source citation that includes “date accessed.” In the notes section of the database, I can extract the information from positive results, make notes of the searches I conducted that resulted in no finds. And finally, I can insert images of the genealogy documentation or hyperlinks to the data. All things on a research log, but in more useful locations in a database, without the extra step of creating a spreadsheet.

What is an alternative to a research log?

With five homeschooled children and a genealogy education business, I strive for simplicity in my genealogy research projects. I also advocate downsizing with family history in mind, as you can read about in this blog post.

My genealogy research project follows this order:

  • Create a To-Do List
  • Search For Records
  • Record Findings Once
  • Create Assets From Database

In this video, I explain that process in further detail. If you want to skip the rant and focus on the alternative, use this link to jump to that portion.

In short, since genealogy software programs have so many places to record successful and unsuccessful searches that can then generate reports and charts, I have NO NEED for research logs.

Save yourself the hassle of creating an unnecessary container for your research information and just use genealogy software or an online tree.

Why you don't need research logs to do family history well.

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.


  • Deborah Holman

    It cracked me up that you provided a link for those who wanted to “skip the rant” You’re so thoughtful! LOL!!! It’s very brave of you to put this idea out there. I really try to use a research log. Why? Because genealogists I really respect say I should! But I respect YOU too!! And at my core I agree with you. I need to chew on this a while and decide my “future”

    • Family History Fanatics

      Thanks for thinking I was nice. I initially forgot to add the skip ahead link! How’s that for being ‘nice.’ It’s there now.

      Like you, I used research logs because I was told I HAD to. I was also required to use one for a significant genealogy project. As I shared in the rant, it was not an efficient use of my time, and Heaven help me when I made an error in the log that I need to carry over to all the assets I created.

      But, I found it interesting that a noted genealogy professional that many folks respect DOESN’T EVEN USE THEM HERSELF! Chew on that. (I hope it tastes like steak or ice cream or your favorite dish). 🙂

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