Just as your ancestors named in them, your documents require research.
I personally like to make a physical copy, on paper, of each document so I can study and compare each against other records. I can write on the document. I can do the math right on the document. I can pose questions right on the document. That is my preference and I create paper files.
I do not merge the paper files or the documents as research continues—I keep them separate until I am ready to reach my conclusions.
You can also digitize or scan your documents onto a disc, or computer hard drive, or flash drive. Then study them on your computer screen. Your notes are more efficient when they are attached to the documents to which they directly apply. So I recommend that you enter each document into your genealogy program separately–do not merge the data or the transcriptions of your documents. And do not bury them in the notes of a compiled family group sheet.
If you link record matches from online genealogy databases, attach the actual document to your ancestor’s file. Remember that online databases may disappear and your link will become fruitless, unless you can retrieve the items from an archived site. Websites also change locations and URL’s. And while I recommend that you identify the call number of items in a library or archive, provide full citations of documents so they can be retrieved in the future if needed. Call numbers can also change.
Hey, this is the integrity behind your research and the conclusions you draw. Don’t overlook this important aspect of the evidence you use. These documents and the environment that produced them is the evidence that builds your family tree.
Pay careful attention to the “shaking leaf” and the record matches and tips which appear on your computer screen as you work with online documents. Major databases and genealogy services allow the computer to assist in your research by suggesting record matches and links to lineages.
Study each one carefully before you attach them to your family tree—oodles of people in the past shared the same identities—names, spouses names, names of children, places of residence, and so on. It is very easy to make a mistake! Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://arleneeakle.com
PS Stay tuned for my “go to” list of genealogy recommendations from genealogists who have successfully build family trees and the methods they use.