Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nathan Brown: How Much Time and Effort Did It Take?

This is one of a series of posts that follow up on my Legacy Family Tree webinar called "Brick Walls: Cracking the Case of Nathan Brown's Parents."

One of the questions viewers would like to have answered is how much time and effort did it take to do this level of research?

The quick answer is 40-80 hours.  Why such a broad range?  Well, for most of the journey I didn't keep track.  As with many research projects, I started not thinking that this was going to turn into a big project.  I really had no idea if I was going to get anywhere with this.  After all, Nathan Brown had been a brick wall for Geoff Rasmussen for many years.

Here's a general breakdown of what I did:

  1. Review of Geoff's documentation - 1 hour and probably another hour analyzing it over and over in my head.
  2. Trip to Connecticut State Library - This was a dual purpose trip, both to prepare for my Connecticut webinar and check information on the Brown family.  Driving time 3 hours round trip (about 110 miles) and 4 hours of research time.
  3. Online research on Charlton, MA, exploring possible families for Nathan Brown - about 3 hours
  4. Trip to the Worcester County Registry of Deeds - 2 hours drive time round trip,  2 hours research tracing deeds of all Nathan Browns in Charlton, MA.
  5. Initial Research after discovering Jeremiah and Rebecca Brown as parents for Nathan - 3 hours
  6. Trip to the Bristol County Registry of Deeds and Probate Court - Driving time 1.5 hours round trip (that's a short journey for Boston area residents!) plus 3 hours research.  There I checked out all the deeds and probate records that related to the Brown family in Swansea, MA.
  7. Background research to analyze what records are available for Swansea, MA and Warren, RI - 2-3 hours.
  8. Trip to the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) - to meet Geoff and Thomas MacEntee in person and to research from published genealogies.  2 hours on the train plus 1 hour research (all the rest of the time was spent gabbing!)
  9. Trip to the Morse Institute Library in Natick, MA  - 1 hour driving round trip, in order to analyze the Swansea, MA Vital Records.  That was a rainy day and I got soaked! [And yes I could have done this step online (at NEHGS), which I did, but it would have taken too long flipping from one digital image to the next when I needed to review the whole birth record section.  It was much easier to read the book and also have access to the introductory information from the transcriber which is not online.]
  10. Trip to Charlton, MA with my colleague Carleen Farrell to explore cemeteries to find gravestones for any Brown family members - 2 hours driving plus 3 hours exploring.  Admittedly this was loads of fun.  We bumped into the gravestone of Grizzly Adams along the way!
  11. Hitting my head against the wall trying to figure out what to do next - 2 hours
  12. Trip to Warren, RI - 2 hours driving round trip, 4+ hours research at the Warren Town Hall (Probate, Deeds, Vital Records), the North Burial ground to find the graves of Jeremiah, Rebecca and Samuel Miller Brown, and the George Hail Public Library where I did background research on the town of Warren.
  13. Further banging my head against the wall - 2 hours.
  14. Followup trip to the Connecticut State Library where I doubled checked all resources and tried to locate new sources to help in the search.  On this trip I also researched the families of Nathan Brown's wife, Molly Clark and Samuel Miller Brown's wife, Abigail Smith. Driving time 3 hours round trip (about 110 miles) and 4 hours of research time.
  15. Second trip to the Bristol County Registry of Deeds and Probate in Taunton, MA - 1.5 hours round trip, 2.5 hours research.  This was to double check records and check some new names now that I had a better understanding of the family.
  16. Analysis time - 10+ hours.  This is the fuzzy gray area that I can't really track.  I can't really describe the countless hours I spent going over and re-working things in my head, re-checking all my printed documents, digital photographs and scans.  Based on reworking my analysis this is where I figured out what to do next.
So what do you think? Is that what you expected my journey would have looked like?  As was mentioned on the webinar, I typically work mostly with original or local records.

How would you have handled the same research? Would you have done something differently?

If you missed the live version of the webinar, you can see it now in the Legacy Family Tree archives. It will be available until November 14, 2011 to view (for free) at your leisure.


  1. You followed the bread crumbs, you thought about what you had and what to do next, it's all logical and rambling, but that's pretty typical, I think.

    It would have been much harder for me 2500 miles away. I would have followed essentially your research path, used FHL microfilms but couldn't have walked the graveyards or gone to local rpeositories that might have unique records. It would have taken me 40 to 80 weeks to do it, I think.

    Good post!

  2. I love that you added the many hours of banging your head while trying to piece it all together. How true it is, countless hours of headbanging. Jut one more bang and it will all make sense. I enjoyed the webinar as well, ire as the first one related to genealogy that I was able to watch.

  3. Thanks for posting this :)! It gives me some idea of how many hours it might take if I hire a professional.

  4. You are very efficient, Marian. Steps 11, 13, and 16 would have taken me much longer!

  5. Hi Marian, great post, thanks so much for posting. My question is how would you know how much to charge a potential client for something like this? Did you have any idea it would have taken you this long? If you were to charge $50/hr, and worked 80 hours (approx. 2 weeks) that would have cost about $4000??? Is that right?