Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How Writing As You Go Drives Your Research

In one of my blogs during the week of IGHR at Samford, I mentioned a presentation given by Elissa Scalise Powell that was about writing as you research. I experienced first hand today why this is a good idea. It drives your research and points out the holes that need to be filled in your ancestor's life story.

What became glaringly obvious to me today, was my lack of Civil War knowledge. I don't mean common knowledge either. I'm talking about the intricate workings of the military specific to the Civil War. My focus is Hugh L. Luttrell who was in Co. C, 8th regiment, Missouri State Militia Cavalry. He started out as a Sergeant and quickly worked his way up to 1st Lieutenant and Adjutant. I was able to view his service cards from Footnote. When I was critically reviewing them today I found I had more questions then answers. How did he get promoted so quickly? Was this common during this time period? At one point he was transferred? Why? Then at another time he was "on special duty Judge Advocate General Court Martial." What does that mean?? Was he a witness or was he the one being court martialed? He was also given a commission by the governor of Missouri after somebody resigned from their post. Was this common procedure for a governor to do or something out of the ordinary?

Needless to say the questions continue to mount. I'm not even sure what book I could read to find answers to some of these questions. It is on my list to find out, as well as talking to somebody who is very knowledgeable about the Civil War.

By writing down my findings from this one source it has driven my research into a direction that I didn't really expect. I know what my next step needs to be and have clear questions that I want answered. I've also realized how important it is to do this every time! Not only for each piece of evidence regarding Hugh, but for my other ancestors as well. Boy, I've got my work cut out for me.


  1. I think this is great advice! I started writing my blog in March. Writing blogposts has been one of the best things to happen to my research. Most of my posts add items to my to-do list as I review what I have already researched and see the research 'holes.'

  2. Thanks Sierra! My list seems to grow at an amazing pace as well.

  3. I don't necessarily write as I research, but when writing a blog post about "interesting" ancestors (mine or anyone else's) I do seem to spot clues overlooked previously, or decide I need to know more about a certain subject or time in history to prevent making a total fool of myself "in print". ;D