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By Rhonda R. McClureGenealogist
| Organizing Research | Organizing Findings | Organizing Files | | Other Resources | Need Help? |
When beginning your family history research, it’s easy to think that it will be simple to keep track of what information you have and what you have yet to find. You’ll quickly discover that it’s not so simple. Below are tips for organizing both your genealogical research and your findings.
Spending more time tracing your family history is the ultimate goal. Starting out with research logs and task lists will allow you to do just that.
Research logs are an excellent way to keep track of the research you have already accomplished. Good research logs have a place to record the following information:
Download our research log to start organizing your research.
Note questions when they arise—you may not remember the question later. Tracking this can be done in a variety of ways:
Your computer is an important organizational tool. Beyond recording and organizing your findings within a genealogical software program (see our software comparison chart), there are many other programs that can assist you.
Preserve the family stories you find, know, or receive from family members.
You may come across someone whose connection to your family is unclear, however, you don’t want to lose the information. There are many programs that can assist with this:
Consider using a Notebook program to track every note, detail, photo, source, or URL:
As you progress with your research you will find that files multiply exponentially. The documents and images you uncover are all part of the process. File them in a way—electronically, physically, or both—in which you can easily find them.
Most filing systems rely on certain principles: arrange the documents in notebooks or file folders; use an index or table of contents; be consistent. Even if you are determined to go a paperless route, there are still some documents, diaries, and photographs you will have in a non-digitized version. Organize these in a manner similar to your electronic files. Regardless of what system you use or where you store your files, remember to be consistent with file names, localities, and arrangement.
Build a hierarchy of folders. Below is an example that leads to files for Lemuel Patraw (where each level is a sub-folder of the previous one):
When naming files, especially those of documents, include details on the source. Some examples:
If you are working with a lot of digitized photos, keep a log of where they are stored. Items to keep in your log could include:
When storing your images, whether taken with a camera, scanned from a microfilm, or saved from an online digitized document, it is always a good idea to store them in multiple locations, including:
If it is easier to do an online search for a site you are trying to reach instead of locating it in your list of favorites or bookmarks, then it is definitely time to organize your links.
Use a similar approach for email. “Filters” within your email program direct messages into certain folders. This way you can work just on e-mails dealing with a given family, rather than jumping from one to the next as you open each email in your Inbox.
Want to maximize your research? The experts at NEHGS can help! We offer a number of services that can help you break down brick walls and expand your research.
Want research guidance from a professional genealogist? Our experts provide 30-minute to two-hour consultations in person or by phone.
Schedule your consultation today or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether you are just beginning your family research or have been researching for years, NEHGS Research Services is here to assist you. Our team of experts can:
Hire Research Services today or contact email@example.com, 617-226-1233.