Organize Your Genealogy Research Methods

Organize Your Genealogy Research Methods

Organize Your Genealogy Research Methods

Hello Meanderers! I wanted to remind you to organize your genealogy research methods. Your methods are crucial to unlocking the mysteries of your family tree. So, let’s get those methods in order and make exciting discoveries!

You can organize your genealogy research files and folders, but poor research habits can hinder progress. Research methods? I want this to be fun (insert whiny voice); it’s too much like school.” I understand. Initially, I would find a clue about an ancestor and then go down the rabbit hole.

It’s easy to go astray and then look back and wonder what happened. It’s the old “squirrel, squirrel” phenomenon.

But if you organize your research methods, then it makes it easier to find the information you need, especially if you are away from your research for any amount of time.

So how do you do that? Most of us were not taught how to research in school. We were just told to do it. So here are a few tips for organizing research methods.

Preparing for Research

Organize Your Genealogy Research Methods - Brainstorming

Brainstorming – Write down everything you want to research, such as surnames, places, and historical happenings during a particular era. It can seem overwhelming, but let your imagination go wild. Don’t limit yourself. But do set a timer.

Ready to unleash your creativity? Let’s begin by jotting down every single idea and question that comes to your mind. Don’t worry about being perfect or judging yourself – just let it flow on paper. Trust me, it’s the first step towards achieving something great!

Historical Time Periods

Suppose you’re interested in exploring the historical period in which your ancestors lived. In that case, you can create a time-based list to help you better understand the events and circumstances of that era. This can be particularly helpful if you don’t have much knowledge about history, as it can give you a more comprehensive understanding of what took place in the town or state where your ancestors resided. By researching the significant events, cultural and social norms, and political climate of that time, you can gain greater insight into the lives of your ancestors and their world.

If you are interested in tracing your family history and have a specific surname in mind, it’s best to create a list of names related to that particular surname. This way, you can focus your research on those individuals and avoid getting sidetracked by unrelated information. Whether you’re tracing your father’s or mother’s lineage, note the surnames you want to investigate further and stick to them. This will help you stay organized and efficient in your genealogical research.

When starting genealogy, it is crucial to maintain your focus on the task at hand. If you are new to this field, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure where to start. Setting realistic goals for yourself and breaking down your research into manageable steps is essential.

You can organize your genealogy research methods by beginning to gather information from family members, organizing your findings, and researching online databases or archives. Remember to take notes, keep track of your sources, and verify any information you find. By staying focused and taking a systematic approach, you can make meaningful progress in your genealogy research.

Pick One Ancestor to Concentrate On

It can get confusing if you are bouncing all over the place. Pick one ancestor and do the work on just that one. Use a checklist of documents you need for that person. If you get stuck, put away your research for now. Then, the next day, research a different ancestor.

Create a Master To-Do List

Creating a list of tasks can significantly help you stay focused. For instance, if you are new to genealogy and don’t know where to start, it’s essential to have the birth date and place, marriage date and place (if applicable), and death date and place of all ancestors.

Those are the best places to begin; you can look for other documents to flesh out their lives. You want to be able to give this ancestor life by learning how they lived and worked and about their family life.

Forms to Help Contain Your Research Information

Research Logs to Help Organize Your Genealogy Research Methods
Organize Your Genealogy Research

 Research logs will help you keep track of the websites, libraries, or archives you visit. You can create your log or print a copy of a research online. There are specific things that you will find necessary in this log. Such as:

  1. Repository: Archive, library, cemetery, or vital record.
  2. Call Number: Manuscript, library, and microfilm numbers.
  3. Description: Write down the description of each source used. Be as detailed as possible.
  4. ISBN: This is helpful if you are in another location and must confirm something in the book you used at a different location.
  5. Source: Full source citation.
  6. Comments/Results: Could be anything that will help you remember things about this source later.
  7. Misc.: Record the period of the source, the town, jurisdiction, any surnames related to your ancestor, index or passage, and how the source was searched for.
Correspondence Log

You can have a formal log sheet or a spiral notebook to record your correspondence. This will be for when you send off a particular record or document.

You want to record the following:

  1. Date sent.
  2. To whom you sent it.
  3. What was the request? Birth certificate? Marriage license?
  4. The reply date or when you received it.
  5. The results of correspondence. Was it what you needed?
  6. Fee paid. You want to track what you spend on ordering documents and other related expenses, especially if you are on a budget like most of us.
Family Group Sheets

A family group sheet is a form that allows you to record information about a specific family unit. The form will list everyone in that family and all the pertinent information. Again, you can create your own or download one from the internet. The following information can be listed on a family group sheet:

  1. Birth dates and places.
  2. Christening dates and places.
  3. Marriage dates and places.
  4. Death dates and places.
  5. Burial dates and places.
  6. Name of grandparents.
  7. Name of other spouses.
  8. Occupation, military, or religious affiliation.

Other forms can be helpful. Or just a plain three-ring binder with college-ruled paperwork as well. Whatever your preference is. Forms are another way to organize your genealogy research; they are like a checklist to help you remember what you need for each ancestor.

Time Management for Research

  1. Use a timer.
  2. Make a list of 15-minute tasks.
  3. Create a research plan.
  4. Digitize a few records.
  5. Perform a cleanup task on your tree.
  6. Re-check a database for updated records.
  7. Perform a one or two-record search and, again, set the timer.
  8. Post a query in a Facebook Group.
  9. Workflow

If you look at the Wikipedia definition of a workflow, you’re probably going to get confused as I did:

“A workflow consists of an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of business activity enabled by the systematic organization of resources into processes that transform materials, provide services, or process information. It can be depicted as a sequence of operations, declared as work of a person or group, an organization of staff, or one or more simple or complex mechanisms.”

Simply put, Workflow is a step-by-step process of how you get things done. I am a recipe card person; I need a list of things to get started. Once you get your research methods down, you can break through those brick walls freestyle.

Everything we do has a “workflow,” even our private life. You get a bill in the mail, write a check (ok, I’m dating myself), and mail it back. That’s a workflow.

Your genealogy research should have a consistent workflow. It’s how you research every one of your ancestors.

Technology to help you organize your research methods.

Organize Genealogy Research Methods
Photo by Pixabay on by Ancestral Systems, LLC

Clooz is a digital filing system. You can enter information into 100 different templates, and it will help you fill out the forms using documents such as census reports.

They have analysis tools, capabilities to export to your family tree software, over 200 report formats, along with training.

You can sign up for a 2-week trial to play around with it to see if you like it. You can also purchase the license and download it for $49.95. This is a permanent license and not a subscription.

Using Trello or Asana to Manage Your Research.

Trello and Asana are project management software. These are great for organizing your research. You can make boards for each ancestor and list your questions, hypotheses, and goals.

There are free and paid versions of both. I think the free versions are adequate for genealogy unless you have thousands of ancestors you have researched. And if that is the case, then I am not worthy.

Final Words

Genealogy Travel vs Heritage Travel

Genealogy is much more fun when you are organized and can find your needs. Knowing how to find those records is just as important as finding those records. Organizing your research methods will help you with future searches and breaking through those brick walls sooner.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or family looking to start their ancestral adventure. Leave a comment and tell me what you think. Happy meanderings. Slànte Mhath!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)