Why is it important to organise your Genealogy Research?
I organise my genealogy research for my own sanity!
As I wander back through time and revisit my ancestors, I find small pieces of evidence of their lives, mostly data. The plethora of essential BMD (Births, Marriages, Deaths) data can get confusing when dealing with large numbers of ancestors in your tree. Therefore it is critical that I organise my research in a way that my heritage is clear and unambiguous, plus enabling me to provide accurate visual snapshots of my ancestors for future generations. My children and grandchildren will benefit from my organised research by knowing where each ancestor belongs on their family tree.
Imagine your Family Tree now, in your mind, and visualise the many different branches that have grown from your research. Consider the growing number of pieces of data about your ancestors in each clan, tribe and family group. Your tree can become tangled – branches interweaving – and your ability to keep a clear picture of your roots becomes increasingly difficult.
Untangle the roots with careful organisation!
Consider now, for a moment, that you have spent many hours in searching for your roots, only to find that you have been ‘barking up the wrong tree’. That happened to me this year! I had been searching for data on one of my Great Uncles, for whom I knew very little. Uncle Andrew was concealed from me because I had tangled my tree branches and had him listed as the son of the ‘wrong ancestor’.
As soon as I began to untangle my research and verify my uncle’s true parentage, everything fell into place. This sent me on an adventure of locating the Parish Marriage Certificates of as many in his clan that I could find – using the search function at FindMyPast. I now have a collection of these ancient documents, that have helped me to organise my genealogy research a step further.
Marriage Certificates reveal the parents of the bride and groom, their occupations, and the names of witnesses!
These create the stepping stones to your next research. Your family tree begins to blossom and you get a clearer picture of who’s who.
What can you use to organise your research?
Use a simple File Management system
My genealogy research for my clans, tribes and family groups, spans many decades. (Not unusual for a keen amateur Family Historian.) This research has amassed a large amount of documentation, imagery and stories. My first step in organising all of that data, is to prepare an Ancestry Folder in my computer hard drive and back it up to mobile devices or to the cloud.
For instance, all of those Parish Marriage certificates I recently discovered for my ancestors are carefully stored in sub-folders for each specific ancestor. Sub-folders are easily added to make space for the research of my next ancestor in focus.
Create Family Group Sheets and Generation Charts
My next process is the preparation of Individual Detail Sheets, Family Group Sheets, and Generation Pedigree Charts. In these PDF fillable documents, I can insert the data gathered on the basic evidence of my ancestor’s life.
- Individual Detail Sheet – detailed information about one ancestor
- Family Group Sheet – dates and direct relationships listings, with spouse, children and parents
- Generation Pedigree Charts – minimal BMD for 3, 5 or 10 generations in a clan.
Each of these PDF documents are then stored alongside the documents, images and other items I have for those ancestors. These folders will become part of the treasure trove of family history for my clan that I can pass on to my grandchildren.
Organise Research with PowerPoint Templates
When it comes time to sharing your organised research with someone else, consider how PowerPoint can be your friend.
I recently downloaded the PowerPoint Template for Family Tree Chart and used the embedded diagram to record one branch of my family tree. Pieces of the chart could be recoloured according to the branch of the tree and the whole chart could be enlarged to view comfortably on screen. You’ll see on of these as my featured image above.
I can now showcase that in a Zoom presentation or save as a PDF and send to my family.
Organise Research with Online Genealogy Sites
Finally when you have taken the next step and prepared to create your Family Tree online using one of the top sites (FindMyPast or Ancestry), you can really deepen your ability to organise your genealogy research.
Google Note: Best genealogy sites 2021
Ancestry.com: Best genealogy site overall. …
MyHeritage: Best genealogy site for fun features. …
Archives: Best genealogy website for deep research. …
FamilySearch: Best free genealogy website. …
Find My Past: Best genealogy website for Irish and British records.
These online tree programs can help you organise your research if used carefully. The ability to see your family tree grow as you research is one of these benefits. When you present your tree in pedigree view you can see where the gaps are in your research.
I enjoy searching through the ‘hints’ provided in these online trees and finding out even more without the hard yards of research.
Note: best to double check the authenticity and accuracy of these hints before adding them to your tree.
Organise your Genealogy Research with Desktop Family Tree Building Software
Once you are hooked on Genealogy, the way many thousands of people are, and you want to validate, verify and record your tree privately, you can use anyone of a number of Desktop Family Tree programs.
For recommendations on these, I recommend this article from Family Tree Magazine.
There are so many different ways to organise your Genealogy research, you’ll find one that suits your style of research and I welcome your comments on what strategies you’ve found to be of most benefit in keeping you organised!
Late July Podcast Coming Up!
Interview with Emma Cox from Emma Cox Genealogy on the benefits of using Evernote for Organising your Genealogy Research. Emma Cox is a highly experienced family historian, genealogist and researcher. She uses her skills and expertise to help her clients unlock the secrets of their family history.
Emma also produces the Journeys into Genealogy Podcasts and invites you to listen to those episodes here.
Evernote for Genealogists Podcast with Emma Cox will appear in my Essential Genealogist podcast site here.
August Course Coming Up!
I will launch my latest course in August 2021. Answers to frequently asked questions about Organising your Family Tree Research, Records, Files and Documents, and more. You are welcome to pre-order that course now for yourself and if you’d like to also gift this course to a friend or a beginner Genealogist in your family, please let me know and I will provide ‘two enrolments for one price’. (Send your contact details using this form.)
PS. If you’d like to add your ‘requests’ for future content in this course, please fill in this Google Survey Form.
Free Course! Blogging in the Past Lane
Blogging in the Past Lane means posting stories about your Ancestors into your blog. You don’t need to be a genealogist or even a family historian, you may just want to preserve the stories of your family for your family.
This short course will provide you with Six easy lessons on preparing, writing and sharing family history blog posts.