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How to Organize Genealogy Information

by Sandra Webster

The advent of computers and the Internet has made the hobby of genealogy, or tracing one's ancestry, easier, faster and more organized. Computers are wonderful--until they fail--so even if you store all your family history on the computer, whether it is in a program you have purchased or an online database you have subscribed to, always keep a paper backup.

Paper Records

Download and print paper forms off the Internet, or copy them from genealogy how-to books.

Fill out a Family Tree Chart to document the names of the ancestors from whom you directly descend, and for whom you will create a Family Group Sheet. This form will help you see what you have accomplished, and who you still need to search for.

Fill out a Family Group Sheet for each family member and his or her immediate family. Doing this from the beginning will help you connect family members and create complete and accurate records.

Keep a Source Summary. This is documentation of all the sources you have searched and what information you have found from each source. A separate source summary should be kept for each family tree line, so you can find information and references quickly. You may also choose to keep a Research Calendar, which is a similar record of every source you have searched and any information you have found pertaining to your ancestors.

Track correspondence relating to your genealogical research on a Correspondence Record. Use it to keep track of with whom you have corresponded, what you are writing about, and if you have received a reply or not.

Utilize a Family Tree Research Extract sheet when you are searching records or documents that can not be copied or scanned. This also works well for deeds, which are time consuming to reread.

Compile all your forms in a three-ring binder when you first begin your search. Organize them by name or location. Later you may add more binders, or graduate to file boxes or filing cabinets as your family history research accumulates. Consider indexing each binder to make record retrieval easier.

Copy any records you want to take with you on research trips. Leave all originals at home. Carry a portable flash drive with you to save computer files on if you have access, then print the documents and add them to your binder. Also consider carrying a digital camera to photograph books and documents that can not be photocopied, but always ask permission first.

Items you will need
  • Genealogical forms
  • Three-ring binder(s)
  • Tabbed dividers
  • Three-hole paper punch

Tip

  • Use archival-quality sheet protectors when adding original family documents or photographs to your family research binders.

References

Photo Credits

  • a blue empty binder image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com