Genealogy Wise

The Genealogy & Family History Social Network

Do you have organization/research tips you would like to share with other genealogists? Do you have a research question?

My research tip is to always research from the known to the unknown. Many beginning genealogists randomly begin researching their family tree. I know I did. If you start with yourself and then work your up through the family tree moving to your parents and their siblings to their parents and their parents siblings, etc., and take each individual working from the last known event the genealogist will be more organized and have an easier time researching and finding already researched material.

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I am very meticulous about documenting my sources when I add anything to my family tree. I have added so many people and move around in my research that I began a list in a word processing document that lists each person and what records I still need for that person. For each person in my tree, I have figured out I would like to acquire this infomation about each one:
Birth Record
Birth Certificate
Father
Mother
Siblings
Occupation
Photo (I'd like to get at least one photo)
Stories (I'd like to have at least one story about each person)
Marriage Record
Marriage Certificate
Spouse
Children
Military Records
Pension Records
All Census Records published during their lives
Death Record
Death Certificate
Obituary
Burial Place
Tombstone Photo

When I have attached that piece of information for that person to my family tree, such as a death certificate, I delete it from the list, so I already know I have it and don't need to keep looking for it. If I don't have that information, but know where or when I can find it, I add that to the list.

Also, I have another word processing document where I list each county that each person has lived in and then when I find time to look on that GenWeb website or if I happen to visit that county, I know which of my ancestors has lived there and in what time period and can look for records there.

I also make sure I check each census individually after I add them to my tree. Sometimes other relatives live with your ancestor that may be a distant relative that wouldn't show up otherwise.

Heather
Most genealogical software programs have adequate "to-do" lists. Make sure you have one that lets you add events from the life of your ancestor. For example, he/she may have left a paper trail at these times:
Passport
Residence (land records)
Lineage Societies (like DAR)
Education
Community interactions (tax, voting, etc.)

Also, I've posted a 5-page outline about Organization for Researchers on my Group for that.
Good hunting!
I have finally decided to use the To-Do lists in my genealogy software program (RootsMagic) to record what I have done and what I still need to find and where. It builds my research log that I no longer have to keep in a separate place. It makes life much easier.
I just purchased Legacy 7 and plan to use the To-Do List also. It seems like a very simple way to keep up with what you need to do and when you complete it. I never thought about it replacing a research log. It would make things much easier. Thanks for the tip.
I agree with above. The rule is go from what you know to what you don't know.

My "tip" is get a good organization system (computer program or filing) organized before you get too much material. I have used 3 ring binders for each family group until I got my computer program. This worked okay but I tended to put "stuff" in a box and am just now getting 30 years of research in something that can be easily looked at.

Another "tip" be sure to write down your sources as you go. You will want to go back at some point or someone else will and without sources, that's a problem.
I started out with just paper, notes, pictures, etc. Now am overwhelmed in trying to get it all put into FTM.

Barb
Texas History Hunter for Beginners

Yes, Jennifer. My one MAJOR research tip would be, Just because it says "certified" and just because it comes from the state records offices, does not always mean it is factual. You need at least 2 other sources to confirm your "fact".

Example (click to see):


A perfect example is my grandfather's *Certified* copy of his birth certificate from Nacogdoches County, TX . In the May 1942 copy, his mother is correctly listed as "Nancy Jane CROSS", however, in the Jan 1957 copy, his mother is incorrectly listed as "Nancy Jane COON". They will change it if I pay for it!. I feel it is their mistake, they should fix it for FREE!
I found the names and places interesting. Some of my maternal and paternal lines settled in Nacogdoches, Grimes, Falls, Liberty and Hardin counties - Davis, Brunson (Jenkins). Bond, and Wakefield. I wonder where the name "Davis" came from in Jeff Davis Wilkinson's name.
Evelyn
A very simple and low-tech organization tip: when doing onsite research at libraries, archives, vital records departments, etc. use different colored index cards for each family branch if you can't immediately get copies of the records or information.
I made a list of records I want to find, death notices, obituaries, death certificates, marriage records, etc.

Sort them out by date and take the list with me when I go to the library or archives.

I check various indexes for names that I am searching and check the records when I find them to see if they match.

I visit cemeteries with a digital camera and GPS device do get photos and locations of grave markers, In small cemeteries I photograph all the stones in big cemeteries I walk and find names that I am searching.
I use the Mary Hill four color coding system with some variation for my file folders. I use purple instead of yellow. The system will accommodate binders as well as file folders.

I also use Windows Notepad for my day to day research log. I found a feature of Notepad that puts a date & time stamp on the Notepad document each time you open it. First create a master file. My master file name is MMM YYYY Genealogy Research Log.txt. At the top of the document, enter this text exactly as shown without the quotes. ".LOG" and save it. Close and reopen it, there is your date & time stamp. I recreate a new one every month, hence the file name. At the end of the month, I do some maintenance and rename it ie 2009 07 Genealogy Research Log.txt for the purpose of proper Windows Explorer sorting and remove the ".LOG" then resave. I open a new one for the next month AUG 2009 Genealogy Research Log.txt.

Caveat is that the file size limitation is @ 45 K. I found the reference for this in Windows Help Re: Q81067 and Q59578.
All great tips!
I too started with various notebooks and folders. I started using Family Tree Maker years ago and it was a huge project to get everything transferred in. I regret not documenting my sources more thoroughly when I started out, and using FTM citation system to do it. I had a couple of major computer crashes before I learned to back my file up frequently as well. I recommend taking advantage of the technology available, and scanning photos, documents, newsclippings, etc., and storing them on discs as well as attaching them to the appropriate individuals in FTM/whatever program you use.

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