Genealogy Lesson Number Four: Organizing Your Information

Book cover for Organizing Your Family History Search by Sharon DeBartolo CarmackNow that you have done all your homework on home sources and started researching print resources and online records, the next thing to do is begin organizing that information.  You might as well do it now before you have tons of information piled around you that no one can make sense of—except for you.  After all, what good is all this “family data” you are compiling on your dead relatives if it can’t be shared?

And like you were told in kindergarten, you do need to share, because you never know who in your family just might have the clue to your family’s past!  Maybe only one relative got the family Bible when grandma or grandpa died.  And no one had access to a photocopier four generations back to duplicate all those pictures, diplomas, certificates, court records and so on.  Being nice and playing fair is the norm in this family endeavor!

For organizing information, I started out with a three-ring binder with dividing tabs with the various families in alphabetical order.  I now have filing cabinet after filing cabinet with family group sheets, pedigree charts, pictures of tombstones, obituaries, etc.  I also have several book cases full of these notebooks, too.   Now, you can be as simple as you want to be in your search.  You can just search the surname you have now or what you were born with, but that’s not the only set of ancestors you have.  If you’ve seen a pedigree chart you will see that you have oodles and oodles of grandparents the farther you go back.  And once you learn the name of a new one, your next question is: “Who were their parents?”  This is why the endeavor is so addictive and never ends. This is also why organizing your research is so important.

The library has some books with ideas for organizing, preserving and even artfully compiling your genealogical research, including:

Being organized now will save you hours and hours of searching later for “stuff” you know you already have or need!  Happy Hunting!

Tim is the president of the Genealogical Society of Central Missouri and teaches genealogy help classes at the library on a regular basis.

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