Genealogy Research: Tips to Stay Organized

Posted January 14, 2015 by Amanda | 3 Comments

We’ve all been there – surrounded by a mountain of paper work as we’re trying to break through that brick wall or uncover that elusive ancestor.

Genealogy Research: Tips to Stay Organized

A snippet of a newspaper or an old photograph can easily get lost amongst the clutter. How can you avoid getting lost in the mess of research? Check out these tips to stay organized and help you keep track of your family history research.

  • Do it as you go
    The best way to stay organized is to do it as you go. Keep research for each person or family together and use a system that works best for you. Many people find it helpful to keep the documents alphabetized or color-coordinated for easy lookups later. Store your paper copies in folders or binders for safe keeping. Archival sleeves are good for original documents and help with preservation.
  • Scan your documents and photos
    Once you have your paper files organized, the next thing to do is to scan what you have to keep digital copies. Digitizing your documents and photos will help preserve them from damage and give easier access for your relatives. Upload your digital files to your relatives Geni profiles for an even better way to keep track of which document or photo belongs to which relative. If you have any handwritten notes, scan those too.
  • Store photos separately
    Keep original family photos in a safe and separate location. Your genealogy binders and folders are not the best place to keep these. Look into ways to properly preserve and archive photos for future generations.
  • Cite your sources
    As you research, keep notes about where you are finding your information. Cite your sources! Found a birthdate for your great grandfather in a birth certificate? Be sure to make note of it. In fact, if you have already scanned a copy, you can even cite it as a source on your great grandfather’s Geni profile!
  • Date your notes
    Write down the current date for all your research notes. This will help you keep track of your research and discoveries
  • Back up your files
    It’s important to regularly back up your files on an external hard drive or online with services such as the Dropbox. You never know what could possibly happen to your documents in the future.
  • Make an index
    If you have several binders or folders for your genealogy research, keep a handy index around to note where documents and research for each person or family are stored. This is great for quick references and to keep track of where you put everything!

How do you keep your genealogy research organized? Share your tips with us in the comments below!

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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  • Karen

    How do I eke organised? The short answer is that I don’t do it very well. I have scribbles on the back of envelopes from phone calls with distant relatives with. On indication pf who gave me the info. Question I struggle with is how to file the info. I have a file with sections for each individual. Do I store them alphabetically by person or on generation order?

  • kweansmom

    The truth is that I’ve gained invaluable information from notes my father jotted down on a piece of paper, and anything he put on the computer in the 80s and 90s in inaccessible to me. Hold on to those pieces of paper! They will last longer than your computer does.

  • Tami J. Neilson

    Organization is one of my genealogical dreams. I would love to come up with a format of presenting my trees in such a way that would make “interesting” reading for those that come after me. My tree currently has 31 generations with many instances of interesting “cousins”. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.