Mind-Mapping Genealogy Research

Mind-Mapping your next genealogy research project

How to mind-map your next genealogy project

If you have a copy of my book, Discover Your Family History Online, you may remember my chapter on Putting It All to Work. In it, I showed how I use mind-mapping to work on possible avenues for future research.

Mind-Mapping for Website Ideas

Mind-mapping for genealogy is a technique of stating a research problem (the central hub of the spoke), then brainstorming all of the ideas associated with it. For example, when stating my research goal of learning more about Michael Keller’s marriage (husband of great-grandaunt), the spokes were the places I felt I might discover more information. I used a mind-mapping software for this example, but more often I just sit down with a pen and paper and let my thoughts flow.

genealogy mind map technique for research
As you can see, this mind-map is all about the sites where I think I might find Mike and his wife, Martha’s, marriage information. I could have done another mind-map listing ALL of my thoughts about my research, but in this initial phase, I just wanted to find a mention of the marriage *somewhere*.

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Mind-Mapping for Research Ideas

Here’s another example of mind-mapping for research ideas.This is the type of mind-map that I use when I want everything about an ancestor out of my head.  This mind-map is a visual representation of brainstorming ideas and thoughts about this ancestor.
Mind-map genealogy research John Hendrickson

As you can see, I’ve created major topics coming off the central hub (land, marriage, birth, etc), and then mind-mapped ideas under each major topic. I could have added another layer to this mind-map that’s comprised of the websites where I think I might be able to find each record.

Mind-mapping is a quick and easy technique for getting ideas out of my head and onto paper (or mind-mapping software). For me, it’s a technique that lets me think aloud.

What do you think about using this technique?  Leave a comment below.


  1. I’ve made to-do lists before. I like this because it keeps things connected to WHY you are looking on those places. Thank you for explaining this.

    1. Hi Clorinda,

      Thanks so much for your comment. You’re so welcome – and I hope the mind-mapping exercise is helpful in your research. Nancy

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