The Organized Genealogist


The Organized Genealogist

In a perfect world, your genealogy research would be organized into tidy files, notebooks, the cloud, or your computers. In fact, part of your family tree findings may be ultra-organized while other parts not so much. I have to admit, I’m the same. I’ve developed a system for storing my photos (paper and digital) that works perfectly for me.

But my other research, documents and interviews are kind of organized, kind of not. I don’t think I have to tell anyone why we should be organized, as I’m sure everyone reading this has gone back to a census record more than once because we forgot to note that we’d already searched it.

If any of this sounds like you, let me introduce you to a newly released book that I’m currently making my way through: Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions, by Drew Smith. (Links to purchase are below)

An Organized Book for Organized Genealogists

The book is brilliantly organized (of course!) with chapters on organizing not only your research but yourself.

The first chapter is filled with tips on optimizing YOU for research success, while chapter two is all about organizing your space. From there, the book delves into ideas and tips for organizing

  • your goals
  • your notes and ideas
  • your files
  • your research process
  • your communication (think emails and letters)
  • your online research (always a tricky beast)
  • research trips
  • your learning
  • your genealogy volunteering

Of particular interest to me was the chapter on organizing notes and ideas. These are the two things that tend to trip me up because I have a bad habit of jotting down things on scraps of paper, then losing them or forgetting what my cryptic note meant, or problems reading my own handwriting.

The author does suggest using a notebook (instead of those paper scraps) as well as smartphone or tablet apps for capturing photos, notes and ideas. I was pretty happy to see that I’m already on the right track with the work I’m currently doing in terms of using digital recorders, voice recorder on my phone, and my mind-mapping software. If you click the link to read my earlier post, you’ll also see that I’m a big fan of paper-based mind-mapping.

I’m also 100% behind the use of Evernote (that’s why I developed a course for genealogists on the subject!)

What I Loved and Where I Bulk!

I truly loved the chapter on organizing your research process. This subject has been one of my favorites for years, as I know that documenting the workflow is critical to my ability to take a research task from beginning to end. I also enjoyed the chapter on organizing research trips. When my sister and I travel for research, we create the most massive and detailed notebook before leaving home . . . so in this area I can say with great confidence, I’ve got this one nailed! And of course the chapter on online research was another favorite, probably because it’s where most of my current research is done.

The one chapter I had some difficulty with was the one on the organized work space. As a minimalist, I live in very small quarters, so reading about having a genealogy room with the desk and table and work spaces was almost the opposite of how I work. I think for someone who has the “perfect” room, that’s awesome.

For readers, like me, who don’t have that kind of space, the suggestions are excellent, but unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong, though. The chapter was really good and filled with great ideas; it just doesn’t fit my particular lifestyle.

Do I Recommend This Book?

Wholeheartedly. I don’t think any of us can ever know enough about getting our paper and digital files organized. Over the long haul, the more organized you are, the more efficient your research. And as someone who has delved into more organizing systems than I can remember, I think the suggestions are excellent. And whether you adopt the methodology of one chapter or the whole book, I guarantee your genealogy research life will get much easier.

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