Saturday, 17 March 2018

The (Un)Organized Genealogist

The ideal genealogist is organized. That was one of the many gems of wisdom passed along in the free online course from the University of Strathclyde which I just took through FutureLearn.* There was a lot of advice on the subject, from keeping track of searches and keeping results organized to limiting searches to one question at a time. 

I knew that. At least, I did when I started family history research back in the dark ages before the internet. It was easier to keep track then because information came in so slowly; from snail mail or winding my way through microfilm. I still have the tally sheets where I noted down the films I had searched. My genealogy continued to be organized when email made communication with fellow searchers faster. Then Ancestry, FindMyPast and searchable databases from various archives came online. It became easy just to sit down for a few minutes or an hour for a search. Who needed to keep track of that?

Discoveries came thick and fast on good days. Too fast to keep up with filing. I printed off the information and put it in family binders (not filed, just stuffed in the front) and stacked it in banker’s boxes. On top of that there are notes from conferences and information from research trips to archives in England, Scotland, Canada and the US.
That’s a lot of paper. I know there are systems to save info to the cloud or on a computer which would get rid of the paper problem but that is the way I set things up when I started. It has served me well. One of my first computers was stolen when my house was broken into. Then there were the couple of computers that crashed. I think I’ll stick with paper.  

Now it’s time to get organized. Time to go through all the banker’s boxes, binders and folders of seminar notes. Maybe I’ll find some hidden treasures. Wish me luck!

Related resources


How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records by Denise May Levenick

Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher by Drew Smith

Organizing Your Family History Search: Efficient & Effective Ways to Gather and Protect Your Genealogical Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack