What kinds of data will you have? These
may include your pedigree charts, family group sheets,
the handwritten notes you took at a library, maps of an area, general
histories, copies from books that mention several of your family names, data on
potential ancestors, or collateral lines, research logs, and correspondence with
Lots of genealogists organize their
data in a computer software program. If you need help using computer programs,
you might consider taking a basic computer course at the local community center,
public library, or community college. If you need help deciding on a software
program, you can read about evaluating and selecting genealogy computer software
on Cyndi’s List under Software and Computers.
You will also have some documents that
pertain directly to your ancestors--the items you'll be putting into your presentation book. Those include your ancestor's certificates, photographs, letters, and
documents. Even these documents can be scanned electronically and put into your
It all depends on what you want:
A genealogy in
paper: files, notebooks, albums, and/or scrapbooks, published books.
A genealogy in electronic
format: a website, CD-ROM, or DVD.
No matter what format you choose paper
or electronic, you need a good numbering system and a way to organize this
material as well as a way to share your genealogy with others. Another import
aspect to consider is preservation of your information. You don’t want all of
your hard work to be lost to future generations.
There are basically two kinds of
An ascending system that begins with the recent descendant and moves back
in time to the remote ancestors
A descending system that begins with the remote ancestors and moves
forward in time, usually to a living person.
There are numbering systems to go with
each kind of genealogy. The Ahnentafel system works well for pedigrees and reports that start at the present and
move back in time. The NGSQ (National
Genealogical Society Quarterly) system, the Register
system, the Henry system, and others
typographical styles are used to produce descendancy reports. They all have
Today, most people use a computer to
organize their genealogies. The computer assigns numbers automatically. When a
new ancestor is discovered, the computer renumbers your genealogy to accommodate
this new person. There are a variety of computer programs available and you can
probably find one that suits your needs. Some people may prefer to type their
Numbering – This name is taken from a German word which means “ancestor
table” or what we call a pedigree chart.
In this style of numbering, each person on your chart has a unique
number, usually starting with you as #1 or the person you are doing a genealogy
for and from there the numbers get larger. Click on the underlined link to see
an example of this type of numbering.
NGSQ System – Here is an example of how a complicated genealogy looks in this system. Click here for an example.
a Research Notebook
There are two basic methods for the
physical organization of your raw research data. Which method you choose depends
on how you work and think and how you choose to find things when you need them.
The following explanation is for all those things that do not fit in your
presentation book which is discussed later:
Histories of counties
Copies of letters to other researcher
by Geographic Location
For a project involving many surnames
and families, or families that move around quite a bit, we find organizing data
by location is best. Most of the records you will encounter
are easily tied to a location, but may include several surnames you are
searching. If you file by location, you won't have to make duplicate copies of
items you extract. We suggest you prepare a separate research log for
each location. Keeping the research logs short is the key. You will want to be
able to see at a glance what sources are available and whether you have
completed a thorough survey of the area. Depending on the number of sources
available, we make logs for each town, county, and state.
There are some sources that are
surname-oriented, i.e., surname genealogies, PERSI articles, indexes to
federal military records, etc. A notebook with surname research logs may be
added. These logs tend to be short.
If your project involves intensive
research on one family, organizing a notebook by surname
may be better. Within these notebooks, we generally have two sections, one
with tabs for each family and another subdivided by location.
are some hints from Janna for making a successful notebook:
Take all your notes on 8-1/2 x 11 paper. As you take your notes, put the
location or surname you are searching at the top of the page. It will make for
easy filing later. Don't be tempted to mix locations on one page. Using a fresh
sheet of paper is inexpensive, much less expensive than photocopying it later.
As we review collected material and identify items to transfer to family group
sheets, we check them off, using a green pen. When another pass through the data
book is necessary, we can focus on unchecked items.
We prefer three-ring notebooks that can be subdivided if you acquire a thick
group of papers on one subject.
Write the surnames you are searching at the top of your research log. Add the
date that your location was created and its parent's name.
Add a "to-do" list to the front of your notebook, or post it on your
Make a "Miscellaneous Notebook" with an index in the front in which to
collect handouts from lectures, catalogs, a perpetual calendar, etc.
Hint: When you've started a research log for your surname or location, use
your library catalog to make a list of every item that applies to your research
quest. Fill in the name of the item and the call number, but leave the date
column blank. You will have compiled a list that you can prioritize and choose
items to check. Janna always starts by filling in her research logs with a list
culled from the Family History Center online catalog at www.familysearch.org
and adds items from PERSI (the Periodical Source Index available at
Ancestry.com). She may add URLs for sites on the Internet that have pertinent
Help Me! Please
tell me if there are articles in PERSI on my family/location.
Does the Family History Library has a genealogy on my family?
Compile a list of sources for me from the Family History
Library, PERSI, FirstSearch, or other online catalog.
To ask these or
similar questions, click on Help Me!, fill
out the form that comes up, and submit your questions.