It can be hard to find time to work in your genealogical research in today’s busy world. You have your family to care for, your marriage to attend to, extended family obligations, friends to see, social and community activities to participate in, and maybe even a job. So, how are you supposed to get any good, quality research of significance done in between all of these other things?
The good news is that there are some time-saving tips you can use when doing the genealogy research that will help you get more done faster. This will help you make the most of the research time you do have, and ensure your work is of good quality, sourced, and, most importantly, accurate.
Here are the five time-saving tips you need to make genealogy work for you in a busy modern world.
1. Work on Only One Branch at a Time
It can be tempting to do searches on all of your ancestors whenever you get some time to work on your genealogy. However, if you go into it without a plan of research, you will end up searching a little bit on a lot of branches, and not getting much done. You don’t have to work on the same branch each time you do research. By all means, switch it up so you can get some variety unless you have one branch in particular that fascinates you. Otherwise, stick to one branch for each research session.
You will get more work done on that branch this way. You will only be looking at records that pertain to this branch. You will only write summaries and life stories about people in this branch. You will only contact other researchers who are working on this branch. Even if you just have an hour or two to work on your genealogy, you can get a list of children filled out for one generation, or even take the family line back another generation or more, if you just concentrate your research on that one branch.
2. Keep a Citation Reference Sheet Nearby
You’ve got to cite your sources in genealogy. You just have to. It’s been discussed in other articles, but it bears repeating. If you do not cite your sources on every single item you put on your family tree, you won’t be able to publish it, future generations won’t be able to re-trace or fact check your work, and you yourself may get confused about where you found certain pieces of information (and begin to doubt their accuracy). Citing sources should be a habit you make early on in your genealogy research, so you do it automatically as you go.
Genealogy citations are a bit different than academic citations, though. If you’re citing things that come from the Internet or the provenance of artifacts, citation becomes a whole lot more complicated. You may not remember exactly how to do each type of citation right every time you need to do it.
The good news is you can buy genealogy citation reference sheets on places like Amazon and eBay. Just get the ones you need and keep them by your computer while you’re researching and entering information. It will make citing sources so much quicker and easier for you, leaving you more time to do actual research.
3. Make a Folder on Your Computer for Every Piece of Information You Collect
You will attach many documents to your online or electronic (software-based) family tree. However, there may not be a place to put everything or even a way to attach everything you collect. Whenever you find a document in electronic form, immediately make a folder for it on your computer. Label the folder by type of record and the surname of the family branch to which it pertains. Make a master folder for that family surname, and put all the sub-folders for different types of documents you find in it. You can put all of the master surname folders in a folder called “Genealogy.”
When you do this, you are making it much easier to find documents you need to do your research. Develop a habit of automatically putting documents into their appropriate folders when you download them to your computer. Pretty soon, you won’t need to make new folders; you’ll just put documents in the ones that already exist on your computer. Then, when you need something, you’ll know exactly where and how to find it.
4. Develop a Good Organizational System for Physical Records, and Keep Them Near Your Computer for Easy Access When You Need Them
Just like you want to organize your physical records so they are easy to find, you want to do the same thing with the physical records you will collect while doing your research. Some people use a filing method, with master hanging files for surnames, and individually labeled manila folders in them for the different types of records pertaining to that surname. This is a good way to do it, but you might find yourself rifling through many papers in a manila folder looking for the right one if you don’t always alphabetize them, or put them in the folder in chronological order. And what about photos? They need special protection.
A better way is to take the same concept and change it slightly to use three-ring binders with plastic sheet protectors. You can have a binder for each surname, and organize documents and precious photos inside by type of document, then further arrange the types of documents in chronological order. This makes finding physical documents quick and easy and saves time on genealogy research.
5. Set Up Templates for Ordering Records
You will likely be ordering a lot of records in your genealogical research. If you set up templates for each type you may order, and from each state (as different states require different information for ordering records), you can just fill in the information whenever you need a new record, without having to look up what the state needs, or type a whole new letter again. Include a notation in each template indicating how much money you are sending for the record, so you won’t have to look up the different prices each location charges each time you need to order a record, either. This saves a lot of time in doing your genealogy research.
Will Moneymaker founded Ancestral Findings back in 1995. He has been involved in genealogy research for over 20 years. The thrill of the hunt, the adventure, and the excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his surname. Why I Love Genealogy (And You Should, Too!)