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Organizing Your Genealogy Research
Abrams Collection Genealogy Highlights
A PDF version of Organizing Your Genealogy Research is also available.
For some genealogists, the biggest challenge in their family history research isn't tracking down that elusive ancestor in the 1930 U.S. Census. Instead, the toughest job is organizing all their valuable notes, records, photos and more. While it's a daunting task, an organized system for genealogy materials prevents duplication of efforts and helps researchers to determine what (or who) is missing from their family trees. Perhaps even better, it prevents that sinking feeling when a cousin calls and asks for a copy of a great-aunt's birth record, which could be buried in any number of boxes.
Organizational styles and systems vary among family historians. But whatever their preferences, the reason for creating such systems is the same. Getting organized allows genealogists to set a standard for crossreferencing a record among multiple family names, such as a land record that describes a sale from one ancestor to another; it establishes a format for note taking and a system for tracking correspondence; and it makes it easier to prepare for a research trip, thanks to research calendars and lists of what should come next in the research process.
Keeping track of sources used, even sources that did not include information relevant to a particular family, can make research more manageable later on. Noting what you looked for and the date the source was checked gives context to your research. Did you check that county history before or after you uncovered information about an ancestor's first marriage? Including the call number for a source will help you locate it later if need be. Books on genealogical standards of evidence discuss the types of records and research materials available, while serving as a guide to citation and analysis.
The Library of Michigan has an extensive collection of how-to genealogy books, from sources that provide an overview of organizational methods to materials that deal with specific topics, such as preservation of family treasures or identification of undated photographs. Some genealogists choose to bring their research together in a written family history or in a scrapbook with photos of everyone from distant ancestors to the newest addition to the family. The Library has a number of books on these topics as well, and many people also find it helpful to browse the Library's collection of family histories to explore possibilities for their own compilation.
In addition to books that highlight the pros and cons of genealogy computer software available for use in organizing research, several new books focus on digitizing family documents or posting research online to create a family history Web site. For more information about the titles recommended in this publication, please search ANSWER, the Library's online catalog, www.answercat.org. Clicking on the titles in this publication will take you directly to the ANSWER catalog record for that item.
No matter the system you choose to organize your genealogy, the Library of Michigan is here to help. Pedigree charts and family group sheets are available at the Genealogy Desk or on the Library's Genealogy Web site, www.michigan.gov/familyhistory. While the thrill of the hunt remains one of the most exciting aspects of genealogy research, organizing and preserving that information creates a legacy that will last for generations.
Alessi, Jean and Jan Miller. Once Upon a Memory: Your Family Tales and Treasures. White Hall, VA: Betterway Publications Inc., 1987.
Arthur, Stephen and Julia. Your Life & Times: How to Put a Life Story on Tape -- An Oral History Handbook. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 1987.
Balhuizen, Anne Ross. Searching on Location: Planning a Research Trip. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1992.
Carmack, Sharon DeBartolo. Organizing Your Family History Search: Efficient & Effective Ways to Gather and Protect Your Genealogical Research. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 1999.
Cyndi's List: Organizing Your Research
Dollarhide, William. Managing a Genealogical Project: A Complete Manual for the Management and Organization of Genealogical Materials. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1999.
Fleming, Ann Carter. The Organized Family Historian: How to File, Manage and Protect Your Genealogical Research and Heirlooms. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 2004.
Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. 3rd ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 2000.
Langman, Robert R. and Jimmy B. Parker. 30 Seconds: A Guide to Organizing Your Genealogy Files. Midvale, UT: Heritage Knights LLC, 2000.
National Archives: Caring for Your Family Archives
Renick, Barbara. Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family's History and Heritage. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 2003.
Whitaker, Beverly DeLong. Beyond Pedigrees: Organizing and Enhancing Your Work. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993.
Merriman, Brenda Dougall. About Genealogical Standards of Evidence: A Guide for Genealogists. Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 2004.
Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1997.
Stevenson, Noel C. Genealogical Evidence: A Guide to the Standard of Proof Relating to Pedigrees, Ancestry, Heirship and Family History. Laguna Hills, CA: Aegean Park Press, 1989.
Carmack, Sharon DeBartolo. You Can Write Your Family History. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2003.
Dixon, Janice T. Family Focused: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Your Autobiography and Family History. Wendover, NV: Mount Olympus Publishing, 1997.
Gouldrup, Lawrence P. Writing the Family Narrative. Ancestry Inc., 1987.
Hatcher, Patricia Law. Producing a Quality Family History. Salt Lake City: Ancestry Inc., 1996.
Kempthorne, Charley. For All Time: A Complete Guide to Writing Your Family History. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1996.
Klein, Reinhard. Family History Logbook: A Timeline Journal from 1900 to 2000. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 1996.
Polking, Kirk. Writing Family Histories and Memoirs. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 1995.
Stephenson, Lynda Rutledge. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Your Family History. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2000.
Douglas, Althea. Help! I've Inherited an Attic Full of History. 2 vols. Toronto: The Ontario Genealogical Society, 1998.
Northeast Document Conservation Center
Paulsen, Deidre M. and Jeanne S. English. Preserving the Precious. Salt Lake City: Restoration Source, 1989.
Sturdevant, Katherine Scott. Organizing & Preserving Your Heirloom Documents. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2002.
Dating Old Photographs, 1840-1929. Lewiston, NY: Family Chronicle, 2000.
Davies, Thomas L. Shoots: A Guide to Your Family's Photographic Heritage. Danbury, NH: Addison House, 1977.
Frisch-Ripley, Karen. Unlocking the Secrets in Old Photographs. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1991.
Taylor, Maureen. Identifying & Dating Your Family Photographs. Pleasant Grove, UT: 123 Genealogy, 2003.
---. Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs. 2nd ed. Cincinnati: Family Tree Books, 2005.
Braun, Bev Kirschner. Crafting Your Own Heritage Album. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2000.
Cyndi's List: Scrapbooks
Family Tree Page Ideas for Scrapbookers: 130 Ways to Create a Scrapbook Legacy. Denver: Memory Makers Books, 2004.
Stephani, Julie, ed. More than Memories: The Complete Guide for Preserving Your Family History. Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 1998.
Taylor, Maureen. Heritage Album: Tips & Techniques. Pleasant Grove, UT: 123 Genealogy, 2003.
---. Scrapbooking Your Family History. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2003.
Christian, Peter. Web Publishing for Genealogy. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 2000.
Clifford, Karen. The Complete Beginner's Guide to Genealogy, the Internet and Your Genealogy Computer Program. Monterey, CA: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 2001.
Howells, Cyndi. Planting Your Family Tree Online: How to Create Your Own Family History Web Site. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 2003.
McClure, Rhonda R. Digitizing Your Family History: Easy Methods for Preserving Your Heirloom Documents, Photos, Home Movies and More in a Digital Format. Cincinnati: Family Tree Books, 2004.
---. The Genealogist's Computer Companion. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2002.
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