When? What? Keeping Track of Your Family Finds

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As you search for your family history you will often become overwhelmed with all the data coming at you. You will dig and dig and search and search to the point of gathering more information that you can keep track of in your memory.

You will come back to your genealogy work at various times in your life and you will not know when you did your previous searching (a month ago? 1/2 year ago? two years?). As well as not remember all of the data (what) you had found originally (did I already search for my maternal g-g-g-grandfather’s family line? If so, what did I find? Weren’t they from Ireland? Or was that my fraternal g-g-g-g-grandmother’s family line?)

So, make sure to stop and take notes during your searching for future reference. In the long run this will save hours of rework. Previously I discussed the idea of opening a Word document and cutting and pasting key info found on-line into the document for saving. As well as printing out that documents and paper filing.

And that alone will benefit you greatly. However, there are some forms and formats you can use for keeping track of this type of data that help organize it more effectively and efficiently.

Please note: These options can be done electronically within the forms. Or the form printed out and written into manually with your found data.

1. Simple research table format

Make a table in an Excel or Word document with many rows and these column headings:

  • Date Info Found (put the day/month/year…so years later you know how old the data found was)
  • Surname Researched
  • Source Searched
  • Source Location
  • What Found
  • Next Steps?

2. Family Tree Maker Tracking Forms

Family Tree Maker is a software you can purchase on-line for inputting and tracking your family tree. They have forms you can print and use for research tracking. However, you can make your own documents with the same types of tracking info:

  • Search Objective
  • Family Member / Line Researching
  • Date
  • Repository Researched
  • Description of Source
  • Condition (if found in microfilm, old book)
  • Time Period / Names Searched
  • Type of Info Researched

B=birth / christening

M=marriage

D=Death/burial

W=Will

MIL=Military

F=Family (children)

A=Ancestral

L=Land

O=Obituary

OTH=Other

Finally, I did something in the year 1999 that turned out to be a “goto” document now for me for all my latest family history work.

It was my parents 35th wedding anniversary in 1999, so I put together a bound report of all the latest family history information I had for each of their family lines:

  • family tree group sheet
  •  family photos
  •  book excerpts
  •  family tree diagram
  •  family stories / articles

These bound documents have become my main place to go when I had not picked up my family history for months or even years at a time. It has kept me from repeating work and kept me grounded in a baseline.

Remember your time is precious, use it wisely and keep track of your work. Your future descendants will thank you.

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One thought on “When? What? Keeping Track of Your Family Finds

  1. Tayler McKnight

    Wow, I think that you provide a lot of really helpful tips in here. I have tried to map out my family history and I definitely know what you mean when you say it can get confusing. There is so much to keep track of! But I think that using the simple format that you listed would be a great help when trying to create research on ones family history. Thank you for your ideas!

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