Category Archives: Organization Tips/Tricks/Hints

Staying Organized On The Go – A Great Article Over At 24/7 Family History Circle

Have I mentioned that I love reading the blogs of other genealogists because sometimes – a new perspective can give you the jumpstart you need to get your genealogy in order.

I just read a great article over on the 24/7 Family History Circle blog that was written by Juliana Smith. 
The article is about keeping organized when you are short on time, and personally, I can’t wait to start implementing some of the tricks that she mentioned.
Please – check out her awesome article over at:

Organizing All Those Digital Pictures…

First off…I would just like to say a huge “Sorry” for not posting very often very often lately. I have just been so busy with midterms and finals are right around the corner….but don’t worry. Only a couple more weeks until freedom (and loooooong nights of genealogy). Honestly, I can’t wait because I think I’m starting to go through some withdrawals.

Now then, it is getting to the holidays when everyone is taking a TON of pictures. Everyone wants to preserve the wonderful memories we all receive from the holidays. So this year, I am going to give you the gift of organizing all those pictures that you’ve accumulated over the years and make room for some new ones to be taken this year.

The first thing I recommend comes in one of two ways: Either an digital photo organizer like Picasa, or you are going to have to get ready to get down, dirty, and personal with your computer, meaning you are going to have to organize it all by yourself on your computer. Which ever way to choose to do this is up to you – and it will probably be based on how much you know computers and how much money you have to spend.

My preference is Picasa – there are three reasons for this: I love the fact that it is free (the budget of a student doesn’t leave much room for anything other than Easy Mac). Secondly, I like that it is organized into “albums” or folders. For me, albums make the most sense because thats how I would organize my pictures if they were printed (However if you like organizing your pictures by tags, there are other programs out there that do that). Finally, I love that it has an online component to it. I am a girl on the go…and I want to be able to see my pictures where ever I am. Picasa can do that.

It’s not to say that organizing it all by yourself is a bad thing…it is just that it is a lot more work. Some people prefer it this way because you can place the pictures where ever you want on your computer and you are in control to organize it however you want. Personally – I think this way is too complicated and I often get lost and confused…besides, it can’t even go on the internet.

Whatever way you choose to organize them – here are some general tips to make sure that your camera has some room for your new photos.

First – unload those pictures that are on your memory camera and get them on your computer or into your program. I understand that for some people, this may be a bit of a big task. With that said you have two options – either buy a new memory card or unload all of the pictures off of the one you got and make a plan to organize/name a certain number of pictures every day or week. But don’t get behind on this – or you are asking yourself for even more trouble.

Second – after every event from now on, once you get home, transfer all the pictures onto your computer or into your program. Then, start labeling/tagging/organizing all of those photos.

Third – Try to label every photo with the date (year is ok if you don’t know the exact date), place, and names of the people in the picture. Where you put this information depends on the program you use…but please do this. Write as much detail as you can – think of your descendants! They’ll love it if you do this and if it is all organized. Think of it as something that will save you a headache and money on all the Advil you’d be buying if you didn’t.

Finally – Figure out a way to easily share these pictures with others. Maybe you have a family website where you put them up or you distribute CDs to everyone at Christmas, or you upload them to a site like where family members can print them out at their own convience and pick them up at their nearest Walgreens store. Pick what you like and what your family members like. Not only will it make Grandma and Grandpa happy that they have cute pictures of their grandchildren on their mantel, it will also be one more copy…and someday when your descendants are desperately looking for a picture of you – it may be the picture they recieve.


Setting A Family History Goal

As I sat down with my computer durng my few moments of free time this week, gigantic cup of green tea in hand, I began scouring the many blogs that I read on a regular basis.

Over at the 24/7 Family History Circle sits a great article that, while a basic concept, is one that we genealogists often forget.

It was suggested that we should take time during this month (family history month) to create goals for ourselves regarding our family history.

I just wanted to expand on this idea, and give some tips that apply to goals in general as well as family history goals:

  • Make your goal clear and precise. A goal that is too broad or vague has a much smaller chance of being achieved because there is nothing to serve as a benchmark, determining if you have accomplished your goal or not. A good goal is specific, such as, ” I will sort the pictures by surname that are sitting in the box Aunt Maggie left for me, placing each category of pictures into archival safe boxes”.
  • Give yourself a deadline. Some people like myself, need a deadline to make things happen. I work better under pressure and it keeps me from being able to put it off for too long.
  • Have two goals: One really fun goal and one goal that just needs to be done. For example, a fun goal would being making a shadow box highlighting a particular ancestor. A goal that just needs to be done could be something like filing or backing up your materials.

Good luck everyone – and I’d love to hear about your family history goals.


Organizing Your Genealogy

As I complete the finishing touches on my move – I realize that this is the perfect opportunity to organize all of that family history information, pictures, and other odds and ends related to genealogy.

So first – I’ll discuss the paper files, which is often the first genealogical issue that comes up when it comes to organizing your genealogy. First, I’ll give you some basic tips on this and then I will delve a little deeper to the specifics. Then, I’ll give you some tips on organizing all of those pictures that you have (or soon will – trust me). Finally, I’ll give you some basic tips on scanning those pictures and organizing them once they scanned.

Basic Tips About Paper Files:

  1. There are 3 charts that will be your best friend through all of this genealogy: Pedigree Chart, Family Group Chart, Research Log. You can find these charts all over the web for free ( offers some nice ones) and often times your genealogy software will be able to print one out for you. There are so many slightly different styles with these, depending on how many generations you want to show and how fancy you want it (Basic black and white to ones with color and borders). Pick what you like – and stick with it!
  2. Pick a system – file folders or binders. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages to them – and it really is a preference. Some genealogists swear by binders, others by filing cabinets. If you aren’t sure which you like – try a trial run for a week to test it out. I had to learn through trial and error also to figure out what style I wanted.
  3. What are your categories going to be? Well – personally, I like sorting everything by surname. Then, I can easily find exactly what I want. But others like sorting by record type (Like all birth records in one area, all census records in another), but personally, I find that too confusing. Others like to number every person and document (There are a TON of different systems) but I personally have never liked numbers and feel that it doesn’t fit my needs.

Organizing Your Paper Files – Specific:

  1. Two words: Archival Safe. Please – please start now and make sure the important stuff is archival safe. That means that these items are acid-free and that the plastics are PVC free. This is especially important with original documents, letters, and anything that needs to be preserved for a long time. I would even prefer if you put your basic charts in archival safe stuff, since it will save you trouble in the long run.
  2. Depending on the type of person you are, you may find it highly beneficial to color code your filing labels. I follow a system of colors for each of my 4 grandparents and the code follows with their ancestors. That way, I can see at a glance, what side of the tree a person came from.
  3. Label, Label, Label. Give everything a home and a name! But with the home, make sure that there are ways to add information or people easily, because you’d be suprised how fast something like that comes up.

Organizing Those Pictures:

  1. Archival Safe. If there is any question in your mind about whether or not a piece of paper or plastic is archival safe, please be sure to ask. It is better to keep those precious pictures safe than to have them destroyed. This includes wearing gloves before you touch these pictures because the oil on your hands can damage the pictures. I know it sounds annoying, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
  2. The first thing I usually do, is seperate the pictures into groups and place them into archival safe envelopes. Sometimes the pictures are all about a particular person or event – even a year. Then as time goes by, it’ll be easier to just grab an envelope and begin scanning whenever you get the chance.
  3. Then, you need to buy boxes and storage for these pictures for their permanent home. Once you have scanned the pictures and they are out of their envelopes, they can be placed into the boxes and stored in a cool, dry place. Try to think of the safest place you can that will have a consistent temperature and won’t come into contact with moisture. If you can, store these pictures in a place that you can access at quick notice – in case you must evacuate your house because of a disaster. I know it is hard to think about, but the reality is that these sort of things happen and if you have the chance to grab those pictures – do it!

Organizing the Pictures On the Computer:

  1. First things first – save every picture in a .tif format instead of a .jpeg – it is better quality for the picture.
  2. Scan at a resolution of atleast 300 dpi. Dpi stands for “dots per inch”. The more dots, the nicer the picture looks.
  3. Every picture that I scan is given a number AND a title. Most people only do a title or last name, but I prefer both because I like the advantages of both. Each picture is given a number so that I can index the pictures and easily find the person or place that I want. I also use the title, because sometimes I know what picture I want, but I don’t know where the number is.
  4. I personally save my pictures into 2 places to make sure that there is always one around – even if my harddrive fails. I save some of the pictures to a flashdrive and the rest on my harddrive.
  5. I save my pictures and documents that I scan into a folder on my desktop called “Genealogy”. Then there is one folder for “Pictures” and one for “Documents”. Within there, everything is organizing by Surname, First Name or by the event. (As for married women I usually write their names like this when I do it: Married Name, First Name Maiden Name). If I feel that there are too many pictures in one particular file, then I will reorganize it.
  6. Remember how I mentioned that index? Well, I create the index in Microsoft Word, but you could certainly do it in whatever manner you want. Some people prefer Excel, but really it is all up to you. I then organize the index by both person and event – then listing the number of the picture, so that way I can easily see what pictures and how many each person or event has.

Alright – so I hope that this has been an article that will inspire you to look at your documents and think about how organized they are. You might find yourself re-organizing everything.


Moving…And How it Affects Your Genealogy

Well, come Sunday, I will be moving a town over to another apartment. In this process, I have been cleaning out all the clutter in my room and going through the mass amounts of stuff that I have.

As I was doing this, I began to find more old letters, pictures, and newspaper clippings in a box stuffed in a cabinet in the hall. I began looking through them and I was stunned as I realized that I didn’t even know I had them! (And the dangerous part is – they weren’t in archival safe boxes!)

My packing instantly stopped as I began to search through the gigantic box of information. I never even knew it was in my house…and yet, here I was staring at old letter my grandmother wrote to her father, hand drawn Christmas cards, and pages from old family albums that I didn’t know existed.

Then I came into a huge brick wall…What am I going to do with all of this stuff? The pile I have of the things I need to scan is already to the ceiling – and I am beginning to wonder when I am going to have the time to scan, label, and organize all of it. I now have A LOT more archival safe boxes to buy come November when my grant money gets in…(Yes, I spend my school grant money on genealogy – don’t tell!)

I love being the family historian, I really do. I love getting all the stories and going on the hunt to find out more. Trust me, I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have all of this stuff…but please – cut a girl some slack! Scanning is not the most fun part of genealogy!

Oh well, I just thought I’d give you a quick update on that, and explain that things might be slow on here for a week or so. I apologize for that, and trust me, I’d rather be writing than packing!

When I get back online, I have some wonderful things to show you and some suggestions to share with you about scanning your pictures and such!

Update: Abba-Dad made a create comment with a good question. I’ll answer it in detail on another post, but I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version right now.
The question was: “What kind of archival safe boxes do you use? I don’t even know where to look for some and have no clue what’s good and what’s crap.”
My answer: Well, I use boxes that specifically say “Archival Safe” on them and if it has plastic, I make sure that it is PVC-free. I know that there are a bunch of websites online where you can buy them, but I get mine from a scrapbooking store near my house. Ask someone at a craft store – especially one with a focus on scrapbooking or framing because they should be able to lead you into the right direction.


Scanning, Scanning, Scanning

Ah – a dream of every genealogist is to have photos, letters, and other pieces of paper that give a clue as to the everyday life of our ancestors.

Well, since I’ve been letting everyone in my family know that I am doing genealogy (and trust me, it hasn’t been an easy task to get everyone to listen), they began giving me boxes and boxes of photos, letters, funeral cards – you name it.

While I love these precious items because they bring my family to life in ways that a census record never could, I get a headache just thinking about scanning, labeling, and storing all of these items safely.

It is a daunting task! I want to make sure that I do all of this right so that my children may have these items someday. But how do you do it right? Well – that requires research, lots and lots of research.

I know that one of the few things that are keeping my sane is playing music as I scan. The good beat atleast keeps me from loosing my mind!

So what are some of the things that YOU recommend to make scanning easier, more enjoyable, and safe for your items? I would love to hear from you guys!


How To Fix Your Newbie Mistakes

So, like nearly every genealogist out there, I jumped into the pool of genealogy and made a ton of newbie mistakes. I didn’t bother reading books to learn about citing your sources, how to keep your paperwork organized, or even about the census!

No…instead of doing my homework, I jumped right in.

When I began spending time on, I found a family tree that someone had created and shared with my ancestry going back to the 1600s…Great I thought to myself. Now I just have to enter it into this PAF program and TA-DA I’m done!!

Well, I was so focused on getting the information into PAF, printing out the fancy charts, and then dragging it all along with me to show off to my family – Oh look everyone, look at the wonderful job I did. What I missed during my excitement was that there were no sources (or horribly cited sources), the dates didn’t make sense (There is no way she was married and had a child at 12), and I honestly think some people must of been made up.

So – once you make this mistake – How in the world do you fix it?

Well, here are some helpful hints:

  1. Create a brand new tree in your genealogy program (Most programs will allow you to do this, even the free ones). Print a basic pedigree chart from your old tree, with yourself (or you’re kids) as the first person, working its way back.
  2. Now, go through the census abstracts, photocopies from books, print-outs of other trees, etc and double check to make sure that the source is credible (For example, a random person’s family tree with no email or address to contact them and no sources is not credible…try contacting the person, they might be willing to give you their sources or a step in the right direction). If you find that something is not credible, but you think the information might still be correct, then jot it down so you can try to find a credible source that supports it.
  3. Now, double check that you have the correct information down for all of your credible sources. Go to the actual source and view it with your own eyes again…make sure that what you have matches it. Be sure to write down any questions or comments that come to mind. You’ll probably want those questions later for reference.
  4. Now – cite your sources correctly – and do it for everything! (For example: Censuses give you a ton of information – like where the person was born and the person’s occupation. Make sure you list that source for the occupation, the census, and where/when the person was born). In order to know how to do this, you are going to need to do your homework and learn how to do this correctly. Remember, without your sources, your information is not credible…you want to make sure that other people can check your work.
  5. Finally, the fun part – entering it all into your brand new tree….it is kind of like having a fresh start.
  6. Next, you are going to want to print your pedigree/family group sheets so that you can figure out where you are lacking information. Then you can start researching credible sources to find the missing information.
  7. And lastly – Learn from your mistakes…

Remember, mistakes happen…and they are okay as long as you learn from them.

Genealogy is not a one stop complete. There are always more ancestors to find, more cousins to contact, and more information to discover.

*Note*: Sometimes uncredible sources can seem very credible (like Ancestry’s OneWorldTree). A good rule of thumb is that the information should be recorded around the time it occured (Birth certificates are more credible than a census record), there should be as little of the “telephone effect” (Indexes are a perfect example of how we can misread, mistype, misinterpret things from the original document…Is that a B or a P?), and not just anyone should be able to contribute to it (For example, FamilySearch allows anyone to submit their tree – which seems like a good idea, until you’ve realized you’ve submitted wrong information). The best thing to do is to communicate with other genealogists and to do your homework so that way you make a few mistakes as possible.

Good luck everyone!


Research Binders

So as many of you know, I have already made a video on Youtube specifically describing the uses of a research binder. (Find the video here:

So the first thing you want to do is figure out how you are going to store and organize it. What I suggest is using a 3 ring binder. From there you can use dividers to make it nice and neat. Or you could use a filing cabinet and various file folders to keep it organized, but I don’t suggest that because the papers can fall out rather easily. (Trust me, in the heat of the moment when you are on a hot search, you are not going to want to waste time neatly searching through things…or atleast I don’t!). You could even keep it on the computer if you are really computer savy – although this is not very effective for going on research trips.

So what you have established the means of storage and basic idea with organization, you can begin to either collect things to put in the binder and/or create categories to organize the information you have. In other words, take a step back and try to figure out a logical way to organize all the stuff you have.

For example, I have a lot of how-to articles in my research binder because I love to reference them and refresh my memory every once in a while. But because I have so many, I don’t like to put them only under the category of “how-to”. Instead I have “How-to Organize”, “How-to Cite Sources”, “How-to use Legacy V.7″…and various other ones. By breaking down a large category even further, you can more easily find the information you are looking for.

A lot of people break their research binders into categories based on location or a specific type of record. For example, I have a TON of relatives from eastern Tennessee, which has gone through a lot of boundary changes over the years. So what I have is “General [insert state here]”. In there, I have the research guides that FamilySearch provides because those are always a good stepping stone. Then I have seperate sections that are all about a specific county like “Carter Co., TN [insert dates here]” or “Washington Co., NC [insert dates here]”.

Another great idea is to have a section based on where to order records. I have a huge list of the major archives I send for and it lists the cost of the record, the address, and the name of the archive. It is an easy way to figure out how much it’ll cost to get what you need and where to send your request.

I also have a section just for people that are researching the same lines or are historians for the area. I call this section “Cousins/Genealogy Buddies”. I go to these people when I just need someone else’s advice or when I want to get some more detailed information on a area.

As for good places to go to get information to put into your research binder, here are some links:

1.) This article includes a lot of the useful informationt that is based on the mistakes that a lot of genealogists make. It is a a great resource to make sure you don’t take these wrong turns!

2.) This one just has a lot of genealogically helpful articles and links. So check this one out, and use the ones you like.

3.) I love this one because it gives you the links to a lot of great genealogy articles posted all over the net – no more searching for you:

4.) This guy is really very kind and has a lot of useful information on his site. So check him out.

5.) This one is just stockpiled with useful information.

6.) This one, while rather plain looking, has some pretty cool articles; like 101 Ways To Research Your Family History for Free!


Get Your Organization Supplies Now!

Hey everyone,
So today I was doing some school supply shopping and I came up with a great realization.

I know there are so many people out there who need to get their genealogy organized extremely badly. Well, with school supplies like binders, dividers, file folders, highlighters, etc. all on sale – it is definitely time to stock up on some organizing supplies!

You can’t beat buying dividers for 50 cents a piece or buying binders (the sturdy view kind) at 2 for 4 dollars. You can’t beat it!

Alrighty…that is it.

Happy hunting yall!


General Genealogy Tips

So I started asking some of my genealogy friends about the number one tip they would give to a beginning genealogist. I have gathered them here so that you can look them over and hopefully not make the same rookie mistakes that a lot of us fellow genealogists have done and if you are a seasoned genealogist then these might just serve as some good reminders!

1.) The number one thing that everyone told me was “Cite Your Sources”. Everyone kept telling me various stories, some way worse than others. I made this mistake the first two years or so of my research. I kept taking everything that I saw as the truth and I never questioned a single thing. I cannot tell you how much of a HUGE mistake that was. I am still paying for it!

2.) Alot of people also mentioned this advice, which I think a lot of people don’t follow for one reason or another: Interview Your Living Relatives. Your relatives are a wealth of knowledge. They are the first stepping stone to get you started. And don’t forget to ask them to look in the attic for baby books, old letters, pictures, military dogtags, etc. Relatives hold a wealth of information.

3.) When you ask a genealogy what one of their genealogical problems/issues are – pretty much everyone besides the neat freak will tell you this: Keeping Organized. This is a huge challenge for almost everyone in every part of life. There are a ton of options and methods when it comes to this – so the bottom line is to pick one that works for you and stick with it until it no longer works for you. Because if you don’t – you’re house will soon be covered in piles.

4.) Many people didn’t mention this but I think it is still rather important: Use the Resources Around You. For example, many public libraries offer free access to and Heritage Quest. Some even have wonderful genealogy sections. If you are lucky enough to live near Salt Lake City (A genealogists Mecca) then for heavens sake – go the the Family History Library over there. Join a mailing list – you might find that there are a lot of nice people out there willing to do a free lookup for you. Use igoogle or yahoo or anything like that to organize all of your blogs onto one place. There are a million options just like these – all you gotta do is look for them.

Alrighty – so that is it for now. I just wanted to share some of these tips because I feel that they are really important and rather helpful.

Also – if you