My main research goal this summer has been to work on my Colonial lines. As I’ve been researching, I’ve noticed that I was having trouble organizing all of the information. My typical organizational system of dividing everything by surname and then subdividing chronologically by family, just was not working. So after some brain storming, I think I’ve finally come up with a system for my New Englanders.
With these lines, I’ve noticed that many of the families live within a small geographical area and they generally interacted with each other often: selling land to one another, serving in militias together, going to the same church, and marrying each other. So I really wanted to make sure that all of my colonial ancestors were together.
So I created a binder just for my Colonial New England ancestors.
Then I created my tabbed dividers for each surname, and they are filed alphabetically. I also created dividers for maps/boundaries and research guides. I find it helpful to have the basics of the area (like when the area was settled, what records are available and where to find them, etc) at my fingertips.
Within each surname section, I have a pedigree chart to show me how the surname line fits into my overall family tree. Directly behind the pedigree chart comes any general notes about the family. Then I have a family group sheet for the most recent family of that line. I then use a highlighter to highlight the child in that family that I am directly descended from. Then I place all of my notes and documents that pertain to that family. Then I have the next family group sheet, and behind that I place all of the notes and documents for that family. Then I just repeat until I run out of families for that surname.
Having all of the families together helps me understand how they all fit together. I can now see the “big picture” without having to switch binders or cross reference everything. It is all in one folder. Plus, one folder is a lot easier to carry to the Family History Center than the three binders I was carrying before.
Do you have Colonial New England ancestors? If so, how do you organize them?
- Researching Your Colonial New England Ancestors by Patricia Law Hatcher
- New England Court Records: A Research Guide for Genealogists and Historians by Diane Rapaport
- The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England by Carol F. Karlsen
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