Genealogy/Recording your research

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Getting started | Online options

Establish goals | Recording your research | Work backwards | Immigration

Research success is more than knowing where to look. In addition to data about your family, you'll want to have maps, background information about places, material about resources and how to use them. It won't take long for you to gather so much information that you can't keep track of it all. A systematic method for handling data is crucial. A good system has these qualities:

  • All materials are stored securely and redundantly
  • System is easily to understand, use and maintain
  • Provides the ability to transport relevant data to research sites
  • Facilitates the future publication / distribution of collected information

Decide how you will store irreplaceable materials (original documents, photos). Always copy or scan originals and store the originals in a secure location (safety deposit box, safe, firesafe box, etc.) Label each newly acquired document with a source description and an ID. You may find it easiest to just number each document sequentially. It becomes almost impossible to know in advance how to organize an ID system that handles all future acquisitions. Refer to this document ID when extracting data from the document into your research system (binders, software, etc.) Most genealogy software allows you to keep a list of sources. Use this ID to file the documents, or enter you own ID as part of each source notation.

Unless you can always bring a notebook computer to every research site, you should use a binder to display the current state of your research for reference. You'll need to know what you already know as you look for new information.

A new option for those that use computers for recording their research, you can use a USB thumb drive/flashdrive/memory stick and load the entire Personal Ancestral File (PAF) program on the drive along with your database and access it at any computer that has USB capabilities. Other computer programs may be able to do the same thing, but I am not sure. PAF is a free computer download from that has documentation and multimedia abilities. The PAF program is a windows based program, but can be run on a MAC if a pc-emulator is used.