Stay organized. Keep your genealogy information organized from the very beginning. Have a place ready to store the genealogy information that you collect. Here are some options to help you stay organized.
Use a big plastic or metal storage container to protect the information you gather. This would help protect your precious information from water damage or any other outside forces. For example, a child or an animal could harm your valuable family tree findings.
Use family tree software, to store your family tree information.
Place documents and old family records inside page protectors and insert them in a binder. Have different binders for each line. If you decide to use a binder, get a large one. This way you won’t run out of room as fast.
Keeping family records inside binders is very useful because it makes it easier to share with others. If you are going to a family gathering and want to share things that you have found out about the family, all you have to do is grab your binder when you head out the door. It’s not very easy to tote your computer around.
Use two accordion folders. One for your mother’s side, and one for your father’s side. Label each compartment with different surnames. File all notes that have been entered into your tree. When you are questioned about a piece of information already entered, you are able to retrieve it.
Ask any and all living relatives that you know for their information. Have questions ready. When a person is asked a specific question, you get better results. If you just say, “Tell me more about my family,” they won’t know what specific thing to think about. Sometimes people’s memories need to be encouraged a little before they can really start to recall the past.
Also, don’t put off asking your questions, thinking someone will always be around. Unfortunately, a lot of information is lost when you assume someone will always be there. Older relatives are often very useful in identifying unmarked family photos. Every genealogist probably has a stack of unknown photos.
Send letters to the family asking your questions. If you have access to a computer, send an email. Email is much quicker and my preferred way to work. It helps when people have time to sit and think about the questions before responding and can reply at their convenience.
Send letters to or visit local libraries where family members lived. Most libraries have an archived section. Some librarians and historians at the library can be very useful and willing to help. Some things that can be found at the library include: family research completed by another researcher on your family, old maps, old books, local baptisms listings, marriages listing, death listings, and burial information. You never know what you could find, so it’s worth a visit or writing a letter.
Send letters to churches where family members attended. Some churches are more than willing to help and do it for a small donation, or in my experience, free. Information found at a church could include: marriage, death, baptism, and burial. Some church records can be found on a county’s website, and many historians and members of churches have put church records online.
Send a letter to an old place of employment of a family member. For example, we have a grandfather that was a teacher and taught for many years. The alumni association at his school went through all the yearbooks for the years he taught at the school and copied the information they found on him. They did this without asking a fee. Although, a small donation is always appreciated.
Always remember to back up your work. Portable hard drives and photocopies are always useful, in case something should happen to your hard worked for information.
Keep your information in a safe place. A basement wouldn’t be the best choice. Moisture or water from a leaking basement could damage old photos, books, or documents. I keep mine in a closet and assessable.
Leave directions of what you would like to happen with your research and old photos, if you were to pass on. Try to find a family member that would preserve it and pass it down to other generations. If you don’t have anyone to pass it on to, consider leaving it to the local historical society or library where your ancestors once lived.
Refer to the Internet. The Internet is a great source to refer to when doing family tree research. You will be amazed at what type of Information you will find posted on the Internet. Link to Good Genealogy sites.
Mailing lists on the Internet is a great tool to use to collaborate with other genealogists. Most genealogists love helping other genealogists. To me, it’s like finding a new jigsaw puzzle that needs help being pieced back together. Mailing lists are made up of groups of people who all have joined together to research the same region or name. When you send out an email to the group everyone receives it. Many have access to databases and books. When you send out an email asking for help, chances are you will receive a good response. Signing up on a mailing list is very easy. Search Google or any other search engine by typing in “mailing list” and “the topic” you would like to research. For example, I belong to the Dearborn County, Indiana mailing list. I would simply search for a “Dearborn county mailing list.”
Before sending a request for a record look-up, call where you are submitting the request. They will tell you how to address your request, the processing fee, and the information required for the search.