Inherited Craziness
A place to share all the nuts found on my family tree


Organising your family history research: For the last few months during lockdown, I've taken advantage of the spare time to begin organising my research. Believe me this is a lesson one learns the hard way.

When you begin to take an interest in your family history, you'll have the odd original record such as a birth, marriage or death certificate, plus a whole bunch of family stories that you've always accepted as true, but 99% of which you'll soon prove are complete works of fiction.

Then you'll start on research and will end up with reams of paper notes, even more stored digitally with incomprehensible file names and just the knowledge in your head to tie them all together to see where they fit on your family tree.

Once you go beyond the first four generations or deviate into your ancestors' siblings and ancillary lines - please DON'T go there until you've cracked the direct ancestors first - you'll become utterly overwhelmed by it all. So, get organised early to avoid that situation. It's cheaper than therapy later.

There are probably as many different resources, methods, etc., as there are people looking into their family history, but here are some (although this list is sure to be a constant work in progress) that I use:
  • Free Family Tree Templates - to be pedantic, it's actually a Pedigree Chart, but I use the 6-Generation Family Tree Template that includes Ahnentafel numbers: they are essential. Six is good for 'at-a-glance' and is as many as can be fitted onto a sheet of A4 paper, but as a digital only reference for my research, I took this 7-Generation Pedigree Chart, recreated it as a spreadsheet and increased it to 9 generations. (Of course I have some in the 10th now!)
  • Genealogy Research List - such a list is essential to avoid duplication and overwhelm and this template is a good starting point, although I've actually devised my own version, using UK census dates (and Irish Census), along with additional columns for births/baptisms, marriages, deaths/burials and their locations. I've also listed the Ahnentafel numbers in the first column. 
  • LibreOffice - for the spreadsheets, I use this free office suite.
  • Microsoft OneNote - I use this free note taking app to keep and organise notes on individual surnames and family groups. I've tried various templates and forms, but in the end, because information differs so much between different people or families, I prefer the easy editable freeform nature. I file source documents by date within single family folders and these can easily be referenced here. It does other things too: 9 things you didn't know you could do with Microsoft OneNote to improve your productivity.
  • Microsoft To Do - Invariably, every genealogical discovery raises several new questions, so a Genealogy To-do List is an absolute must (for sanity's sake). Whilst there are all sorts of templates and checklists available online and I have some longer lists of like tasks in Microsoft OneNote, I've found it better to include odd tasks within my general day-to-day organisation, then I can pick one out to complete whenever I have capacity on any given day.
  • Legacy Family Tree - to consolidate all of the research and also to produce reports, family tree charts, etc., and, most importantly a, GEDCOM file to be uploaded or synced to online sites (with the caveat that it's not recommended to make them public) that will assist in making new discoveries from records, DNA, etc.
  • Lost Cousins - Should probably be listed first as this is an invaluable resource, especially for the newsletter produced by owner, Peter Calver, who brings many useful tips, Masterclasses, plus alerts when there is free access to records, as well as for the site itself.

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