Monday, 9 April 2012

Organising Your Family History Research

As you grow your family tree, you will find it increasingly difficult to keep track of all your newly discovered ancestors. Data for one ancestor alone could include year and place of birth, year and place of marriage, year and place of death, profession, spouse's name, details of children, etc. It can become very confusing. For this reason, it is important to get into the habit of organising your findings from the very first time you begin your family history research. 

I organise my research in two different ways. Firstly, I have a file containing printouts of birth, marriage, and death certificates, as well as notes taken from libraries and family history centres. It is important to point out that several providers of records only allow you to take in paper and a pencil for note-taking purposes. My paper file has a separate section for each family I research, for example Campbell, Cummings, and Dunlop. The entire file is organised alphabetically to allow me to find information easily when I need it.

The second way in which I organise my family history research is by having a dedicated digital file on my computer. This is structured very much in the same way as the paper file, with separate sub-files for each family name. In these files are stored digitised copies of vital records which I have downloaded from various websites. I also have photographs taken from visits to places where my ancestors lived.

Having a collection of records is a must when it comes to carrying out genealogy research, but it is also important to have a way of tying all of the information together. This is where family history software comes in. There are many different versions to choose from, but most use the GEnealogical Data COMmunication (GEDCOM) format for transferring genealogical data. This makes it incredibly easy for people to share and view each other's family trees. 

Building a family tree is simply a case of creating a record for each of your ancestors, and typing in all of the data you have available for them. Most software will automatically link relevant family members together.

Family history software varies in price and available features. Some software allows you to add photographs to an ancestor's record, for example. I use a free program called Simple Family Tree. It is easy to use, and allows me to keep my research organised and accessible. It's nothing fancy, but it's all I need. My record keeping system works for me, and has allowed me to develop my family tree piece by piece. With a system that works for you your research will be clearer, easier, and more enjoyable.

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