If we lived in the world of Harry Potter, we’d be able to wave a wand and our genealogy research would be magically organized. Since most of us can’t claim to be wizards or witches, it does require us to come up with more mundane strategies of organizing our process and keep track of what we’ve researched. The four genealogy organization tips below might not involve potions or herbology, but they will transform your research into something magical.
Research Logs: Your Book of Magic
There are as many different approaches to research logs as there are genealogists, but the best research logs allow you to easily see what steps you’ve already taken and allow you to pick up right where you left off. Whether you use a written journal, a spreadsheet, Evernote, Trello or quill and parchment, your research log is your map to finding your ancestors.
Evaluate Your Time Commitment
Hermione Granger might have been able to use a time turner to fit all her studies in, but genealogists must make do without. Some research questions and tasks take a solid chunk of time while others can be accomplished in shorter time frames. Choose what you want to work on based on the amount of time you have. A 30-minute lunch break might be better suited for labeling a group of photos while a free Saturday can be devoted to some in-depth research and analysis. Don’t forget to schedule in breaks, either, so you can approach your research with fresh eyes.
Don’t Let Your Research Get Knocked Off Course
In quid ditch, the seeker has to keep his eye out for the snitch while avoiding the bludgers – heavy balls that try to knock the players off course. What do you do when you come across something not related to your current project, but that you want to pursue? D. Joshua Taylor keeps a log called “Other People” where he puts the information so he can come back to it later. Since he only works on two or three projects at a time, staying disciplined and on track is his key to achieving his goals. Sound impossible? Josh lays it out in a way that will have you thinking, “I really have to try that!”
Learn more about his method in his interview with Janine Adams in the What the Pros Know: Genealogy Organization Tips.
Clear as a Crystal Ball
Drew Smith, author of Organize Your Genealogy, is a master of organizing the research process. He says the two essential components of an organized research session are:
1: be very clear about your research question
2: have a good plan for what you’ll research during that session to answer the question
If your research question is clear and has a clear answer, you’ll be well on your way to crafting a good plan each time you sit down to research.