Usually the first piece of advice many people give to a person beginning their search is to start writing down what you know about your family. I believe there is something you need to do even before that. You need to decide how you are you going to store your information. If you can’t easily find what you need, you will waste a lot of time both looking for material you know you have “somewhere” or re-researching material you forgot you had.
You need to decide what you are comfortable using. Do you like file cabinets and folders (the paper version) and/or notebooks (the paper version)? Do you prefer storing material on your computer’s hard drive? Or in “the cloud” on the server of one of the companies that provides this type of service. If you prefer working on a computer, do you want to invest in software specifically designed to save family trees and store your research? Each method has it’s advantages and disadvantages. I would suggest you figure out your primary filing system and storage and then start in.
Reinforcing what I mentioned above, you are going to find that you will not always be able to work on this project every day or every week or every month and, sometimes, you may find a year has gone by before you get to it again. When you go back to your research, you will want to waste as little time as possible trying to figure out where you were and how to find things.
There are four books that might be of help.
Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher by Drew Smith. Cincinnati, OH, Family Tree Books, 2016. This is a new work that I highly recommend. Drew Smith covers how to organize everything relating to your genealogical research. He starts out with organizing yourself and your workspace, continues with goals and notes, and only gets to organizing files by chapter 5. Other topics covered are your research process, your communications (including email and snail mail), online research, research trips, learning, and volunteering. He expects people to pick and choose the topics they need rather than reading the book front to back. I actually did read the book cover to cover and it was well worth it. Smith is a good writer as well as an informative one.
Organizing Your Family History Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack. Cincinnati, OH: Betterway Books, 1999.
Managing a Genealogical Project: A Complete Manual for the Management and Organization of Genealogical Materials by William Dollarhide. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1999.
Both Carmack’s and Dollarhide’s books will be more help with general principles of organization and with paper files. They are both too old to have much current information on the use of computers in storing genealogical data.
How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia, and Family Records by Denise S. May-Levenick. Cincinnati, OH: Family Tree Books, 2012. Archiving and preserving is all about organization and storage. Take a look.
What if you want to use genealogy software? How do you know which is the best for you? I would recommend TopTenReviews.com. This site offers side-by-side comparisons of ten genealogical software programs for PCs. There is a separate set of comparisons for Apple computers as well. You’ll find links to these below. Make sure you check the reviews for individual software. I find the reviews less confusing than the vast array of options listed in the main chart.
If you have a Facebook page, you might want to take a look at the group “The Organized Genealogist.” There are always a number of good suggestions and tips for organizing on this page. It is also a place to go when you have a specific question. As in most genealogy groups, you always have people who have faced the same problem and are willing to help. You must sign up for it first by requesting to be included. This means you need a Facebook page of your own. I signed up for it myself and have never been disappointed. This is a link to an article about the Organized Genealogist. Their Facebook page is heavily and constantly in use. The blog is not.
vea/4 December 2013/updated 15 July 2015/updated 22 October 2016
Newton Free Library
Library Website: http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net Genealogy Blog: https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide: http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy