I thought I would consider how we record our family history research this week.
When I first started I printed everything out and put it into folders on the bookcase. I organised it alphabetically and by maternal and paternal lines. I then drew a family tree as I went along and put this in the front of the folder. I also built my family tree using Ancestry. I soon decided this method wasn’t working for me though and rethought.
So the next step was to get some family tree software and start building my own tree on the PC. I also started downloading the documents I found along the way and putting them into folders on my PC. This meant I had access to all my documents even when I was offline.
I was still recording my findings in notebooks and drawing trees as I went along and was producing loads of papers and documents in the folders. So I decided that the print outs would have to stop due to the large amounts of papers I had knocking around. This lead me to using research sheets where I would record my findings as I went along and thus just have several sheets of paper per ancestor. But still it wasn’t working for me as I couldn’t find a sheet laid out how I wanted so I decided to make my own research sheet.
On this sheet I could record all the information I wanted about each ancestor and I find this works for me. I designed it using Excel and can print out one sheet per person researching and fill in everything about them as a research aid. I can also fill it in on excel so I have a document saved on the PC.
I also decided to stop hand drawing family trees. I started by printing off pedigree charts (small 3 generation family trees) and filling those in but these were never big enough. So I found a localish retailer called My History (https://www.my-history.co.uk/index.html) and purchased charts of them. I have a 10 generation chart which one day I will get round to filling in and framing. But I still wanted to print out as I went along. By using family history software (I use Family Historian) you can get the software to build the tree for you and print it out or send it off to specialist printers who will do it for you and you don’t have to worry about bad handwriting!
But don’t despair. If you don’t want to purchase some software there is another way using Excel once again.
This is a family tree I produced using Excel. The beauty of this is that you can add line and columns until you get it write, so no more discarded sheets of paper ending up in the recycling.
This is the page showing how the above tree looks on the Excel sheet.
This whole process took me about 5 minutes to produce and is easy to do.
Storing files on the PC is also a factor that can prove difficult. When you’ve got many files in a folder it can become confusing as to which order the ancestor are in. So off onto the Internet I went and I found some free software which allows you to assign colours to your folders. So now I assign a different colour per ancestor and each folder has the same colour per generation. So generation 1 is red, 2 is green, 3 is blue, 4 is grey and so on.
This means at a glance I can find the generation I’m looking for and thus saves me time.
So there are loads of free and cheap ways to store your ancestors information, be it on paper in files on the bookcase or on your PC (please remember to save your files on a memory stick or external hard drive as well or even on the cloud so you never lose all your hard work) or if you decide to purchase some software (there is loads out there to choose from) then do it in a way that works for you and you can find what you’re looking for at a glance and makes it easy for you and your family and decedents to enjoy.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!