Goal 1: Get organized for research. Vault
Taking the time to get well-organized now will save you time later, and it will help you research your ancestor lines efficiently. Here is a good overview of getting organized with your genealogy materials.
A Organize your materials.
- Being organized while working on genealogy will help prevent duplicate research and make it clear where all information came from.
- A physical binder with dividers for subcategories can help in organizing research and making research aids easily accessible.
- Having a filing system (digital or physical) will help organize data and findings. Organizing by locality, then record type, then family line is one way many people prefer to arrange their documents.
- Get a research binder and add page dividers in it, by geographic place of research or family surname.
- Determine your own sub-categories within the dividers, such as maps, how-to's, information contacts and websites, where to order records, printed forms, brief blog posts and articles, etc.
- Read this article for more tips on creating a research binder.
How a Research Notebook Can Keep You Organized
- Watch this Ancestry video for ideas on organizing your genealogy.
Tips for Organizing Your Family History Records—19:29
- Here are tips on using filing systems for genealogy.
Color-Coded Genealogy Research Filing System |
My Genealogy Digital File Folder Organization
- * Good: Write down key learnings from the article in this Choice.
- * Proficient: Same as above. Then create a research binder and organize your papers and materials in it.
- If you have a research binder of your own, consider discussing it and passing it around in the class.
B Create and use to-do lists to keep on track with your research.
This helps you remember where to begin and how to stay on target with your goals.
- To-do lists with small but focused tasks will help you achieve research goals.
- Electronic or physical to-do lists are both viable ways to track your progress.
- Study these videos for tips on writing down research learnings and keeping effective to-do lists.
AC: Write It Down—27:00 | AC—Genealogy ToDo Lists—19:57
- Decide on small, focused tasks for your to-do list. Make sure your tasks support the goals you are working on.
- Use an electronic to-do list (Outlook, iPhone, etc.) or a paper-based list for your to-do list.
- * Proficient: Decide on a to-do list format and populate it with the family history tasks you need to accomplish in the coming week.
C Keep your records organized as you research.
- Research logs are essential in tracking what was searched, where was looked, and what was found.
- Providing as much information as possible when citing a document is important to help find it again.
- Taking notes while you research will help you quickly recall relevant information. Make sure to record sources, use a person’s full name, and carefully pay attention to dates.
- Store the records you’re working with in several places such as FamilySearch’s Source Box or a different online storage.
- Use these tips to help you stay organized with your research.
FS—Organizing Your Files
AC—Organizing Research Info—19:00
- Read these articles for tips on organizing your research and your findings.
AA—Getting Organized: Tips to Help You |
FS—Organizing Your Research
- Read this article for tips on taking effective notes as you do research.
GC—Taking Notes in Genealogy
- Use research logs to track your progress.
FS—Research Logs—5 pgs.
- Store lists of records you are working on in the FamilySearch Source Box or the Ancestry Shoebox.
- * Proficient: Write down the key learnings from the Choice. Then set up a research log and begin using it to track your research.
D Keep track of your correspondence with others and write effective request messages.
- Carefully tracking correspondence research with each individual will ensure that research isn’t duplicated.
- Ongoing communication between everyone involved in the research process is key.
- Read this article for tips on tracking your correspondence with others. See also the Correspondence Record form in Choice E.
GC—Tracking Your Correspondence
- Here are tips for writing to family members and organizations.
GC—Tips for Writing to Family Members | GC—Tips for Writing to Institutions
- You can use these form letters and tips when writing to people internationally.
GC—Form Letters for Requesting Information
- Make use of email or text-message folders for electronic correspondence.
- * Good: Identify a family member or organization you would like to write to for genealogy information. Using the tips in this Choice to guide you, and the Correspondence Record in Choice E, write to that person about your needs or questions.
- * Proficient: Same as above, corresponding with at least three people.
E Use pre-printed charts to help you organize your research efforts.
- Track the names of possible ancestors.
- Track the resources you have explored.
- Summarize the data you researched.
- Track your correspondence with others.
- Track sources for individuals and families.
- Use free genealogy research forms from Family Search and other resources. Here are some useful categories:
- Use free genealogy research forms from Cyndi's List.
- * Good: Use 2 of the pre-printed forms in this Choice to track at least one ancestor.
- * Proficient: Use at least 5 of the pre-printed forms in this Choice to track more than one ancestor.
Goal 2: Identify a line to do research on, to extend your pedigree.
Choosing one line at a time to pursue is a more efficient way to do research. Try to gather as much information about a given family unit as possible, before tracing back additional generations: work backwards in time. Here is a warmup video to get you started with research; watch 7:10 to 8:15.
A In Family Tree, find a family group sheet with some missing information for ancestors you want to find.
- Note Steps 1, 2, and 5.
- Sign in to FamilySearch.
- Choose a line that's interesting to you but not a brick wall.
- Choose a line that is likely to have available records.
- For easier research, choose a line with less common names and in your home country.
- If possible, look for someone who was born after 1700, with a recorded spouse.
- Make note of missing names, dates and locations in the records of recent ancestors.
- Here are some tips for choosing a line to research.
BW—Choosing a Line
- Read this article for tips on finding missing parents in your line.
Five Uncommon Places to Find Your Ancestors' Missing Parents
- Plan to search for all your ancestors, not just the direct male or female lines.
LDS—Search for Every Ancestor
- * Good: Identify an ancestor who would be a good candidate for opening a line of research.
- * Proficient: Same as above, for 3 ancestors.
BForm questions for each selected ancestor that will help drive your research.
C Use Find-A-Record.com or Puzzilla.org to quickly identify "end-of-line" ancestors (those without recorded parents).
- Checking the "Missing Father," "Missing Mother," and "Missing Parents" boxes in Find-A-Record will show you a list of end-of-line ancestors.
- Puzzilla’s nodes without extensions are the end-of-line ancestors.
- See Project 1, Goal 9 for instructions on using Find-A-Record. Once logged in, clear all the check boxes in the colored categories on the left. Then open the Relationships category (purple) and check the Missing Father, Missing Mother, and Missing Parents boxes. A list of end-of-line ancestors is displayed on the right.
- See the Puzzilla.org Goal in Project 3 for instructions on displaying an ancestor view. Nodes without extensions are the end-of-line ancestors. To highlight these nodes so they stand out more easily, click Targets in the left pane.
- * Good: Find at least three end-of-line ancestors and record their date and location information.
- * Proficient: Same as above, for 8 ancestors.
Goal 3: Form solid strategies to research your selected lines. Vault
A good research strategy will help you get more research done in less time. It will also help you know when to spend more time on a line and when to move on to the next one.
ALearn principles of effective research.
- Genealogy standards include "HOLA": Honesty with the data, Openness to other possibilities, Logical conclusions, Attribution to proper sources.
- "SPDLA" = Short list of objectives; Process & evaluate the information you find; Don't fixate on finding a certain detail; Don't limit the record types you search; Attach notes to individuals in your tree (FamilySearch, Ancestry, etc.).
- Use good standard practices for genealogy research.
Society of Genealogists—Standards and Practices
- Read these articles for tips on getting started with your research.
AA—Getting Started: Tips to Help You | RIV—Research Training Guide—27 pgs.
- Learn to focus your research efforts for better results.
LDS—Focusing Your Research
- Use the Gather, Choose, Find, Evaluate, Share process in your research.
LDS—The Research Process—3:53
- Study the strategies for research in these articles.
FS Wiki—A Guide to Research | AC—5 Tips to Jumpstarting Your Research—7 pgs.
- * Good: Write down three strategies from this Choice and decide how you can apply them in your research for one or more ancestors.
- * Proficient: Same as above, with 5 strategies.
- Have students create a list of 10 strategies they would like to keep in mind as they do their research. Have a few students share their lists and why they feel the strategies are important.
BDevise a research plan to use.
C Take advantage of previous research.
D Use the family memories you have collected as sources for research.
- Gather and summarize notes from interviews for clues on family research. See Goal 3 in Project 2: Memories for details.
- Examine photos—either those in your possession or those that have been uploaded to FamilySearch—for research clues. See Goal 6, Choice E in this Project for tips on using photos for research.
- Examine documents such as letters, wills, diaries, etc.—either those in your possession or those that have been uploaded to FamilySearch—for research clues. See Goal 7 in Project 2: Memories for details.
- Read this article about finding information in diaries, trip journals, and circular letters.
Diaries, Trip Journals, and Circular Letters
E Learn how to use names and naming patterns to accelerate your research.
- Surname research can help find bibliographies, pedigrees, or published family histories.
- Surnames began to be used in Europe around 1000 AD and came from locations, occupations, or descriptions.
- Some cultures use the same given names over and over when naming children. Sometimes surnames are used as a child's middle name.
- Nicknames are very common and must be considered when researching an individual.
- U.S. immigrants were sometimes recorded with Americanized forms of their names.
- Maiden names can help find various records that a married name might not be able to.
- The Geneanet and Linkpendium websites can be valuable tools for surname research.
- Read this document for tips on names and naming patterns.
GC—Importance of Names and Naming Patterns
- Learn about tracing surnames in these articles.
AB—Last Name Meanings and Origins | GC—Importance of Names and Naming Patterns
- Read this document to learn more about surname origins. There are many sub-articles, some dealing with international names.
AB—Surname Meanings and Origins
- Read the article or watch the video to learn about using maiden names to further your research.
AB—Top Places to Find Maiden Names
AC: Finding the Maiden Names of Women in Your Family Tree—18:01
- Learn about surname research in this article from the Society of Genealogists.
Surname Searching at the SOG
- Learn about the Geneanet site in this video.
- Investigate single names at the Guild of One-Name Studies site.
- Search Geneanet.org to find your surnames of interest.
- Explore surname research in the right column of the Linkpendium site.
- * Good: Write down 3 key learnings from this Choice; then explore surname research for an ancestral line.
- * Proficient: Write down 5 key learnings from this Choice; then explore surname research for two ancestral lines.
- Have students practice using searches with name variations or wildcard characters in FamilySearch. Base the searches on existing ancestors in each student's tree.
FUse periodicals to find research clues.
Goal 5: Develop your skills in searching records. Vault
The better your search skills, the more time you are likely to spend looking in the right places, and the better the results.
AImprove your search techniques.
BSearch for records in Ancestry, Findmypast, and MyHeritage.
Note: You must be signed in to partner sites before accessing their records.
- Search results for Ancestry.com, Findmypast, and MyHeritage can be viewed by clicking on the corresponding icon in FamilySearch.
- To see search results for Ancestry, go to the Person page and click Ancestry in the Search Records box. You can click See More Like This for more person results, or click any Matching Records link.
- You can also see search results from historical records for the selected person by clicking Findmypast. To see details, click the Note icon; to see a record image (when available), click the Camera icon.
- You can also see family tree results for the selected person by clicking MyHeritage.
- * Good: Do record searches for a selected ancestor using Ancestry, Findmypast, and MyHeritage.
- * Proficient: Same as above, for 3 ancestors.
CUse Google (www.google.com) to conduct effective searches for ancestor names, dates, places, etc.
DUse variations in searches to produce better search results.
ESave search results and images from records on your computer for later use.
- Do a records search in FamilySearch.
- In the Search screen, click the Export Results button, and then click Save. Your search results will be saved in Microsoft Excel spreadsheet format.
- Learn about using export results in this article.
FS—Using Export Results
- Save record images to your computer so you can study them in detail later.
FS—Downloading Images in Historical Records |
- * Proficient: Study the articles, and then save search results and images from several record searches.
Goal 7: Take a family history trip. Vault
There's nothing like being there ... You can deepen your family history experience by planning and taking trips, short or long, to places connected with your ancestors.
APlan your family history trip.
- Family History trips can provide a unique insight regarding your ancestors.
- Before taking your trip, know what the area has to offer and what you will need in order to access archives or libraries, to see original records.
- Make a list of locations of interest for research or gathering memories, and then decide where you will go.
- Read this article for tips on planning family history trips.
FS—Planning and Implementing a Research Trip—3 pgs.
- Use suggestions from this video in planning for a successful trip. See also the first part of the video in Choice C, step 1 below.
AC—Taking a Family History Vacation—20:08
- * Proficient: Decide on a place for a family history trip, and then write down key learnings from the resources in this Choice.
- Discuss with students their preferred places for a research trip, with a smaller budget and then a larger budget.
BDo effective research at the remote site.
- Come prepared and have a list of what you expect to find and where, when going onsite.
- After you’ve collecting information, make sure you organize and file it effectively. Backup all data and make to-do lists and done files.
- Share your findings with others and use your knowledge to find new research projects.
- Learn the techniques of doing remote research.
FS—Doing On-Site Research—30:01
- Learn about the resources available at most libraries and archives.
For more information on accessing archive and library resources, see Goal F5 in Project 4: Discover the United States, or corresponding goals in Project 4 for other countries.
GC—Libraries and Archives
- Learn what do do with your research findings.
GC—What to Do after a Genealogy Trip
- * Proficient: Maximize your research quality at the remote site, and use your research findings effectively.
- Discuss key concepts from the articles.