Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Organising Genealogical and Research Papers

Yesterday I took the time to join in a hangout on air with Jill who blogs at Geniaus.

The discussion was about organising genealogical research, which was triggered by a blog post written by Sharon who blogs at Gathering Dust and I shared, probably somewhat badly what I do with my research. You can read Sharon's post HERE

Pauleen Cass shared her thoughts via her blog and I thought I would explain further what I do.

Firstly, let me explain that I began researching before the internet existed as we know it. I gathered research by visiting archives and using the postal service.

I also have a family history where my maternal line has lived within the parimeters of three Counties in England - Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire for around 300 years. It is therefore not too surprising that I have some surnames that occur more than once and several lines that cross over through intermarriage.

I also have the added complication that my husband's surname does on occasions become Goacher instead of Goucher and I have Goacher's in my maternal line. There does not appear to be any connection between my Goachers to my husband's family but.......
  • My genealogical software program, I use Roots Magic contains a file called "Main File" 
    • I have a physical folders called Main File (JDG) for my maternal ancestry and
    • I have a digital folder called Main File (JDG)
    • I have a physical folder called Main File (SPG) for my husband's ancestry and
    • I have a digital folder called Main File (SPG)
  • I also have two filing cabinets which hold suspension files such as shown in the picture here. I have a file for each surname where the material does not (or does not currently) provide a link to my own ancestry.
  • I also have two drawers for my two One-Name or surname researcher relating to my two Guild of One-Name registered studies of
I also have numerous papers and digital files that relate to other places where my ancestors lived such as
There is also my trusty set of Index Cards which I talked about here. I have scanned them, and I have the original cards, or at least I have at the moment. In addition I have every notebook and journal I have kept, all the way back to 1982. I always keep the first two pages free as my index and index as I go along. 

One-Name Study or Surname Research

The Orlando study currently sits at approximately 50,000 entries on a mixture of digital and paper. My plan is to put all the material online with the appropriate source material. I have a website and a blog and as I gradually add the material I add the details to the master index which is located in Google Drive and is available for everyone to see.

The same will be carried out for the Worship One-Name Study, although that has around 10,000 references.

When I work on family reconstructions for my these two surnames and for my Puttenham One Place Study I use Legacy, inspired by the +Legacy Virtual Users' Group Community


I keep a track of all the material I have and where it is located. For this I use Excel. I also use Excel for my One Place Studies - index of parish records and in the case of my road study * I track the houses by number order. Each item recorded as a separate event. I can then filter by name or by property.

At the beginning of EVERY spread sheet I have a methodology sheet. Here I advise what the material is and how it is kept. 

Final Words

I am sure that my organising way seems complex to some. That is probably due to the mix of written and digital files. I am gradually scanning and archiving my paper mountain but to process research that nearly spans three decades it could take another three quite easily!

In essence my work is broken down into segments
  • My own family
  • My specific studies - Surnames / Places / items
  • Other material that does not fit and perhaps never will!
For each of those there is digital and paper and gradually it will all be digital with the exception of my own family. I rather like having that in the files and every now and again I glance through it.

I use Evernote as a premium user and have an electronic inbox notebook where I collate material until it is processed or sorted. The Orlando Evernote folder currently sits at 212 entries and at some point they will be processed into the digital structure, added to the master index and master index. The original Evernote item will move from the Orlando folder to the Archive folder where I won't see it again unless I search for that specific item or it appears in search results.

I also use One-Note and whilst I originally love it, I have found in the last year or so that I prefer Evernote. I still have access to my One-Note files and over time will transfer them to Evernote. I have written blog posts about One-Note and Evernote and have shared the various links below.

The bottom line is there is NO right or wrong way to created and organise genealogical and historical material - there is only YOUR way! Do what feels right to you and make sure you write instructions for how the material is laid out.

Further Posts of Interest


  1. Thanks for sharing Julie...I get tired just following all you do :) Like you I've become a fan of Evernote premium and use it a lot though I'm sure I could do more,

    1. Thanks Pauleen. I think with Evernote it evolves and I didn't feel that was the case with One-Note. I suspect that over the next year I will transfer all the material to Evernote and archive the material in one notebook in One-Note and back up to OneDrive.

      There is an import function into Evernote, but how robust that is I don't know.

  2. Thank you for sharing this! I love reading how others organize their research. I also use RootsMagic and it's not often I see someone else mention they do! I have tried using Evernote for genealogy but I don't think I got the hang of it the first time. I may have to try again!

    1. Oh do give it another try! The layout is very different to One-Note. You simply have one notebook and all notes are listed inside. You can stack notebooks (eg Genealogy is the main note book and inside there are say another 6 notebooks each representing a family name).

      Have a look at the layout of this shared notebook which is my weblinks notebook then you can get the idea of how I use this notebook.

      The thing to decide on is do you want to use notebooks or tags or a mixture of both? Note book genealogy and all genealogy research goes in the one note book with tags of the surname. I use Surname - Butcher for example or do you want to use a note book for the biggest or more significant family lines? I do a mixture of the two!

    2. Thanks! I will check this out!

  3. Thanks, Julie, sometimes when I am moderating a Hangout I can't concentrate on all the detail people are sharing. I wil digest this slowly.

    1. Jill it is very tricky when you the hangout host & looking at the social media too. I find that invites not arriving & causing issues the routine which is very frustrating.

  4. BTW Our Wonersh family was Hamshere/Hamshire.

  5. It's interesting to see how other people organise their records. The filing system I devised for my paper records still works just fine after 30 years, but I need to improve the way I organise digital records. Nancy Loe's guides have been a huge help. The link is in my post, Genealogy Do-Over or Source-Based Incremental Fix?


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