Tips from the Pros: Keep Supplies Handy, from Juliana Smith

As an organizationally-challenged individual, I have to take extra steps to keep my research in order. In one section of my desk I keep extra supplies so that they are within easy reach. These include:

  • Protective archival plastic sleeves so that when I obtain or print out a record, I can easily slip it into a sleeve right away and insert it in the three-ring binder I have for that family. (No more loose pages just stuffed in that binder.)
  • Post-It notes so that I can jot a quick note to myself that lets me know where I left off when every-day life interrupts my research time.
  • Post-It flags that allow me to bookmark pages and paragraphs in books or documents that are important to my research.
  • Blank census forms for transcribing the census enumerations I find for family members. Transcribing helps me to better look at each clue in the record and also reminds me to date the find.
  • Research Log/To-Do List. I use my to-do list as a research log. When I identify a record that needs to be searched or requested, I enter it into a research calendar. Later when I actually process the request, I can go back and fill in the date and results. This not only helps me to easily get started when I find a few minutes to do some research, but it also serves as a record of the sources I’ve checked. Ancestry has blank research calendars online that can serve this purpose and I keep a stack readily available. You can find links to many blank charts and forms in the Ancestry Learning Center Getting Started section.

What supplies do you like to keep handy to keep your research rolling and to keep clutter at bay? Share your tips in the Comments section below.

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6 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Keep Supplies Handy, from Juliana Smith

  1. Hi! I am only about 6 months into genealogy but am addicted. I find keeping a highliter handy. When i find an inportant article on the web, I always make two copies, especially if it is very tiny and hard to read. One goes in my book with a sticky on the page protector and the other one I can highlite who I am researching and write reminders on to find more info or whatever. I also keep a stapler handy, so if I print out something that has two or more pages I can staple them so they don’t get seperated and lost in my mountains of papers. Also paper clips so if I find information on three different cousins and each cousin’s info includes in-laws or some other relation, i can paper clip them together and know they are from one parent.

  2. I too am somewhat challenged organizationally. I do almost all of my research on the computer, and my computer desk does not have much room for handwriting notes. The result was that I was constantly forgetting matters that I had intended to research further. Recently I got a small, free application for my computer called “Sidenote”. It’s modelled on the idea of a file cabinet, except you can add however many “drawers” you want and then type ideas, reminders, whatever you want under the headings you have set up. Best of all Sidenote lurks off the screen, on whichever side you want, and pops out when you move the cursor to that side. So it’s always available but invisible until you need it. I keep lists of all sorts of things in Sidenote. I do a lot of English genealogy and so I have a list of all the towns I’m interested in and the registration district each is in. It saves a lot of time when I’m looking up birth or death registrations. I also have running lists of people and what additional information about them I need to hunt up. I use a Mac computer but something similar should be available for PCs.

  3. Julia,o you use a separate research/to do list for each family you are researching,r is there one master list? And is the Sidenote mentioned above available for PCs?

  4. I like to carry a thumb drive. With so many libraries and other repositories going to digital archiving, it really makes it easy to copy the images/information.

    Need some other ideas to get you organized? I have a presentation on my web site (under Presentations) that deals specifically with Organization. It is FREE, so take a look.

    Happy Dae.
    http://www.ShoeStringGenealogy.com

  5. I FOUND FOR MY NOTE TAKING, THAT HAVING NON PHOTO BLUE QUADRILLED PAPER MAKES MY NOTES NEATER. I ALSO USE A NON PHOTO BLUE PENCIL FOR MARKING THE ORIGINAL COPY WHEN I NEED TO MAKE MORE COPIES FOR FAMILY. WHEN MAKING NOTES OR COPIES AT A RESEARCH LIBRARY OR OTHER PLACE I MARK THE DATE, PLACE OF RESEARCH AND BOOK INFORMATION IN THE EVENT I NEED ADDITIONAL COPIES OR INFORMATION.
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  6. This article is truly PRACTICLE !

    I’s like to add something from my 50 some odd lyears of experience:

    I added a space to my Research Log to add coded results of each search when I got around to it.

    Example: “X” : made a direction connection. “?” possible link. “O” viewed as a negative result. “C” tells me I made a copy… etc. (Each may think up their, personal, system.

    I use standard census forms for 1790 through 1840 researches…plus another form I use to take a family from the 1850 census back as far as each family can be traced.

    Note: Be careful with the 1820 census. Males can be counted twice !!

    Also: I use standard 3-ring binder paper for note taking…and I can abstract ALL pertinent information from any census currently released for our use. I have a system for recording all information on each census.

    Thus notes can easily be filed wherever they “fit” and not get confused with another family unit.

    I have a filing system that is ALWAYS found welcome to all those who see it.

    Lola

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