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Organization Is Key to Good Research

Often genealogical research spans decades. It is usually a process of going back to original information, reading it again and possibly trying a new angle on locating ancestral information.


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Often genealogical research spans decades. It is usually a process of going back to original information, reading it again and possibly trying a new angle on locating ancestral information. Because of the importance of visiting records again, it is absolutely necessary to maintain good records regarding your genealogical correspondence to family members, courthouses, historical societies, libraries, archives and other repositories of family history information.

If you are not already in the habit, it is a good idea to sit down now and begin to develop a way to keep track of your correspondence, both snail mail and e-mail. It is so easy to start researching on the Internet, sending off queries to other researchers, then forgetting to whom the request was sent or even if it was answered.

You need to decide the best way to keep track of your correspondence. It may be by family surnames, by location, or by type of information requested. The important factor is that you understand the correspondence information, and it is easy for you to read and to maintain. The format is up to you.

Many types of formats may be found in genealogical books, as well as on the Internet. You can always try or your favorite search engine and look for "genealogy forms" on the web. For ideas or some forms to use, look at or These forms may or may not provide you the information that you want or need. If they do, print them off and begin using them. If they do not, go ahead and print them off your computer. Make a list of the information that you want and need on your list. Then integrate the two forms into one that works best for you.

You can create your form using any word processing or spreadsheet program. In the word processing program, set up a table with as many columns as you need. Label each column at the top and add rows as you need them. The spreadsheet can be manipulated to add columns or rows when needed. Be sure that you back up your information on your hard drive or on a CD. You never know when a power failure is going to hit, and you need a copy of this research, because it may span years of hard work and research.

The beauty of a spreadsheet is that it allows you to put your information in different ascending order as regards to your needs. If you need to search for surnames or locations, you can change the parameters of the program to what will help you the most.

It is always a good idea to list the date of the request and the date of a reply, as well as the name and address of the person or office. The type of information requested and the reply is also suggested to be kept in the log. It is a good idea to keep track of the amount of money sent. That way you can track your expenses in your family research.

Setting up this form requires a minimum of time. The deciding factor that will make the difference in your research is your commitment to keeping the form complete and current. If you make the decision to fill out the form and do it, then it can provide you with an accurate picture of your research. At different times of the year, you may want to enter information as it is received, or you may want to file it and enter the results weekly or monthly. The important factor is that you find a way to enter the information that you will maintain and that will work for you. If the information is not what you need, change the form. This is for your research, and you should tailor it to your needs.

Another aspect of this form is that it may jog your memory into thinking of a new person or office to write. Also, after a certain number of years, you may want to try again in a county office or library. Sometimes, not often, but every once in a while, you may correspond with a person who is not as helpful with finding information as he or she could be. Often people are overburdened with duties and have no one to help them in these positions. Several years down the road may find a new employee or a new elected official in that position who is willing to help you in your search. It is certainly worth a try.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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