Organizing Your Notes After a Genealogy Vacation

by Bob Brooke

There's nothing more rewarding than taking a genealogy vacation. You dig up your roots, visit family homes, and maybe even make or renew friendships with distant relatives. But once you return, what should you do with everything that you've learned?

It's important to input new names, dates, and stories into your genealogy notebook or computer program as soon as possible. When the information is fresh in your mind, you're less likely to make mistakes or have trouble deciphering your notes.

It's also important to organize your notes as soon as possible. If you've collected quite a bit of information, be sure to make a list of categories each with a letter of the alphabet, then assign each batch of notes corresponding to a topic category a letter of the alphabet. Later, you'll be able to assemble all the notes that belong to that particular letter or category by combining information from all the same letters.

Also, create "To Do" and "Done" piles or folders. That way, none of your notes will get lost in the shuffle. If you have to spread your work over several days, you won't forget where you left off. You don't want to lose any of the information that you traveled so far to get!

If you're using a genealogy program, this is also a good time to make back-up copies of your genealogical data files on your computer. Make a copy on a floppy diskette right before you enter all of your new data, and then again after you have finished entering everything that's new. Be sure to label the diskettes clearly and store them in a safe place.

Inputting your new data may involve revising old data if, for example, if you found new evidence about someone's marriage or death date. When this comes up, be sure to document your change carefully, recording not only that you have now disproved an old piece of information, but the date on which you added the new data to your genealogical records. This will help avoid confusion in the future. Be sure to document any changes so that other family members won't think they're mistakes and change them.

Store your notes, copies of documents, and photos once you've copied information from your trip notes into your notebook or computer. Put them into the proper manila folders. This is another task that will be much easier to accomplish before too much time has passed. If you wait too long, you may have to read everything again before you can figure out where to file each individual page.

If you have copies of pictures or documents, or if you took pictures of old family homes or tombstones, this is the time to integrate those items into your family history. It's important to store any new photographs properly.

Filing and storing your new information is the first task. With that accomplished, you can start to enjoy your new family information in other ways. First, you may want to pass it along to others. If you have a family newsletter, or if you share genealogical information with other family members, let them know about your new discoveries. They'll probably be just as excited to hear about it as you were to discover it. And, if you have questions about any of your research, for example, if any of the information that you found was ambiguous or contradictory, others may be able to help you.

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