Let’s talk about creating a genealogy toolkit.
Now that might sound pretty fancy, but it’s not.
After all, you already have specific toolkits for items that you use for different tasks in your life. For household jobs such as sewing, first aid, painting, building or car repairs etcetera. It makes sense to keep that equipment together, right?
Another task where you use custom tools is family history research, so it makes sense to have a genealogy toolkit. Depending on your research style your kit can be digital, physical or even both.
Maybe you already have one place where keep all your genealogy research tools. If you are like me, then you’ve saved everything but the kitchen sink. I have been guilty of trying every worksheet I discover and keeping them all.
The worst part? I didn’t change the file names. So that meant hunting through all the files every time I went to use one. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. What a waste of precious research time!
To make this folder even more of a hot mess, I kept saving over the same file again and again. Which meant that I had to delete that text the next time I used the same form. And sometimes I’d miss a field or two. Or I wouldn’t have saved a copy in my research folder. Uh oh.
Obviously, my “system” wasn’t working, so it was time to get a little more organised about my research processes.
A toolkit is a collection of items to assist you to complete specific tasks. Keeping these tools together, and in a ‘ready-to-use’ condition increases efficiency and the possibility of success.
Now, who doesn’t want that when it comes to their family history research?
Our family history is as unique as we are and our genealogy toolkit should reflect that. Therefore, instead of expecting worksheets to be ‘one size fits all’, try some different options. Experiment use what makes sense to you.
So, exactly should be in your genealogy toolkit then?
Well, ultimately that’s up to you. What you include will depend on:
If you research across multiple areas, then consider having a standard kit of general resources, and another of region-specific tools.
You’ll want to include resources that either provide
You can include resources that already exist such as:
If you are looking for inspiration or tools, try one of these sites:
Another resource is your favourite search engine. If nothing is exactly right, then an online search is the logical next step. Search family history or genealogy forms, and you’ll get millions of results in just a couple of seconds.
When I first started researching my ancestors, there were no online resources available. Nor did I have access to anywhere that I could get documents to copy. So, my solution was to make my own.
Try this the next time you can’t find an existing resource that does what you want. You don’t need to be a designer or have fancy software to create worksheets. Use Google Docs or another similar programme to put together a list of the information that you want to capture.
The purpose of your genealogy toolkit is to save you time.
Only keep blank forms or current mini databases (like frequently used resources) in that folder. You don’t want to spend precious minutes every time deleting data from your last research session. Or even worse, saving over the top of something that you spent hours on and don’t have another copy.
This folder is your library of resources, not work in progress. Therefore, if completing your forms digitally then save a copy to your research folder before you start typing.
Our family history is as unique as we are and our genealogy toolkit should reflect that. Instead of expecting worksheets to be ‘one size fits all’, try different options and use what works best for you.
Everyone researches differently. I like to handwrite my findings to give myself time to think about how it fits together. You may prefer to plug everything directly into your family tree software. We each find the system that best suits our unique research style.
As you know, software doesn’t stay the same forever. Every year there are patches or updates to keep improving it so it can perform better.
Therefore, it makes sense to do the same with the tools we are using. Rather than using the same worksheets we always have, let’s intentionally choose resources or customise current ones for efficiency.
I have a three-step system for sorting out my genealogy toolkit:
You will need to invest a little time upfront to save it later on. So, keep a notepad handy during two to three research sessions, and write down:
Now you understand what steps you take, make sure your tools are supporting you.
Before you start, don’t forget to do a quick google search to see if a newer version is available. If it is, review both versions to see which one is better for your work style.
Finally, remember to update your list of frequently used resources everytime you make changes. Your index can be in a spreadsheet, text file or a printed screenshot of your genealogy toolkit.
I keep my list on the wall next to my desk. On my list I include the:
It’s been an excellent source of inspiration when I’m pondering discoveries and saves me time recreating the wheel.
Another idea is to add your genealogy toolkit index in the frequently used resources spreadsheet.
Not all genealogy resources are equal, so schedule some time every few months or so to review and update. This step may be as simple as updating the software you use or making tweaks to worksheets and forms.
Keeping your tools current will keep your processes streamlined. Which means you get to spend your time on what matters the most – the research.
Worksheets, checklists, and tips to help you track down your ancestors and keep track of your research.
Ideas, inspiration, and tutorials to turn your research into shareable stories of your ancestors lives.
Templates, tutorials and inspired ideas of collectible keepsakes to create as mementos or gifts.
Tips and tutorials to help you
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