As I showed you in my previous post, in my ancestor notebook, all of my ancestors are organized by generation. In this next system, I have my ancestors broken up by surname. I found this method in the book "The Weekend Genealogist: Timesaving Techniques for Effective Research" by Marcia Yannizze Melnyk. I have two index card boxes with dividers for the individual letters of the alphabet.
|My surname boxes|
|My Ellis surname card|
SIDE NOTE: If you want to start this method, I suggest starting with yourself and your (maiden) surname. Go as far back in your surname as you can before moving on to another surname. For your second card, do your mother's surname. Go as far back in her surname as you can before moving on. I have a rather large tree, so this was a few good days off work spending pretty much all day working on this before I finished. I only filed cards in the box after I had created cards for all of the spouses' family lines listed on that card. Unless you're just starting out your genealogical research, this will take a while. Don't get discouraged if this seems to be a huge undertaking. It is SO worth it in the end.
I just started this method a few months ago, but I have already seen its benefits. My family tree is now easier to sort through. It creates a roll-o-dex of sorts that is portable. I have a lot of different indexes available to me through my family tree software, but when I don't have my computer (or when my computer dies because I forgot to bring my charger!), it is nice to still have an alphabetical list of the names I research most.
The most useful benefit for this method for me is for researching at the library or genealogy center. I take my index cards, and then I can quickly figure out if a family in a book or record is in my direct line.
In the original suggested method in the book, she added locations for the ancestors along with the datespan, but I didn't want to clutter the card too much, especially in my family where everyone is born in a different state than their parents. (If all of my "Smith" family members were from, say, Missouri, it would be much easier, but I didn't luck out like that.)
The second method I use to organize my surnames is in a separate notebook. (I am definitely a "notebook junkie!") I was using a 1-inch, but it was busting at the seams to move to a larger one, so I recently upgraded to a 1-1/2".
In the notebook, I have a set of Avery Alphabetical Dividers. A surname report, which I created in my Family Tree Maker program, serves as my index of names in the front of the notebook. It gives me the "earliest" and "most recent" dates I have for people with each surname.
|Surname report created by my Family Tree Maker program|
This is great for throwing all of those random "I'll figure this mess out later" pages that seem to clutter up your workspace. File it away with the (most) relevant family surname, and hash it out when you have the time.
I also keep surname "notes" sheets or "worksheets" for random families I come across but don't want to spend that moment researching. (It is so easy to get side-tracked while researching! Too many rabbit holes to check, not enough time!!) I print the surname in the top right corner of my paper, and I just create a list of notes or random websites or contacts I find.
|My "Random Notes" page for my husband's Ingold family|
I do keep separate pages for "Random Notes," "Fellow Researchers/Forum Users," and "Related Websites." I tried keeping them all together at first, but the more prominent and well-researched families tend to get in a little bit of a disarray rather quickly. Rather than highlighting the different categories of information in a different color (my previous method), I figured it would just be quicker to make new sheets. It has worked a lot better that way.
I do use more methods than just the ones I have mentioned. For example, I have another notebook just for locations, and I use a COMPLETELY different method for organizing information in preparation for writing a family history book; but the ones I've covered these past few weeks are the big ones for me. I will describe the other methods some time down the road. I hope you've enjoyed this little "how-to" mini-series. Now, back to the family members!
- "The Weekend Genealogist: Timesaving Techniques for Effective Research" by Marcia Yannizze Melnyk