If you’ve been conducting genealogy research for some time, then you’ll know how quickly the available resources are changing. With new databases and records becoming accessible every day, your genealogy research toolbox will be continually growing. There has never been more information available, nor has it been easier to access.
My researching adventure began in 1992. One Sunday afternoon I went to the State Library equipped only with the names of my great-grandparents. Today, I wouldn’t need the trip to the library. There are multiple websites I can visit to get the same information that took an afternoon of microfilm wrangling. And it would be a lot faster too!
But in 1992 there only a few options, and that made choosing one easy. I had one resource that would give me the information I wanted. The births, deaths and marriages indexes on microfilm at the State Library. There weren’t a dozen different resources to distract me or other people’s family trees filled with potentially unverified facts. If I went down the wrong track, then that was all on me.
Navigating the genealogy research minefield
Having so much information available online is overwhelming. It’s amazing, it’s awesome, it’s incredible, but it’s still overwhelming. Even for someone with a little research experience, it’s easy to fall down the genealogy research rabbit hole. I’ve caught myself with 43 tabs open across three separate web browsers because I had to follow every clue. Therefore, I started bookmarking everything. Great idea, right? The intention was there for sure. But all I ended up with was a time consuming click-to-view method of searching an overflowing list of bookmarks. Or the website made a change to their navigation and weeks of work was now a 404 error.
That’s why I started a two-step process to help cut through the distractions and cut back the time wastage. Fewer rabbit holes, more genealogy research time!
- Always screenshot everything of interest
- Create a checklist of every useful resource
Let me break down those two points and tell you my process.
Point 1: Always screenshot everything of interest
The key to using screenshots as a reference is that you need to make sure your images are searchable. Otherwise, it will be image-only where you have to open each file to find the one you want. If you have a research plan, then you could include the screenshot name in there as well.
My steps are to:
- open a blank Google Slides document before I start researching. You will need a free Google account.
- screenshot every potential find for future review and further research.
- paste that it into the blank google slides document
- add highlighting (see video below) and notes
- give the file a common-sense name that contains the fields that you would use in search (e.g. names, dates, places)
- download as a JPG
- add the JPG to your research folder. I have a series of sub-folders to make them more useful. You might want to create a folder for each ancestor or have general folders such as births, deaths, education, etc.
- then open a new, blank Google slide and start researching again!
Not sure how to screenshot your genealogy research?
The method will depend on your operating system, keyboard and other software on your computer. Some options are
- SnagIt (or similar) screen capture software
- Print Screen button on your keyboard
If you aren’t sure, head to your favourite search (e.g. Google) and run a search on [name of your operating system] how to screenshot.
My Google Slides process
Point 2: Create a checklist of every useful resource
With this list, you will want to be able to search and filter the data. I recommend using Google Sheets or Excel for this. Google Sheets is handy because it’s free.
For each new resource I find, I capture the following information on my spreadsheet:
- Date of search
You’ll want to update this over time because available information and website addresses can change.
- Website / database name
If the URL doesn’t work, then you can always conduct a Google (or similar) search with this information
- Information specific to City / State / Country
The primary column where you will want to filter the information. Filtering the data (see video below) will enable you to check the resources you’ve previously used for that specific area.
- Years covered
Range of dates or years that you can find information on in this database
- Index only?
Type a Y for Yes or an N for No. Then tell at a glance if this is an index only or the actual records themselves
- Paid or Free?
Type P for Paid or F for Free. P or F field. Then you can see at a glance if subscription to access the information
- Website URL
Pasting in the URL from the address bar will create a hyperlink that you can click on later.
TIP: Add the broader site address rather than record specific URLs because they are the least likely to change.
Preview of the Google Sheets
Add my Google Sheets file to your genealogy research toolbox
The link to the Google Sheets file that I demonstrate in the video is available in the Resource Library. Open the library, click the link, and then ‘make a copy’.
If you receive my email updates, then you are already a library member. So click the link in the navigation (under FREE RESOURCES) and use your login details.
Not a member? Complete the form in the sidebar (or at the bottom), or sign up here for access.
What’s your no.1 genealogy research tip?
Do you have a go-to tip for genealogy research that saves you time? Or keeps you organised and on track? Share it in the comments below, or drop me an email at email@example.com.