Genealogy ….. how to get organised ….. or drown!

I wonder if an addiction to genealogy and ancestry research is genetic! Maybe my DNA test results will enlighten me, but I realise after a couple of weeks of obsessiveness and butterfly-like behaviour that I need a structure and a plan! It hit home to me yesterday morning when I spent about two hours faffing around and achieving absolutely nothing as I flitted from between my mothers line then my father’s line, then got the idea of researching newspapers and explored the subscriptions to a variety of archive services, downloaded a couple of articles on Cornish tin mining and the Methodism of John Wesley but then couldn’t find them an hour later to read ….. were they in Dropbox, Box, iCloud Drive, Pocket or Notability, or maybe I’d just bookmarked links to them in Safari? I’d also started corresponding with some more experienced researchers in the US and read their recent blog posts ….. aaarrgghhh …… get a grip!

Get organised

My personality type from Myers Briggs MBTI is INTJ, it’s not the most detailed of approaches but it is perfectly ok for a general description of preferred styles of working and behaviour. The INTJ profile is found in only 2% of the general population and has specific traits described with words like logic, plan, strategy, big picture thinking so ………. it’s no wonder my recent butterfly behaviour was giving me a headache! Time to stop, retreat to the “office” think for an hour, create an initial structure, set up the tools and processes to find, store, retrieve what’s relevant to my goal and strategy. So, I may not know much about genealogy yet, but I DO know how to organise …. anything!

I’ve taken a general decision to STOP going backwards in time and to focus totally on the ancestors I have already found and verified in my existing family tree, which goes back to around 1530. I have verified names, spouses, date of birth, residence, occupation, date of death in the vast majority of cases using census records especially. The tree is very “tall” but also very “narrow” because I haven’t researched the children of each layer. My strategy now is to expand what I know of each individual, their occupation, where they lived and their environment, key events nationally and locally during their lifetimes, and also the history of their lifetimes such as The Poor Law and The Enclosure Acts.

Genealogy structure, plan, research

A little thought led to this mind map of what and how I will tackle this in terms of Content Sources and Structure. I already use lots of online and other apps for searching, creating, storing stuff so will integrate them into the general strategy. For example:

  • Key sources of information from, Family Tree Maker, British Newspaper Archive as well as general web search of place names, historical events, industry, related to Cornwall and Devon.
  • Person facts discovered entered into and synchronised with Family Tree Maker on laptop, immediately saved to Hard Drive and backed up to Dropbox folders.
  • Articles that look of interest immediately saved to Pocket for later reading, then if relevant attach them to Tree and store in Dropbox folders.
  • Personally written posts for own blog also converted to pdf document, attached to tree and stored in Dropbox folders
  • Folder structure created on laptop, stored with sync on Dropbox, extra backup to weekly.
    • English History
    • Cornwall/Devon History
    • Locations
    • Mining Industry
    • People Stories
    • Documents
    • Newspapers
    • Personal Visits
  • Blog articles drafted in Notability app as usual, posted bi-weekly at most, engage with as many enthusiasts as possible with the purpose of learning from them.

I also got 5 good tips from Amy Johnson Crow, a professional genealogist, referring to research strategies I intend to put into practice, I won’t reveal them here as that’s a bit unfair to Amy. Just head over to her site if you want to see them and sign up to her blog

Categories: Ancestry, Genealogy

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9 replies

  1. I’ve found that I have 2 ways of working on family history and both have their positive points: method A is when I am on the trail of something, sleuthing away, darting around Ancestry and other websites, and following various interesting looking trails that sometimes turn out to be dead ends (but not always). Method B is when I write myself a list of research questions and then try to answer them logically through a number of considered searches. Method B is the favoured approach by professional genealogists for obvious reasons, but method A can also give results and its more fun – so I allow myself to do it sometimes because this is a hobby not a job!
    By the way, I also have Cornish ancestors, the main surnames being Martin/Marten and Odgers from Stithians, so let me know if you come across any of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you need to add patience to your plan. as I understand it these searches can take some time.

    A question. Do you think is completely reliable?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patience …. yes. Reliable? What’s your definition? If you mean accuracy of sources such as census records etc then yes. If you mean security of data then just as much as everyone else. The danger everyone tells me about is when Ancestry gives you hints about someone in your tree based on other people having that person in THEIR tree, then it’s dodgy because you’re now relying on other people’s accuracy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds pretty organized to me. I find mind maps very useful when approaching most tasks. Research certainly can get me lost in a maze at times. Good luck with this project.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve used mind mapping and other tools in business for decades but completely lost the plot for the last couple of weeks. No wonder I had to just stop and stand back before I completely drowned in data.

      Liked by 1 person

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