Organized Genealogy Research

In my real life, I try to record every activity I need to do on my calendar so I stay really organized. I also have daily to do lists that keep my house basically clean. After years of researching, I am now applying that same thing to my genealogy.

First thing I did was purchase a good genealogy program. Currently I use The Master Genealogist (have since 2002). It meets all my needs, was fairly easy for me to learn and will grow with me.
Then I purchased a program called GenSmarts. It can read my data (or part of it) and tell me things to research for my ancestors. It has one feature I am especially fond of called the Customize Records feature. In that feature I can tell it to find everyone with a certain type of record (land, will, marriage…) during a certain time period, who lived, was born, who died in a certain area.
Then I purchased a good to-do software. I prefer Swift To Do list. I mentioned in another post that I think it’s too pricey, but it does what I need, so I decided to make the splurge.

Several years ago when I was at the TN state archives, I printed off a list of the microfilm inventories for the counties I was researching. Most of those are now online.

So here’s what I have been doing to become more organized:

Take the inventory and pick out a roll to use. After much discussion with the cheap side of me (heck all of me) I decided that purchasing microfilm from the TN archives was cheaper than driving there or going to our not-so local genealogy library (which only had index books, not original records). The films are $25, so I am very particular about which ones I order. I started with the index books. No since in buying the deed, will or marriage books if my ancestors aren’t on them.
Which brings me to the next step:

Once I have picked a roll, I use GenSmarts to narrow down which of my ancestors MIGHT be located on that roll of film. I use a subset of my data, so only my ancestors are selected which makes it easier to work through the list. For an index of deeds roll, I got 27 hits!
Next I go to Swift To Do LIst, and create a folder for the roll of film. I use the County name and roll number. Under that folder, I make sub-folders for each ancestor who MIGHT be on that film. Then I created a task for each section on the film. This deed index book was broken down into 6 sections, so each ancestor got 6 tasks.

Next I went to TMG and added each ancestors Birth and Death dates to each sub-folder, like Gambill, Bradley (1751-1806). This allowed me to easy see what sections on the films fell either before his birth (no need to check for him then) or after his death (ditto). Then I checked off the sections where based on his ages, he was not going to be found. This dropped my number of tasks (and number of rolls of microfilm I might need to buy later) in half! Also will eliminate the amount of film turning I will have to do.

Next I will get the film and work one Ancestor at a time creating research tasks inside of TMG. Once those are done, I will know which deed rolls I need to purchase. So far, I have done 3 ancestors, and they had no deeds during that time period. That’s a good thing in that I don’t have to spend money on ordering more film, but a bad thing because land owners are far easier to research. If they were found, then I would need to order the correct rolls of film with the original records.

Currently I have worked my way through a deed index roll and a will index book. Of the 390 tasks that were created, 70 are done based on removing tasks where he wasn’t alive during that time period. Only 320 more to go. Of course, if I find him, that will create even more tasks. 🙂 But isn’t that what genealogy is all about, finding more areas to research?

Sure it sounds like a lot of work, but doing leg work before I order expensive films will save me time and money. In this economy, who can knock that?!


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