That may be true, but it is my constant companion, dogging me like a faithful puppy, then tripping me when it looks as though I may break free.
In the world of genealogy, it’s definitely not a habit to cultivate.
Too many times over the years, I have discovered a breakthrough, only to set it aside until the day I had “more time” to give it the attention it deserved. You know where this is going. When that day finally arrived, I had either lost the lead, or the source was gone (in some cases ‘gone gone’), and thus no longer able to share their information.
Rule #1 – Develop a system.
Whether it’s paper or digital, be sure to have at least a rudimentary system in place before you start collecting information. Set up a filing system to catalogue your photos, the letters and emails, and sources. Be diligent right from the start, and you can avoid the boxes of unsorted papers filled with cryptic notes.
Genealogy software isn’t a ‘must have’, and there are pros and cons. You can accomplish pretty much the same thing by using Word or Google Docs. Just set up four or five folders (Photos, Sources, Inquiries, Family) and you’re good to go.
One of the pros of using genealogy software, though, is that it is filled with how to’s and strategies for your search.
Brother’s Keeper is one of the oldest systems out there. It’s simple to use if you’re used to navigating through vertical menus, and is Windows based. It’s not tied to any search organization, which is a definite plus. One drawback is that there isn’t a Mac version, but the workaround is to switch to Windows mode on the Mac, and then launching BK. The other drawback is that it’s too bare-boned for today’s genealogist. If you weren’t familiar with DOS-based computing, Brother’s Keeper could be a little frustrating.
In the early days of researching my family tree, it was fairly easy to stay organized and on track. There are only so many ways to file a single piece of paper, after all! A segmented file case and a binder with family history sheets was all I needed. I kept them with my beautiful, portable electric typewriter, and dutifully filed away all my correspondence.
Then I latched onto the computer age and all hell broke loose. It didn’t happen overnight, but as operating systems and software updates changed, as did I. The manufacturers didn’t make it easy to upload all the information you laboriously entered into the first edition of their software – it all had to be retyped. It was hard enough the first time, so inevitably some things were left out, duplicates were made in error, and “Gee, I wonder if this product is better than the one I’m using?” I’ll just try it to compare. What? I can’t get my information out of it unless I pay for the full version? People with one track minds are to be envied, in my book.
As the years went by, not only did I have information in multiple computer programs, but I had multiple computers, too! Yes, cloud computing was invented with me in mind.
In 2016, I still have far too much information scattered here and there, but it’s far easier to reign it all in.
Here’s a great side-by-side comparison of the genealogy products that are out there to choose from
Next time: Start with what you know
Bonus tip: Did you know you can add tags and comments to your Word and Excel documents? This makes it super easy to sort and find documents related to specific ancestors or topics. Make a list of your tags and use them consistently to make searching a breeze. File > Properties > Summary. Check out the Custom tab for even more explicit ways to identify and sort your documents.