Researching your family history can take years of hard work, so it’s really important that you can put it down and pick it up again after a break, without having to go over old ground. Here are 6 ways to be a great record-keeper, so you can save yourself time and have a clear and ordered document to pass on:
- Always use a research sheet. You can design your own, or download mine here for free. Use one sheet per generation of a family and give yourself clear indications as to which order the sheets come in. On mine, I put a downward arrow next to the child who was my direct ancestor and an upward arrow next to the previous generation. (See Fig. 1 above for details.)
- On the back of the sheet, record all the details from the census pages of the key person on the sheet. Using this system, you can see, at-a-glance, where the various generations were at each point in time, like this (Fig. 2):
- Don’t forget to record your sources, so you remember where the information came from, like this (Fig. 3):
- Add rumours, hearsay and undocumented stories to the notes section (Fig. 4):
- Consider drawing up a simple family tree as you go along. It will help you visualise the different generations. It doesn’t need to be perfect to begin with (Fig. 5):
- Beware of entering your research straight into a computer program or onto an on-line tree like the ones on Ancestry. Pen and paper are much easier to correct and you won’t lose all your hard work if your computer crashes or your subscription runs out!