Confessions of a Slapdash Genealogist

I'm going to out myself.  I'm a slapdash genealogist.

I know I should have an organized genealogy research plan, but I don't.  I flit from one branch of the tree to another, stopping here, stopping there.  I am easily distracted, and I find myself thinking, "Oh, I was going to look up X" or "Did I ever order that death certificate for Y?"  and I leave what I'm doing and go chase that other bit of information for a while.  Maybe I get back to where I was . . . maybe not.

I also don't write down what I've done, and this can have consequences in that sometimes I find myself re-researching in a particular source, duplicating the energy I've already expended in that area. 

I haven't found a good way to record what I'm doing.  Lorine McGinnis Schulze over at Olive Tree Genealogy has written a number of informative posts on using Evernote; I've tried Evernote, really I have, but for some reason I just can't get into using it.  Caroline Pointer at suggests using Microsoft One Note for organizing your work.  I haven't tried that one.

A pile of antique books.

From Wikimedia Commons:  Timeless_Books.jpg was originally uploaded on 2008-09-29T00:14:12Z by Forrestjunky.

Lisa A. Alzo, writing for Family Tree Magazine, offers a "Sample Family History Research Plan" -- it seems very thorough, but when I look at the detailed steps, there's nothing that I wouldn't do anyway, over the course of time.  Why do I need to write it all down first?  Family Search offers a number of forms to organize your work.

Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers offers two versions of a research log template, one for Excel and one for Google Drive.

How do you organize your research?  Are you meticulous about documenting your process?  What app or apps to you use to help you stay organized?  I will take any advice I can get!


  1. I have a checklist, just so I don't forget certain sources (think: low-hanging fruit), but when those don't pan out, I have to create a plan. Which hurts. A lot. Because I either forget to do it, forget to follow it, or forget to write down when I've done the items on it. I'm terrible at it. Someone could make a TON of money (mostly just off me) if they could figure out how to automate the entire process.


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