Welcome back! I hope that you've watched the first two parts of our five part series Beginning Genealogy in Five Easy Steps, and that you've already searched to see what you can find at home, and put together some reasonable, accomplishable goals to keep you guided and focused on your journey! If you've already done this, then let's move on!

This is the fun part, lets start hunting for our ancestors using the internet!

Today, let's get started on how to get started researching online.  There are hundreds of resources available for you to use through the marvels of modern technology!   Ready to get started? Let's learn how to research genealogy on the internet!
 
 
I'm thrilled to see you here for part two of our series (that's right, we're almost half way there now!) Beginning Genealogy in Five Easy Steps.  If you missed part one, I recommend you take a moment and check out the last video about beginning your genealogy journey with what you have at home.  This program is set up so that you can follow along week by week and get a good, solid start on your family tree. 

If you have ever put of your genealogy research because you get sidetracked or discouraged, this tutorial is for you!

We are going to be talking about the importance of setting goals, and how it gives us a visual marker of how well we are doing, even when we don't feel like we're getting anywhere.  It also allows us to be reminded when we veer off track-- and to refocus and get back on task. 

Are you ready to get started?  Great! Let's go to part 2 and learn about setting goals!
 
 
I'm so excited to get started with our series today! I hope you enjoy all of this great info as much as I enjoyed putting it together for you!  Alright, let's get started! Head on over to Beginning your Genealogy if Five Easy Steps: Step 1 - Start at Home for a how-to video tutorial and some links to some stellar resources.  See you there!
 
 

Don't believe me? I'll prove it to you. 

These days there is so much information out there.  When you want to learn something new, where do you start?  How do you sift through all the experts, books, blogs telling you what to do and what not to do?  Does it all
For the next few weeks we are beginning another series, since we got so many kind words about our January series The Organized Genealogist!  This series will be a video series on getting started with your genealogy, we took all the hard out of it and broke it down into five, super simple, easy to follow steps, complete with resources to help you on your way. 

Check out this video and come back each week to see the latest installment!

 
 
If you read Sorting It All Out and Filing FTW!, you know the basic idea of how to set up and get started with a filing system for your genealogical records.  The biggest obstacle to overcome is getting started with the process, the second biggest obstacle is setting up a system to help you keep it up.  Here are five tips to help make things as simple as possible:  
      
1. Start Today.  The most difficult thing you can do is get started.  Before you start your mind is zooming
with doubts (can I do it? how do I do it?), frustrations (this is impossible!),  or denial (it’s not so bad… I don’t really need  to find _________.). It’s time to put all of that noise out of your head.  Don’t think. Just do. That is why we  start big and work towards small.  The more mechanical and systematic you can make it, the fewer excuses you  will come up with, the less intimidating it will be, and the less time it will
take you.  
 
2. Let your Pedigree Be Your Guide.   If you are having trouble figuring out where something goes or how you  want to organize your files, look to your forms.  Your pedigree will show you all your family members in an organized format, it is a visualization of how you want  your filing to be.  Bonus: once you get everything sorted out, your pedigree can function as a map to find what you are looking for.  You can use other family history forms the same way!
 
3. Figure Out How To Handle Difficult Documents and Stick With It.  Sometimes a document might list more than one family, more than one individual, or have some other complication that  makes it difficult to file.  When  it comes time to empty out your other folder and file these away, figure out how  you want to do it and stick with it.  

One of the easiest things to do is to make a copy and put it in with both  names or families, but this can prove difficult if you a) don’t have a copier b) have been doing it a while and it is making for extra paper bulk.  Other ways you can handle it are to make a note in the second area saying  “refer to “_______________” under this file, this folder, this box. 
 
Note: you will also have to make a similar  judgment call when it comes to marriage. When does an individual stop being a  part of one family group and become a part of another.  I handle this by making the change at the date of marriage.  Whatever you decide to do, decide early and be consistent
      
4. Make Indexes.  Once you  get all of your papers filed and organized, you might consider making indexes so  that you can refer to them in the future if you can’t remember how you filed  something or if you need to find something quickly.   As mentioned in No. 3, if you use your charts to help you organize your  documents, an index might be as simple as including those in the front of each  section of your files. 
      
5. Keep It Going.  All this  would be for nothing if we had no intention to keep our stuff organized in the  future.  It isn’t as difficult as  you might think.  The most helpful tip I can give you here is to pick a day, weekly, monthly, quarterly, whatever you have time for, and spend a little bit of time re-sorting things.  Find a place, whether you start an extra pocket folder in the front of each of the boxes for documents “To Be Filed.” Or just use your “Other Box” as a  transitional holding place between your filing days.  

Have a specific, pre-determined place to put unfiled papers, with the express intention of filing them on a specific day.  That way you won’t fall into the same old cycles, even if you aren’t immediately putting each paper in its specific place. 
 
Follow these easy tips, and set realistic expectations for yourself. Spend a little bit of time regularly keeping up with what you’ve done, and you will be living the dream, you’ll be an Organized Genealogist! 
  
What tips do you have to help with organization and filing?  Lay ‘em on us in the comments!
 
 
Last week we implemented a really basic organizational system to help you combat the stacks of paper that your genealogy project may be leaving around your home.  Hopefully you were able to get all of your papers into one of the five boxes, and now you have a good starting point to start getting that information filed so that it is easy to access and find. 

I know filing doesn't sound like a glorious victory in your genealogy battle, but trust me, defeating the paper monster is no small feat.  We're sticking with the same mantra we used last week: Big to Small.

So, what is smaller than these groups we set up last week with our grandparents’ surnames? Each of
those groups can be divided into several other surnames that fit within them, each surname can be divided into multiple family groups, each family group can be divided by individuals that are members of that family.  
So, there you have it BIG to SMALL.  
 
Surnames
That is how we’re going to work.  We’re going to do essentially the same thing we just did with the boxes,
working from one box at a time, we’re going to start by sorting the papers from  that box into stacks according to surnames.  For this, I recommend using a large accordion pocket folder.  You should also have an extra one for documents that you can’t readily identify, or that maybe fit into more than one group. 
 
Family Groups
Then we’re going to go through each pocket folder one at a time and separate each family out.  You could use folders or manila files  for this, whatever you like, just as long as it fits into the pocket folder and keeps everything separate.  I  recommend using a folder that has prongs in the middle for three-hole punched  paper.
 
Individuals
Finally, we can go through each of the folders that represent our family groups and organize all the papers by individual.  It is helpful to have some method of separating these out, I am a big fan of tabbed dividers and 3-hole punching, that way, your stuff stays in the order you put it in and you can find  everything very easily without digging through your papers.  (Disclaimer: Of course, please, NEVER EVER do this with fragile, one of a  kind, or original documents.   EVER. We’re talking about  copies and print-offs here!)  
You can take it further, if you like and organize  each individual’s records chronologically, or however you like so that you can find what you need quickly.

So there you have it.  Working from big to small, we can  organize all of our information and paper with no fuss and in our spare time.  Not too shabby, right? 

Do you have a filing system already in place  for your family history records? Tell us about it, or send us a
picture!    
 
 
Is your workspace totally over run with stacks of paper? Dining table buried in “proof” and "evidence” from your family history research?  If so, you are not alone.

We all know getting our foot in the door is the hardest part.  So, where do you start?

Big to Small

Of course it would be nice to know exactly where every single piece of paper should go, right off the bat. 
But it is totally unrealistic.  Sorting every individual page all at once will leave you in a mess worse than what you started with and feeling bogged down and totally overwhelmed.  Instead, we’re going to start big and  work toward the smaller, detailed organization. What the heck does that mean?  In the same way it can seem daunting to fulfill a huge goal (i.e. lose weight) it can be daunting to take on a huge project like organization.  So, we combat this by breaking it off into bite sized chunks that we can do in our spare time, here or there.  Come up with a way to break up your research into about four groups.  I like the surname of each grandparent  (each of your grandfathers' surnames and your grandmothers’ maiden names).  There are other ways to break it up, but I find this is a good division point.  
Getting Boxy With It
Get a box for each of the surnames you are using to divide things up and an extra one for “other”papers.  Label each one.  Remember, however you decide to break it up, we are starting with BIG, general headings.  We don’t want to do any detail-oriented work right now.  

If you used my example of grandparents, you would  put any document pertaining to any ancestor of that grandparent in that  box.  So, your grandpa’s dad’s military records, go into your grandpa’s box.  Same with your grandpa’s mom’s baptismal records—even though she has a different surname than the one that is  on the box.  Doesn’t matter.  Any of her parents’ (and their parents’) records will also go in there.
 
Don’t Know? Don’t Sweat It.
 If you get confused or hung up on a record don’t worry about it, put it in the “other” box for now. We’ll go back to it later.  The goal right now is to get every document into one of those boxes in as little time as possible.  The sooner we get this step done, the sooner we get to move on to the next.  When we reach the next step we’re one step closer to conquering our mess and setting up an organizational system that will keep our paper’s straight from now on! 
 
Hopefully, just by finishing this step, you already feel like getting organized will be a bit easier and you can see a noticeable difference in the state of your work space!  

How do you sort your genealogy information?  Let us know in the comments! 


 
 
"The  secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious." --Marcus  Aurelius
We have talked about how setting goals can help propel your family history research, but there is another hurdle that can interfere with your trajectory: disorganization.  Yes, I said it.  And I already know that when you read that word you let out a groan of frustration.  We're researchers, not organizers!

In the heat of the moment, the excitement of the hunt for details, facts and information about our ancestors, it can be all to easy to just hit print thirty times and leave the stack of papers sitting in a stack on our desk (...or the floor, or the dining room table).  Then, weeks later, you know you printed it... somewhere? In this stack? In that? In the closet? Maybe you ought to check the accordian binder your significant other bought you out of frustration with the stacks of paper in every corner of the counter, the table (and even, you are embarrassed to admit, under your bed)! But, let's be real, when was the last time you used that accordian binder? Would you even be able to fit half of your papers in there? Probably not.

January is National Organization Month, and a great time to use that New Year Resolution motivation your feeling help you get your genealogy information organized. 

For the month of January we're going to start a weekly series called The Organized Genealogist, we're going to cover some simple measures you can take to get and keep your genealogy information organized. 
 
 
"Learn from the past, set vivid, detailed goals for the future, and live in the only moment of time over which you have any control: now." --Denis Waitley
Like all worthwhile things in life, genealogy can be challenging.  The challenge makes infuriating and exciting all at once.But it can also lead to distraction and frustration if you aren’t careful.  That is why it is important to set goals. Goals can help us figure out where we want to go, and get there.Goals keep us focused.

Another benefit to goal setting in genealogy and family history research, especially if you keep a record of your goals, is that they can help you see how far you’ve come when you get stumped or run into a brick wall and feel like yanking your hair out (…don’t worry, we’ve all been there!).  Sometimes it’s important to reflect not only upon where we are headed but also where we have come from.  Although it would be nice to imagine that all of us could reach our ultimate goal of tracing our family line back to the dawn of time (and fully proving beyond a shadow of a doubt each and every connection—a girl can dream, right?), it is (very) unlikely to ACTUALLY happen.  But, the joy isn’t in the destination, it’s in the journey!
Setting small, attainable goals, helps us record the milestones of our journey and look back at all we have accomplished. 
 
So, are you ready to set your genealogy goals for 2013? Check out this handy worksheet to help you plot your course for the coming year. Tell us what goals you set in the comments! 
 
 
It may be tempting to think that you will remember what you are being told, or to try to jot down notes while the person  is talking.  In a jam, you do what  you have to do, but if you have some time to prepare, it is ideal to record the  interview.  Writing while a person  is talking makes you look distracted, it makes it difficult for the subject to  “discuss” a topic with you, and instead makes them feel like they are being  tested or like you are only interested in getting to that “end goal”of  yours.  You might still be able to  get some valuable information, but you are really missing out if your subject  doesn’t feel comfortable enough to open up to you! The other benefit to a  recording, is the ability to go over it a second (or third) time.   Especially if you are nervous or uncomfortable, but even if you are just trying to remember the next question, it is easy to miss bits and pieces of what is said, or to misinterpret information the first time.   A recording provides an accurate record, something that can be referred to as a source and that can be kept for posterity.  
  
In-Person  Interviews
There are decent recording devices available at any  store with an electronics department from $20-$70.   Keep in mind that often the less expensive models will lack in voice  quality.  If you are recording this just for yourself you may not be too concerned with the end quality, however, if you think you might like to keep the recording, you might want to make sure that the recorder you buy has the capability to hook up to an external  microphone.  Check out Amazon for a  few examples.  
  
Long Distance Options  
If you are recording an interview that is not in  person, there are a few different routes you can take.   The simplest method involves ye old smart phone.  If you have a smart phone, it is incredibly easy to record a phone call without spending any money at all.  Check out this tutorial using the app iPadio to record a call.  
  
Another easy option is Skype.  Using free Skype recording software you can get a pretty decent quality recording for a fairly low price.  
  
For more information on recording phone calls  check out this comprehensive list by Dan Curtis, a professional Personal Historian (i.e. he interviews people like this for a living).