Spring Cleaning Your Tree

Spring has finally sprung here in good ol’ Virginia.  Seems the weather will be nice for the next few days and the tides are turning to warmer temps and sunshine.  The season has been a tad unusual as of the past week with two tornadoes in our area.  Tornadoes are not a common thing here, but we had two in one week that brought some damage to the local area.   Seems a lot of cleanup will be in order over the next few weeks.

Isn’t that what we think of during the season?  Spring cleaning: A chance to dust off the old and air out the closed up.  I know I have already made a list of all the things I would like to clean up and reorganize this month.  I think that is also a part of “nesting” but I digress.

Another thing I have noticed while picking back up on my research is that I really need to organize my family tree better.  I have five hundred and twenty-six people in my family tree on ancestry.com.  FIVE HUNDRED and TWETY SIX.  That is a lot of people.


The more research I find myself doing, the more I keep adding on parents and cousins and aunts and uncles four times removed.  It is almost getting out of control.  The amount of clicking and dragging to go through one branch of my tree takes a while.

So, I thought to myself.  Why not reorganize and “spring clean” my family’s tree on Ancestry?   There has to be a better way to be able to log and search through each of these family lines without feeling so cramped on one little page.

So, that is what I will set out to do this spring.  I will take each line and create a separate family tree for each surname.  Mackenzies, Fegusons, Holts, Lighteners…they will all get their very own tree, like a small seed that is part of a bigger plant that I can continue to grow and nurture as my research progresses.

I guess the perks of having everything online at your fingertips is great for storage purposes.  Before writing this small spot, I tried to do a little research into how to organize your genealogy information.  Most of what I came across was a “how to” on organizing and documenting paper files.  Most seem to say the same things.  Below you will find some short tips on how to be organized in your records!

Being organized helps you to better check sources, compare them and evaluate, identify any differences and help you make more accurate conclusions of the information you have gathered.  Making sure that your records are up to date will help you figure out if a newly discovered source is accurate with the information you already know to be true.  The main goal in research is to be able to show the sources you have gathered and to be able to easily resume research after a break.   You want to be able to make sure that you are not re-using old sources that you have already tried as well.  Too many negative searches can show that it may be time to try something different or look at a source in a different light.  All these tips can help you save time and frustration and help contribute to better results!

First, organize as you go.  Some tips included having a research log on hand. Other tips also included having a goal in mind for your findings.  Would you like to be able to share your findings with others?  Would you like to be able to understand the family you are searching for and their behaviors?  Don’t give up until you can find a document that will tell the story you are looking for or exhaust all other possibilities.  Another tip was to study families in clusters.  Get to know as much as you can about the person’s kin or neighbors in the community.   This may tell you of the roles others played in your family’s history.

Research easy events first! I find that trying to search for birth or death records first will help tell a lot about the hierarchy of a family. You can often find marriage information, parental information and dates of birth and death all on one record.

Some people, me included, recommend one file for each family name.  This system creates on file folder or family tree for each family you research.  One family could consist of a father, mother and their children.  I, on the other hand, will be doing my family by surname.   Tips included for this method involve creating a folder that contains things such as a group record, pedigree chart, maps, research logs and photocopies of source documents.

Remember that each ancestor will be in two families.  They will appear in their family as a child and once as a parent in their own line.  A tip is to log and file sources of the child in the father’s folder and once the person is married, to file the sources in the husband’s folder.   For second marriages, in-laws, and step-children, log and file sources about these relatives in the file of their closest relative that is on your pedigree. If a source lists more than one family, pick the predominant family on that document.  Tips include creating document numbers to organize into different folders and to write on your research logs.

Researches recommend making paper copies of all your research and to not rely on computers to store all your information in the final steps.  This makes your records easily accessible to anyone who would like to comb through them for their own research one day.

Are there any tips or tricks you use to organize your family tree?

This is going to take me a while.  Guess I better get started…

Thanks for reading!


2 thoughts on “Spring Cleaning Your Tree

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