Genealogy with Janet Wahlberg: Organization Part II

Janet Wahlburg

As I promised, this is Part II of Getting Organized. I will talk this month about goal setting, on-line web sites, naming your files then placing them in your computer and maintaining your genealogy software.

Setting goals is an important part of being organized when doing genealogical research. If you don’t know where you are headed, you may find yourself running in circles. If you are brand new to this process, I would recommend that one of your goals be to subscribe to a good basic genealogy magazine. Also, you should consider looking at sites such as Ancestry and Family Search to see what they offer for learning programs. Along with these two items, you need to select some specific research goals, such as finding out what your great grandmother’s maiden name was or locating a newspaper article of your grandparents wedding. Make the goals fun and measurable. This will keep you on track.

All of us regularly use such sites as Ancestry, Family Search and Find My Past. However, there are hundreds of other web sites that we may use from time to time. I have over time wracked my brain trying to remember the web address or name of these sites. An easy way to find the sites that we use less often is to “bookmark” them. When you have a site open that you wish to bookmark, go to the right side of the banner and click on the 3 small dots. When it drops down click on the bookmark selection then click on the choice “bookmark this tab”. It will come up with a choice of where you want to place the bookmark. It will also offer a choice of create a new folder. You will want to create a folder called Genealogy. Now you can place your less used sites into this folder and bring them up whenever you need to.

Naming Your Files carefully is critical to being able to find them at a later time. You should be consistent and strive to make them as short as possible. You may wish to start with a surname, first name, date and perhaps a topic such as birth or reunion or obituary. One problem that you may encounter is having a photo or document that includes more than one person. In this case you need to decide which person is most important to your records. An excellent resource for more detail on this specific topic is Drew Smith’s book titled Organize Your Genealogy.

Prior to saving documents and files, you should create a folder in word. I have titled mine Genealogy. I know, I know very creative and unique. I then created sub-folders using the various surnames in the family. You can create sub-folders in the subfolders if you have a variety of documents. I might suggest census, birth records, death records, family stories, etc. This should allow you to quickly get to the correct document.

Finally, a few words on maintaining your genealogy software. There are several software programs available to save your work in. If indeed you use one of these programs, take the time to really learn how to use it. Then keep up with the suggestions provided for each program. I use Family Tree Maker, and have it synced with my Ancestry Trees. I try to sync it every time that I work in either Family Tree Maker or in Ancestry. I also use the global spell check and resolve all Place Names. This saves a great deal of time when you wish to print reports from your research. I would also suggest using the task list that is available in some of the software programs as this will keep you focused on the goals that you have set.

For those of you who want a more detailed program on Organization might want to attend our Genealogy Conference on April 25th . We will be offering 16 classes including Organization. The Web Site is

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to and visit Janet’s own web page.