Organizing Your Genealogy Research

Interview with

Janine Adams of Organize Your Family HistoryWhether you’re just starting your genealogy research or you’ve been at it for years, you will come to know one incredibly important truth: you need to stay organized. As you dive deeper and deeper into your family history and begin to build your family tree, you’ll only be more inundated with family photos, documents, heirlooms, notes, letters, licenses, etc. The list really goes on and on.

So as you start moving along, you might need some help in staying organized with your genealogy research. That’s where Janine Adams and Organize Your Family History comes in.

Adams is a professional organizer and amateur genealogist, and decided to start Organize Your Family History as a way to share her discoveries and explorations – along with her organizing challenges and solutions – when it comes to family history research and building her own family tree. By sharing her own experiences, Adams hopes to help others avoid becoming overwhelmed and paralyzed in their genealogy research by providing tips on staying focused and having fun.

Organizing Your Genealogy Research – Interview with Janine Adams

Crestleaf: Can you tell us a little bit more about how you got started with, and why you created the site?

JA: I’m a professional organizer and enjoy genealogy as a hobby. For me, keeping my genealogy information organized is critical (and fun). But I understand from talking with people that keeping their family history research organized is a huge challenge. So I started Organize Your Family History to help those folks. Blogging about it also helps me make my own genealogy research a priority. I ultimately want to help people one-on-one with organizing their genealogy research.

Crestleaf: What are some of your most popular services that amateur and professional genealogists order from you and why?

JA: I actually have more blog readers than genealogy clients at this point. I do work with local clients who have inherited family keepsakes that they want help organizing and storing safely. Sometimes inherited items can feel like such a burden to people. They know they’re precious, but they don’t know how to deal with them. So they end up not dealing with them at all, which of course does not help preserve them!

Crestleaf: Everyone hits a brick wall in their genealogy research, but what is the biggest brick people hit in organizing their research? How have you helped them?

JA: I think that people tend to let things pile up and then they get overwhelmed. If they’re printing or copying paper documents and fail to put them in the appropriate file or binder, then the paper piles up and the mess becomes really challenging. A cluttered hard drive is also problematic, but a computer’s search function makes it easier to find specific documents in a messy environment. In my blog, I encourage readers to work a little at a time on organizing their research. I also encourage folks to consider not printing everything but rather store documents electronically (and be sure to back up). I’ve moved toward less paper in my genealogy life, which has made my research more easily accessible and portable.

Crestleaf: Do you offer any tools or guides on your site to help someone getting started with a more organized research process?

JA: I’m working on a downloadable kit right now to help people get started organizing their research, but it’s not yet available. I do have a couple free printables designed to make life a little easier for the genealogist: a records index form and a little chart showing which census was which by the ordinal number. I’m also working on a free genealogy task list form that I’ll be adding to my website before the end of the year. (The printables are available via the Printables tab on the website.)

Crestleaf: As an amateur genealogist, what are you currently researching?

JA: I’m working my way back in my family tree, being careful to source everything well. Evaluating each fact is slow going, but ultimately very rewarding. This year, I divided the year into quarters and have been focusing on one grandparent’s surname per quarter. That’s been an interesting experiment; I think I’ll repeat it next year. I’ve also managed to get away from my desk this year and have been to four research libraries and taken a cemetery trip. Those efforts were very rewarding.

Crestleaf: What is the best piece of advice you have for anyone currently struggling with an unorganized research process?

JA: Figure out how you want to organize your research (contact me if you need help doing that) and implement the system from this point forward. Don’t feel like you have to tackle your backlog first. Instead, set up your system and use it for new documents and then take 15 minutes out of every research session to chip away at your backlog. Also, keep your system as simple and easy to maintain as possible.

Crestleaf: What do you like most about helping others organize their research?

JA: I love helping my organizing clients (genealogy or otherwise) transform their lives. Becoming more organized makes life easier. If you can get rid of excess (which in the world of genealogy research probably means duplicates and leads that turned out to be false) and you’re able to easily put your hands on what you have, your life is easier. And so is your genealogy research. I love helping people gain that ease. Plus, I’m fascinated with old stuff, so I adore looking at other people’s old records and keepsakes.

For more organization tips, be sure to follow Janine on Twitter as well.