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Organizing Your Genealogy Project

Ireland and Irish Emigration to the New World

If you are beginning to accumulate a fair amount of paper in the early stages of your research, it’s probably time to take stock of what you have and how you plan to organize it–even before you enter the information into a computer database–lest you start drowning in an ocean of paper. Our popular author, Bill Dollarhide, has formulated four simple rules for organizing notes and documents:

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  1. Use one size of paper for all note-taking—preferably standard 8 ½ x 11 sheets.
  2. Separate sheets by the surname of interest. If more than one surname is discussed, make additional copies for those families.
  3. Create a surname notebook to store the sheets, and divide the book into sections for the place of origin of the records.
  4. Give every sheet a number, so that you can make an index to the records.

Mr. Dollarhide develops each of these tips in detail in his popular book, Managing a Genealogical Project. Making excellent use of charts and tables, he goes on to explain the three main types of descendancy numbering systems for genealogy: the Register System, the Record System, and the Henry System. Mr. Dollarhide explains the pros and cons of each system and proposes his own technique for combining Ahnentafel numbering with the Henry System.

Managing a Genealogical Project also offers a number of other suggestions for organizing your family history data–with or without a computer. You learn how to solve the paper collection problem, how and how not to take notes, and what to do with your correspondence. One of the most important features of the book is the collection of “Master Forms” (relationship chart, research log, ancestor table, etc.), which you can photocopy over and over again, to enter and organize the information you gather by hand.

So, if you don’t know a database from first base and you are wondering how to pull it all together, Managing a Genealogical Project could be the perfect answer to your problems.


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In addition to Bill Dollarhide’s classic textbook, the following books also offer valuable ideas for organizing your genealogy project: