Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Becoming A Serious Source Collector

I have been on the road much this holiday season, and haven't been posting as regularly as I normally do. But I am taking a bit of time this Christmas Eve to set the stage for a big post I will be making in 2020 about how I collect sources and stay organized.

The more serious you become about genealogy, the more time you're going to spend gathering and organizing source materials. As I said in an early post here, increasingly you will become a collector of sources as much as, if not more than, a collector of names. Once you're tracking vital, military, census, and many other kinds of records for even a handful of ancestors, you'll discover that all of the documents etc. can overwhelm you in a hurry. Unless you have a good system that works for you and can manage your amassed resources, your research will become paralyzed by inefficiency. 

I use a combination of spreadsheets and cloud storage services (backed up, of course!) to manage my ever-increasing body of images and documents. My organization systems for these tools let me know, at a moment's glance, which records I have for which people and where they're stored. There are many days when I spend much more time maintaining my lists than I do working on my family tree. But if you're serious about genealogy, this "scaffolding" isn't just necessary work, it's crucial to the health of your research. 

Every serious genealogist is also something of a private archivist. Your family tree is rooted in faulty soil if it isn't buttressed by a well-curated library of sources and other items.

So, when I get back into the swing of things after New Year's Day, I will be describing my personal system of organization. I call it my "Genealogical Switchboard." It may work for you, and it may not. There are many methods of research organization, as well as books devoted to them. There is no one right way. You may even find some weaknesses in my method, and I am open to criticism.

So, stay tuned for my next post in a little over one week from now. And Happy Holidays!


  1. Looking forward to reading these posts! And yes, despite the fact it can be boring, organizing and maintaining our sources/citations is just as important as finding new leaves for our tree. Happy Holidays!!

    1. Thank you very much! Happy Holidays to you, too!