The beginning genealogists is confronted with a bewildering variety of options for organizing genealogical data. Of course, there are still the traditional paper-based forms and some well-meaning genealogists who are teaching beginners encourage their students to begin with filling out a paper pedigree and the accompanying family group records notwithstanding this is an entire waste of time. This is expecially true with young people who are already immersed in the world of electronic devices. This is especially true when websites such as FamilySearch.org have a free app versions of the Family Tree program that can be used to add people directly.
The Family Tree app is available for both iOS and Android devices and allows the beginner to add people directly to the online FamilySearch.org Family Tree and perform almost all the functions of the full online version of the program. The average youth will identify much faster with the online app than they will with paper and pencil.
But that still leaves open the issue of designating a main location for storing genealogical data. There are several options. Here are some of them:
- Paper-based filing system
- A stand-alone family tree program
- An online family tree database program
- A combination of two or more of these options
The genealogical workflow is sometimes referred to as the Research Cycle. Here is another copy of the cycle, I used in the first post in this series.
This popular diagram and all of its iterations is overly simplistic and in most cases, misleading as I previously indicated. In today's world, the researcher should take the following steps to ensure that the work done is not being duplicated and is preserved.
A. Begin the online survey of the current status of your family's genealogy by reviewing the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and also searching in several of the large online database programs. Two of the following programs, Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com, will automatically match those people you input into an online family tree with commonly related relatives in all of the other people in millions of other family trees on their websites. Both programs provide a way for the user to communicate directly with the relatives found for collaboration and provide automatic record hints to aid a newly established researcher the ability to rapidly grow a family tree in many instances.
There are also three very large online wiki-based programs that encourage collaboration by sharing a free, unified, shared family tree: FamilySearch.org, Geni.com and WikiTree.org. The advantage of using these types of programs as a primary repository for your genealogical research is that there is a much greater possiblity that you will avoid duplicating the work of others. Of course, there is also the option of using all these programs plus others such as Geneanet.org and Findmypast.com that also supply automatic record hints.
Taking on program for example, I have helped perhaps hundreds of people to add their initial family history information to MyHeritage.com. In almost all these cases, I have watched as the program's Instant Discoveries added numerous links to other users family trees who share relatives with the newly added family tree and at the same time help build the family tree with Record Matches to original genealogical data sources.
B. Using the search capabilities of one or all of these programs, add the information found to the invididuals in your family tree. Be sure to carefully evaluate each record hint to make sure it applies to your family member and also remember to copy any information you find in the record to the individual's entry in your family tree. If you decide to use a local, desktop database program, you should choose a program that connects directly to an online family tree and can share individual information and source citations directly to that online program. Four of these programs are:
Some genealogists prefer to have their own program on their own computer where they can record incomplete or sensitive information before it is shared online.
C. Continue adding carefully evaluated source records to your family tree. Once you have run out of automated record hints, you will need to begin the process of research records that are not automatically available. This is the point at which you will need to begin your education in genealogical research online. Of course, it is also possible that your might find the need for records that may apply to your family that are not yet digitzied and online. At this point, you are moving beyond the beginner's stage of the research process.
It is my experience that even experienced and seasoned researchers fail to take advantage of the huge number of records that are already online. Millions upon millions of new, genealogical valuable records are being added to the internet daily. Using the online programs that suggest automatic record hints helps to move the beginner along, sometimes dramatically. But if this does not seem to be the case with your particular situation, you may need to start learning how and where to find additional records about your family that are not so easily acquired.
So presently the process or workflow is as follows. I will use the FamilySearch.org Family Tree as an example.
First you add what information you know directly to the Family Tree. In some cases, if your ancestors have contributed information previously with FamilySearch or one of more of its predecessors, you may alreday have a substantial amount of information in the program before you even begin. In this case, you start by reviewing the information already available. Then you add in any new information supplied by the automated record hints. Then you begin adding information from the othre large online database programs after carefully evaluating it for sufficiency and applicability. You may also wish to contact any newly discovered family members for futher information. There is currently no reason to redo work done by others. But you should also be careful not to simply copy the work of others no matter how enticing that may be. You will at some point regret having added people willy-nilly to your family tree without carefule review and evaluation.
The workflow is from these online programs and their automated hints to your family tree.
Once you have estalished a family tree and added in all the automatically provided information, you are ready to move onto the next step.
Here are the posts in this series.