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How To Use FamilySearch If You Really Prefer Paper To Electronics

How To Use FamilySearch If You Really Prefer Paper To Electronics

I'm mostly a paper person. I mean, don't get me wrong, the digital age is AMAZING, and the resources we have at our finger tips (specifically in reference to genealogy in this context) are truly amazing. But I have SUCH a hard time keeping everything straight in my head as I click back and forth between different records in FamilySearch (or Ancestry). What's the solution? Use paper too... but be smart about it.

I once tried to print our my entire family tree from FamilySearch in group sheets. I think it works for some people. I mean, I got the idea seeing ladies with gigantic binders of genealogy 4 generations at a time. But it didn't work for me... it wasn't visual enough to give me the full picture.

This time around committing to genealogy, I've done something a little different. First off, we have our custom family tree print hanging on the wall that I use to ground myself in the big picture.

custom family tree print for home

Then I use computer paper, or even better, a large piece of IKEA roll paper to map out the specific family whose genealogy I'm fleshing out, and work on that sheet of paper until it gets too crowded.  I make sure that I have all the information I've found recorded in both Ancestry and FamilySearch, take a picture of it and then stick it with my genealogy stuff. In theory, I'll keep it, but if anything happens to it, no harm, no foul.

For me, the big advantage of this paper system is I know where I'm at, and where I'm going, and I can easily track my progress and be thorough and methodical about it, without getting lost in the weeds. There are a million ways to do genealogy, but here's the paper outlining technique that works best for me:

  1. Decide what area of my genealogy I'd like to work on.
  2. Outline what I know (or think I know) in pencil on a sheet of paper. Normally I start from what's in my FamilySeach tree for this, and write names as well as birth, death and marriage dates. Make sure to leave plenty of room for adding new information!
  3. Start searching for sources using Ancestry and/or FamilySearch! When I source something I make note of it (I've got a color system using marker dots!) on the paper and then try to immediately add it to FamilySearch and link it on Ancestry. When I find new names or spouses, as long as they're sourced, I add them in pen, along with the appropriate marker dots.

Here's my current working sheet, hanging on the inside of our coat closet for safe keeping. I have it taped such that I can pull it off to work on it, and then mount it back up to keep it out of the way in our tiny student apartment!

family history paper outline

And here's a close up of the color system! I'm using purple to represent a marriage record, red to represent a death record and green for if I've entered the information I've found (in Ancestry) into FamilySearch!

close up of family history paper worksheet

What's your favorite system for organizing your genealogy work? I'm always looking to improve mine and would love your suggestions!


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