Being More Efficient In Your Genealogy Research

Does this look like your genealogy research? A jumbled mess of document photos you took years ago?

Unfortunately, this is a screenshot of my computer from my trip to the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City, Utah in February 2019. It’s been almost 5 years and I still haven’t processed these documents! If this is you, too, it’s time to tackle this mess one piece at a time.

I love that the FamilySearch Library allows you to take pictures. That certainly saved my bacon in this instance. If the repository you visit doesn’t allow that, make sure to write down all the information you need…before you leave.

I did take photos of the copyright and title pages so I could have a proper citation.

Let’s say I just got home from the library and I’m now ready to process what I found. I was looking for the marriage of my 3x great-grandparents Edwin Dennis and Sarah Rock.

I found the date in transcriptions from the Botetourt County, Virginia Register of Marriages. By the way, Botetourt is pronounced bot-a-tot. They were married on 6 July 1846. Sarah’s father is listed as Thomas Rock.

I downloaded this image to my computer. I love Cyndi Ingle’s way of organizing my digital files, so I find their folder and add the document to it. If you have a Legacy Family Tree Webinar subscription (best bang for your genealogy buck), you can listen to her explain this process here. Cyndi is the creator of the website Cyndi’s List, a wonderful site packed with all sorts of information.

I can’t leave it with that awful computer name, so it gets renamed immediately. My naming protocol is pretty easy: name(s), date, record, place, other info.

So, their digital file name would look like this: Dennis, Edwin and Sarah Rock – 1846 – Marriage – Botetourt County, Virginia. Whatever naming protocol you use, just be consistent.

I then analyze what I’ve found and add it to my genealogy research software program. I use Legacy (which I love!), but if you’re a RootsMagic or Family Tree Maker person, add it there.

Before now, I haven’t added any information to their profiles regarding their marriage – that section is still blank:

I won’t go through the steps for adding a marriage record in Legacy in this blog post, but afterward, their profiles now look like this:

Legacy software is amazing at putting citations together. It follows the book, Evidence Explained, by Elizabeth Shown Mills. This is what the citation looks like:

Vogt, John and T. William Kethley, Jr., Botetourt County Marriages, 1770-1853 (Atlanta, Georgia: Iberian Publishing Co., 1987), 2: 548, Sarah Rock and Edwin H. Dennis, 6 Jul 1846.

Without gathering the copyright and title pages when I found the source, I would be lost to have a proper citation now. All that’s left is to add this information to your trees on,, or wherever you have your online family tree.

To summarize a short but effective way to process the genealogy research documents you find:

  1. Download the image to the appropriate folder on your computer.
  2. Rename the image with your consistent naming protocol.
  3. Analyze all the information that’s included in the document. This phase could also include an abstract or transcription for when you write up your research.
  4. Add to your genealogy research software and attach source citations to each fact.

It took me longer to write this blog post than it did to actually process this document!

Processing documents as soon as you find them will make the most of your research efforts. It’s essential to follow a systematic digital workflow. By examining, digitizing, organizing, and documenting your findings, you can efficiently manage the documents you discover.

If you would like help finding your ancestors, I’d love to chat with you. Just click the button below to get the conversation started!

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