Trying to organize genealogical leads is like trying to herd cats! There are so many things to track, but not just that, you have to go over and over where you have already tread. To make matters just a bit more complicated, there are hundreds of duplicate names, periods of inactivity, and an ever-expanding amount of information. The goal is to go back to sources, but not to go back to sources and redo the same steps as before with the same surnames or individuals.
This is something new I have developed, so I would love your feedback. It electronically mimics what I have been doing for many years in a paper/pencil format. My paper/pencil approach has a new page for each site and I regularly add to it. The advantage electronically is that it is searchable, sortable, easily backed up, and easily transported.
I have a list of sites that I visit regularly.Although I have listed Ancestry, here, I do not actually note all of the times I go to that site. Ancestry has a great tracking system for new information with the leaves, hints, and emails.. But the other sites listed here are a sample of what I am constantly trolling. As new sites come up, I add them to the list, even if I don’t get to them for awhile. It keeps track of my “new leads”, too.
The columns of the table are for the 16 common surnames. You can add more (or less). I have color-coded blue for my dad’s family and pink for my mom’s family. This chart is an Excel spreadsheet. I saved it as an older format to make it accessible to earlier versions of the program. If you want to try it, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will email the file to you. I promise not to pass on your information and add spam to your life!
Here is a sample of what it could look like. I have added in the surnames for my parents, grandparents, and so on for both my mom and dad. There are more names in pink, but you will have to imagine the chart extending.
There are two ways that I envision this chart being used. One method could just be to insert the date for the last time you searched there. Just deleting the old date and adding the new would keep the chart smaller. What I prefer is tracking all of the times I have been there, and even more about who/what I found. If you have worked with a spreadsheet before, you know sometimes the formatting can be tricky. I have set the row to expand with the content. Otherwise data would be covered up. Also, I use “line breaks” within each cell just for readability. To insert a line break in a cell (see the yellow circled area below), use ALT +Enter. If you decide you want to track more than just dates that you have visited a site, then you can add more information. See the orange circle below for a sample of that. I used Find a Grave as my sample. It’s the kind of site that once you have located someone, you don’t need to go back to relocate them again. You might want to go back time-to-time to see if there are new people added to that same cemetery, or new information added to a person, but in general… once you found them, you found them. So, for Find A Grave, I list each person by name as they are located. For those duplicated names, you can add dates to keep yourself straight. Just this week I noticed on Ancestry that Find a Grave is coming up under “new hints”, so perhaps I won’t need to track this the way I have been. Let me know if you would like to try this chart. It’s free… and we all know genealogists LOVE to hear that!