My cousins notebook

One of my organizational tips is for everything to have a place… no more sticky notes and scraps of paper. For genealogy, I have something that I affectionately call my “cousins notebook.” 02_malibu journal refill pages

It looks like this… it is a portable notebook from Daytimer called the Malibu refillable journal. There is a lined page version and a plain page version. But any notebook will do!

01_malibu planner







There are many types of lists and contacts housed in this notebook. When I see a website, hear a speaker, or receive an email about something new, I track helpful websites, particularly if I have to wait to look at it and find it later.



09_helpful tips

I keep track of newly found cousins. I note which line of the family, Ancestry user name, family tree name, and I also track here whether I have shared my private family tree with them. I keep track of DNA matches as well.

12_dna matches_redacted 11_cousins correspond and invite to tree_redacted

Sometimes I find family trees that I want to look at later, so I note that.

10_helpful family trees_redacted


In addition to the hand-written notes to myself, I also have some lists that I use and update. I have a list for each person who has been DNA-tested. I have a ready-made copy and paste list of surnames for when I correspond with DNA matches.





07_list of surnames to paste into DNA messages

Something that I track in this notebook are the names that have “google alerts” set for surnames and the surname message boards that I have added to my aggregator, Feedly. If you need more information about Feedly, I have other posts about how to use it and set it up to streamline your genealogy sources, blogs, and surname message boards.

06_google alert list and family surname message boards in feedly

I have a list of the maps that I have collected for my research trips (and the ones I want to collect next).

05_list of maps

If you belong to RootsWeb groups, this notebook is a great place to track which groups are feeding into your email. I also update this list occasionally, removing groups that aren’t active anymore and adding new groups as my search expands.

04_rootsweb yahoo groups

The final list that I track and update in my cousins notebook is my society memberships, the cost, and the renewal dates.

03_genealogical society memberships


One of the best ways to clear your desk is to have a “go to” place for those notes and scraps of paper! Get a notebook and get organized!!

Optimizing browser usage for genealogy

People often ask me which browsers I use for genealogy. For quite a few years, my go-to browsers have been Firefox, Opera, and Chrome. I use all three for genealogy. And I use them for different purposes.

Firefox is a browser that I use for viewing my family tree at I check Ancestry messages and DNA matches using Firefox. And I also have tabs for my frequently used databases or web sites.


One thing I have learned using Firefox is that it helps to alter a couple of settings. Under “options” and General Settings, I first chose for Firefox to start showing the same windows and tabs from last time. I also chose for Firefox to open a new window in a new tab. This helps me with my genealogical research. I don’t have to retrace my steps or back my way out of Ancestry’s site. If there happens to be an update to Firefox, there is an option to “restore” the last session as soon as it reloads. So, all of my tabs and web sites are still there.


Opera has some wonderful tools that are useful for genealogy.


Speed dial is one of my favorite things! When you open Opera, the speed dial opens and you can keep your commonly used sites here.



You can add new pages to your speed dial. And you can change the settings to view as many tiles as you want.

If you have other hobbies or work uses, you can rearrange the tiles in a way that collections of items are grouped together or groups of tiles are in a “folder.”



A folder can contain many similar items. You can arrange, rearrange, and fix folders in any way that you want.

In order to combine two items into a folder, drag one over the top of another, and a folder will appear.

In order to change the name of the folder, right click on the folder. A menu appears that will allow you to


change the name.









I use Google Chrome for many genealogical needs. The best thing about Google Chrome is the easy use and availability of Google Docs and Google Sheets and other office software. So, if you want to use a spreadsheet or document, particularly if you want to collaborate with cousins, Google docs are terrific.

chrome icon

And you can “pin” the documents to the browser, so opening and closing Chrome doesn’t disrupt what you are working on and logged into. If you right click on the tab, you can choose to pin it to the starting of the browser.


You can pin all sorts of sites to the toolbar. If you have genealogy sites that you look at often, pin them. And the other “quick use” I have found… if I am reading an email or see a link on Facebook, and I open it, I don’t have to read it right away. I can pin it, wait to read it without losing it, and then unpin it if I don’t need it anymore.


I meet many people who use Internet Explorer for everything. And it’s a good browser, but don’t limit your options. Give one of these others a try!

Retread, retread, retread

One of the most difficult things to keep track of in your genealogical search is where have I been? what did I find? and how often do I need to go back?

I was talking to a cousin this weekend about her “brick wall”. We were batting around ideas about how to locate a rather scandalous and infamous ancestor who was lynched in 1860 for a murder. We were talking about newspaper records. One thing I suggested to her was the old standby… Find a Grave.  Sometimes cemeteries feature their famous burials. Most of us have used it at one point or another. I suggested that she look at that site, but keep going back. There are new things added all the time.

As I wrapped up the discussion with my newly found cousin, I decided that I needed to follow my own advice. I needed to retread some ground that I had already covered. I had been searching for my third great grandfather, John W Reed and a wife that I thought was nicknamed Fannie. I had seen his birth year in the family Bible. And the Bible said he had been born in Baltimore. I went to Find a Grave. I searched for John Reed in Ohio, as I had done many times before. Of course, there are thousands. But I focused in on a county by county search. And I found him!

John W Reed








And, I found his wife, and 18 other people buried there. Just retreading through sites that I have been through before, broke down that brick wall. And after a trip to the cemetery, and the library to search city directories, I found the house where my great great great grandfather used to live. And I found the location where the family grocery store used to be.

Don’t forget to go back and retread… I am working on developing an electronic tracking method just for this purpose. I will share soon (when I finish it).