Week Seven

The Notebooks

How Many? and Why?

We have so far covered the organization of your filing cabinets, as well as what to do with the various bits of your incoming email. There remains another area for organization though; as impossible as that might seem.

The use of notebooks, how many should you have, how to break them down and why you would need them.

Many researchers with the advent of the genealogical family files for the computer; have simply forgotten about the old-fashioned three ring notebooks. I give you the fact that the computer has been a tremendous boon to the researcher, but the value of notebooks must not be forgotten either. Notebooks are a darn sight more convenient to carry into a library or a cemetery! Using the three ring binder type allows the ability to remove items and insert them in just the right areas. How many should you have? and what do you use them for? These must be based on YOUR OWN PERSONAL RESEARCH and needs. I will however in this week's installment give a brief rundown of what I consider a good sprinkling of the variety you should maintain.

(Something to mention in using the paper notebook systems, I ALWAYS use pencil in filling in my data if there is the slightest question as to the accuracy of it, I can always change it later)


This notebook should contain the printed pedigree forms filled out according to your family. It will give you a good overview of the family layout when you are out "in the field" researching. I periodically look through mine to find out just where my "gaps" lie and what data I still need to obtain; the data can be viewed at one time without the need to switch from screen to screen. Depending on the quantity or vastness of your research, you may only need the one pedigree file notebook simply divided into two sections; 1. Your maternal side; 2. Your paternal side. However, If your research is anything like mine, (I research my own families as well as my husbands) you may wish to have 3 notebooks- 1. Your paternal side; 2. Your maternal side; 3. Your spouse's side. In this way you can keep them separate and a little more orderly.


This notebook should be divided by the individual family surnames and contain one family chart sheet for each family. These chart sheets list parents, children, spouses and all pertaining dates and places. Again, they are very easy to carry to a library and give a good overview of what is needed/lacking in your data. I should mention again, depending on the vastness of your research, a separate notebook for your spouse's surnames may come in handy.


I really love the concept of this type of notebook; personally I have never been able to achieve this level of organization for myself. These notebooks are used to keep a running record of just whom you have corresponded with regarding what ancestor or surname as well as what date and how long the answer took to receive. Records are kept as to the question asked and when, the answer received or what data you may have given that person. This assists you in not repeating a query to the same person, it also reminds you of just how much you may have give to someone else; or it can keep a record of email addresses of different researchers for a given surname.


I may be the only person who uses this type of notebook, but I find that they come in very handy for keeping items centrally located. The also serve well for those of us who find that their file cabinet drawers DO have a limit in capacity.

I seem to have just endless quantities of paper data that confine to one geographic area or another. This data may be church, marriage, history book portions, etc. Basically paper items that I don't want to take up space in the file cabinet, but I don't want to throw away either. Many of my surnames are of course in the Morgan or Owen County areas of Indiana; I do have a vast amount of information from North Carolina as well. For those things I keep a notebook on the geographic area. I can easily lay my hands on an area of search when looking for the church that my ancestor may have attended in North Carolina as it is in one place. I am not saying to keep a notebook for EACH and every area, just the few main ones that everyone has. The data is NOT surname sorted, but rather based on category/type of records.


I believe that this is my favorite type of notebook of the ones that I maintain.

It is made up or exactly what it says; a library of genealogy tips. This notebook is divided into some basic sections of "how-tos" in researching such as information on Native American research or what can be found in probate records or what the probate process actually is. One section is used for simply translations from the German language that I work with frequently in my research. Some of the articles come from Ancestry.com and others are just from a variety of different places. I call them my "help aids". For example: as mentioned I work in the German language area, this requires sometimes the typing of the names/places and the use of umlauts (those little dots above the letters) or some other form of specialty used in the German terminology. There are certain ways/codes to enter into your computer keyboard to allow you to type these symbols, I keep this data in my genealogy library help files.

Another area in this notebook that comes in handy is some very detailed or descriptive dialogues on the early immigration processes; just basically anything that I find handy or that I may need to refer to again. A mini-library to have on hand.


There may appear to be a lot presented here, but really there aren't that many.

I have actually purchased my notebooks only one time. I use the 1 inch thick variety and they are sold in office supplies stores as well as places like Walmart.

The key is to know WHEN to buy them. You want to purchase these during the "Back to School" season as they are normally very cheap at that time. I think I paid $1.00 each for mine and a couple of them were bought at 2 for $1.00. The beauty of the 3 ring binder notebooks is that you can simply change the category as your research dictates without buying a new one.

I must stress the importance of gearing your notebook usage to your own personal research. You may indeed find the need for other areas to be covered.

I should also point out that they come in very handy if your computer crashes or is in the shop; you don't have to stop your research or loose any data.