Sunday, April 10, 2011

Getting Started: Gather Your Tools.

In the 20 years I've been compiling my family history I've stopped and started from scratch many times. I've called my mother numerous times for the same addresses and phone numbers to contact the same people for the same information. It was getting embarrassing!

About four years ago I had a vision for a way to display a four-generation pedigree within some artwork. That was fun because I love to draw and to paint. All of a sudden I wanted to do other people's genealogy so I could put it in the artwork. But everyone I met was having trouble getting their stuff organized and keeping it in order so that they could get their four generations completed.

 That led me to create a system to help others because I was motivated to have a finished product to hang on the wall. So, for two years I've been working out the kinks of My Family Files, a filing system in a box, and the accompanying My Family Files Worksheet.
My Family Files stands for:

My Family Find them
                             Investigate them
                   Link them
                     Enjoy them
                     Share them

I've learned that the most important thing in family history research is to start right. Begin with the right tools and you'll be able to work at your own pace whenever the mood or need strikes and to do so without the typical frustration that accompanies chaos. Take a few days to complete the following list. Use what you have around the house to make your own system, or follow links to download my printable charts ( from your flash drive at Staples for $1.99), get instructions to make your own box, or email me to make a My Family Files box for you.

The List

1. Get a box. Put copies of all the documents you can find pertaining to your ancestors. Originals should go in a safety deposit box or a fire proof box in your house.

2. Get a box for 6 hanging files and 16 manila files labeled 1, 2/3, 4/5, 6/7, etc. to 30/31. One hanging folder for each generation, one manila folder for each family group. Center tabs for 1st and 2nd generation, right tabs for mother's side, left tabs for father's (see the pictures in the link of instructions if you're confused).

3. Purchase a small address book just for names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of your living relative. Get some notepaper, envelopes and stamps. A lot of older people would rather correspond by mail. Include self-addressed stamped envelopes to ensure responses.

4. Choose an online genealogy website that allows you to build a tree, research and order original documents or view and print copies of them. You can use my for a month for free if you are curious.

5. Gather pedigree and family group worksheets (free at

My Stuff


4. 4-Generation Wall Art ("Morning Glories")
( this is a $1.99 copy of an 18x24" original which you can download for free with the Worksheet.
There are 3 to choose from. See the Free Downloads.
Take your flash drive to Staples and the'll print them on large white architectural-type paper.
I do originals to order. The price depends on the time and detail work involved.

Please do whatever it takes to start right! Don't skip any steps. Keep everything in one place. Email me with any questions or leave a suggestion in the comment box. If you want to talk on the phone email me at and I'll give you my telephone number. 

Coming soon:

Let's Get Started: One Family At a Time

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