One of the most common stumbling blocks new researchers come across, when they’re starting to look into their ancestry, is a lack of organisation.
 Some of us seem to be born organisers – we get a thrill from colour coding, and our diaries never leave our sides – whereas others barely keep track of the day of the week.
If you’re in the latter category, but still have a keen eye for family history, then do not panic. We’ve listed some of our top tips to help you keep your research manageable.
book store with antique books
Multiple logs

It might seem tempting to create one research log for all of the families that you’re investigating, but this will only hinder your progress. A research log should tell you which sources you’ve searched and which you haven’t, so having one for each family is your best bet for maintaining good records. This will allow you to see patterns within families, remind you of which sources you’ve checked, and let you resume research after a break.

Paper and digital

Make use of both paper records and digital ones, but also make sure you have all records in both forms. That means scanning in physical photographs, and printing out information found online. If you choose to upload pictures online to ancestry websites, this will also help others who are researching their family trees.


One folder should contain one family. Included in this folder should be a pedigree chart (if possible), maps of family settlement, a family group record, your research log for that specific family, and photocopies of source documents. Those last three are absolute essentials, and your research will soon fall apart without them.

Colour coding

You thought we were joking about colour coding, didn’t you? It really can help if you split your records up by coloured tabs, or if you highlight specific snippets of information via colour coding. Don’t forget to include a key, so that you and others can understand the method behind the system.

Getting organised will take time, so don’t be disheartened if your system isn’t perfect to begin with. If you’re investigating a lost inheritance or trying to trace a missing beneficiary, then seek support from a professional genealogist in an established company such as Fraser & Fraser. With years of experience, we’ll be able to lighten the research burden and efficiently uncover your family’s past.