26 June 2018

How to Tame Your Jumble of Genealogy Leads

As time passes, you'll find you have more genealogy leads than you can follow. More irons in the fire than you can tend to.

It's getting to be overwhelming, right?

Hold on a sec. Take a breath and think about why you're researching your family tree. If you expect to reach the finish line one day, take a look around you. Genealogy hobbyists work on their trees for the rest of their lives.

And we love that!

Don't let the amount of leads—or the amount of brick walls—stop you from loving this hobby. It's the searching, the leads, and the discoveries that give us the joy. Every step of the process IS the fun.

A well-organized email collection will help you follow genealogy leads.
A well-organized email collection
will help you follow genealogy leads.

Now that you've got your attitude adjusted, let's get busy managing all those leads.

If you've loaded your tree on any public genealogy website, and if you've got your DNA results out there, too. You're going to have people contacting you.

People are contacting me in two ways: messaging me on Ancestry.com and emailing me.

When I exchange messages on Ancestry, we typically move the conversation to email so we can share files.

My emailbox becomes my storehouse of genealogy leads. The key is to organize your email.

Manage Your Files Logically

I have email in my Microsoft Outlook file going back as far as the year 2000. If I might need something again, I put it in a folder.

I have a genealogy folder. Within that are folders for my ancestral hometowns: Baselice, Colle Sannita, Pastene. Within the town folders are folders for last names from the town. And within those folders are emails from people with a connection to that name.

If sorting by town of origin doesn't work for you, sorting by the family name may be better.

The important part is, if you've saved your email conversations, you can return to them when you're ready to do the research. You can search your email at your genealogy folder level and find that conversation from a few years ago.

Keep your genealogy leads organized.
Keep your genealogy leads organized. And keep on keeping them.

As of this moment, workers are uploading vital records from my "missing" ancestral hometown of Santa Paolina. Hurray!! I've already downloaded (find out how you can do this, too) and started processing the records from 1809–1865. I'm eagerly awaiting the post-1865 files.

Now that I'm able to document that one branch of my family I couldn't get to before, it's time to go back to my email folders. It's time to reconnect with my leads for that portion of my family tree. And because I'm so ridiculously organized, I can find those leads in a heartbeat.

If you're an office worker in the business world, you're used to organizing your email. You need to be able to find what you need when you need it.

But are you being that efficient with your genealogy email? Isn't it time to tame all those messages to make them usable?

P.S. If you've got leads with no email trail, either:
  • create a series of genealogy folders on your computer, each containing a simple text file with necessary information, or
  • create one text or Word document with all the notes.
It's easy to search for anything when you've got it typed out and on your computer.

Don't let those once-hot leads slip away from you!

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