Make more time for genealogy research with searchable screenshots and resources

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Categories | Genealogy, Productivity, Researching

Fuzzy Ink Stationery researching tips – Make more time for genealogy research with searchable Screenshots & Resources. #genealogy #resources #toolbox #familyhistory

If you’ve been conducting genealogy research for some time, then you’ll know how quickly the available resources are changing. With new databases and records becoming accessible every day, your genealogy research toolbox will be continually growing. There has never been more information available, nor has it been easier to access.

My researching adventure began in 1992. One Sunday afternoon I went to the State Library equipped only with the names of my great-grandparents. Today, I wouldn’t need a trip to the library. There are multiple websites I can visit to get the same information that took an afternoon of microfilm wrangling. And it would be a lot faster too!

But in 1992 there only a few options, and that made choosing one easy. I had one resource that would give me the information I wanted. The births, deaths and marriages indexes on microfilm at the State Library. There weren’t a dozen different resources to distract me or other people’s family trees are filled with potentially unverified facts. If I went down the wrong track, then that was all on me.

Navigating the genealogy research minefield

Having so much information available online is overwhelming. It’s fantastic, it’s awesome, it’s incredible, but it’s still overwhelming. Even for someone with a little research experience, it’s easy to fall down the genealogy research rabbit hole. I’ve caught myself with 43 tabs open across three separate web browsers because I had to follow every clue.

Therefore, I started bookmarking everything. Great idea, right? The intention was there for sure. But all I ended up with was a time consuming click-to-view method of searching an overflowing list of bookmarks. Or the website made a change to their navigation and weeks of work was now a 404 error.

That’s why I started a two-step process to help cut through the distractions and cut back the time wastage. Fewer rabbit holes, more genealogy research time!

  1. Always screenshot everything of interest
  2. Create a checklist for every useful resource

Let me break down those two points and tell you my process.

Point 1: Always screenshot everything of interest

The key to using screenshots as a reference is that you need to make sure your images are searchable. Otherwise, it will be image-only where you have to open each file to find the one you want. If you have a research plan, then you could include the screenshot name in there as well.

My steps are to:

  • open a blank Google Slides document before I start researching. You will need a free Google account.
  • screenshot every potential find for future review and further research.
  • paste that it into the blank google slides document
  • add highlighting (see video below) and notes
  • give the file a common-sense name that contains the fields that you would use in search (e.g. names, dates, places)
  • download as a JPG
  • add the JPG to your research folder. I have a series of sub-folders to make them more useful. You might want to create a folder for each ancestor or have general folders such as births, deaths, education, etc.
  • then open a new, blank Google slide and start researching again!

Not sure how to screenshot your genealogy research?

The method will depend on your operating system, keyboard and other software on your computer. Some options are

  • SnagIt (or similar) screen capture software
  • Print Screen button on your keyboard

If you aren’t sure, head to your favourite search (e.g. Google) and run a search on [name of your operating system] how to screenshot.

My Google Slides screenshot process

Point 2: Create a checklist of every useful resource

With this list, you will want to be able to search and filter the data. I recommend using Google Sheets or Excel for this. Google Sheets is handy because it’s free.

For each new resource I find, I capture the following information on my spreadsheet:

  • Date of search
    You’ll want to update this over time because available information and website addresses can change.
  • Website / database name
    If the URL doesn’t work, then you can always conduct a Google (or similar) search with this information
  • Information specific to City / State / Country
    The primary column where you will want to filter the information. Filtering the data (see video below) will enable you to check the resources you’ve previously used for that specific area.
  • Years covered
    The range of dates or years that you can find information on in this database
  • Index only?
    Type a Y for Yes or an N for No. Then tell at a glance if this is an index only or the actual records themselves
  • Paid or Free?
    Type P for Paid or F for Free. P or F field. Then you can see at a glance if a subscription is required to access the information
  • Website URL
    Pasting in the URL from the address bar will create a hyperlink that you can click on later.

Add the broader site address rather than record specific URLs because they are the least likely to change.

Preview of the Google Sheets resource

Click the download link in the sidebar to make a copy of the spreadsheet and start building a database of your frequently used resources.

10 Responses to “Make more time for genealogy research with searchable screenshots and resources”

  1. John Hannigan says:

    If you use Evernote or OneNote you can put your screenshot into there with an extension in your browser. This makes a quick and easy way to send the information for reference.
    I had not thought of this before but think it is a good idea.
    Also, there are templates for both Evernote and OneNote to use as a research log. Unfortunately, like the screenshot, I have not followed the example.
    These are good suggestions to be resolutions for 2020 so that we can see our research with clear vision.

  2. Where were you 40 years ago when I started.
    Your tips would have made things much easier and saved me frustrating hours of fumbling thru.

  3. Sherry says:

    Hi, I already receive your newsletter, but I would like to get the freebies, you are offering. Build your own toolbox & spreadsheets, etc.

    If I do this now, I will get double newsletters, which isn’t necessary.

  4. Maggie says:

    John Hannigan,
    I see what you did there!

  5. Anne Dixon says:

    Thank you. This is really useful!!. Keeping track of everything is my biggest problem!

  6. Teresa says:

    I use a similar process. though screencap to Windows Paint or to PhotoPad.

    My resources I save to Zotero 🙂

    I’d love to use a spreadsheet, but know from experience that I’m rubbish at actually following through on filling it in. I get so excited while researching and always forget…

    • Prudence says:

      Hey Teresa, thanks for sharing. It’s great that you know your strengths and you’ve developed processes to play to them. I’m not familiar with Zotero so will check it out!

  7. kayleigh says:

    Hi iam glad you emailed when you did .. iam been getting swept down the rabbit hole.. and everytime I go on twitter to ask for help the ladies on their always seam to be pre occupied….. I got my results back few days ago I wasn’t expecting the results I got…7.680 related people share dna with me and theirs 2.692 in America really need that tracking log so thank you x

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