How Genealogy Checklists Will Improve Your Research
Let’s talk about some of the printable genealogy tools you’re using to find your ancestors. Specifically, genealogy checklists. How many do you have in your toolbox and are you actually using them?
Now, checklists may seem like a tool only for organised souls. But that’s not the case at all. In fact, it’s more like having a personal assistant to remind you of every task you have to do.
A few years ago, I didn’t think genealogy checklists were particularly useful. Why? Because I felt that I was keeping everything straight in my head. And I was, for a little while.
But as my discoveries started adding up, so did the number of ancestors I had to track. Suddenly I wasn’t keeping them straight anymore, nor was I ready to concede defeat. I ignored the problem until I discovered I had two or three copies of the same record. And four birth certificates for Mum’s paternal grandfather. Four! The first was a gift, but I still purchased three after that. Crazy, right?
I’d heard that genealogy was an expensive hobby, but this was ridiculous! It was time to get serious about tracking my progress. Preferably in a way that didn’t rely on my less-than-reliable memory. Voila! Version one of Ultimate All-In-One worksheet came to be.
These days I’m a checklist convert as they’re such a useful and versatile tool. So today I’m here to share the what for’s and how-to’s so it can become one of your favourites too.
Let’s dive in.
What is a checklist?
I mentioned to-do lists earlier, and you are probably already using one. After all, a checklist is:
“A list of items required, things to be done, or points to be considered, used as a reminder.”Lexico.com (powered by the Oxford Dictionary)
It works the same, whether it’s your shopping list or to find your ancestors.
Using checklists in your research
Even if you aren’t buying copies of records that you already have, checklists are still a great idea. They will add value as
- reminder to ensure you don’t forget any tasks or steps
- way to track your progress in genealogy projects
- guide to keep you consistent in your processes
- time-saver so you don’t need to think about what the next task or action has to be
That sounds incredible, who wouldn’t want that kind of help?
Where to look for genealogy checklists?
Now that you’re keen to experiment with genealogy checklists, where can you find some?
Full transparency here – useful genealogy checklists are hard to find. It’s because your family history research is as unique as your ancestors are. Where you search, the records you investigate and the results you get. You can travel the world in an afternoon as you track your elusive ancestors. And it’s why I create the checklists that I use in my research processes.
However, there are a few ‘off-the-shelf’ options to use as a starting point. You can find these at:
- Art of Family History / Fuzzy Ink Stationery
- Abundant Genealogy
- Cyndi’s List
- BFM Research: Genealogy Training and Education
- Midwest Genealogy Center
- The Sunburned Penguin
Creating your own genealogy checklists
If you can’t find an option that works for your research, then you can always generate genealogy checklists of your own. You can create lists to remind you of:
- the types of records to search for
- databases or record depositories to search in
- your standard research processes for each ancestor
- goal setting and tracking
- research session tasks and actions
And get location-specific where it will help and create different checklists for each country or region.
Save yourself from rabbit holes by creating a project checklist of tasks. This reduces the risk of switching ancestors and ending up generations from where you started.
Checklists are versatile, customisable and will save you time. Using them has saved me a bunch of money! You’ll also reduce decision fatigue by removing the questions:
- what do I do
- where do I look next
Spend that time creating theories about your ancestors’ life instead.
Genealogy checklists also mean you’ll be speeding through repetitive tasks. Why? Because you’ll spend less time debating what to do next. Or putting it off because you don’t enjoy doing it. That means you can spend more time on the fun part of family history research!
Standardizing research processes doesn’t mean you can’t ‘think outside the box’ but makes it easier to do so.
Nor do your checklists have to be set in stone. As your research techniques and technology change, then your checklists can too. Regular review your rolls and adapt to suit your style and the ancestors you are chasing.