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I'm Jennifer, and I'm an Occasional Genealogist... sort of. For over ten years I've been a professional genealogist. I started researching my own family nearly 30 years ago. Like many of you, I started as an Occasional Genealogist. I had to squeeze research in while in school and while working full-time. Then I got my first genealogy job and for awhile, it was genealogy all the time. Now I have two kids. I do other people's genealogy constantly but my own? Coming up with ways to do great genealogy, despite all the interruptions, is now mandatory.

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Genealogy Collections for Your Bullet Journal (a list of lists)

Yesterday I posted an infographic of genealogy lists you could create in a bullet journal or anywhere you like (infographic also included at the bottom of this post). I keep information like this either in Evernote or Trello depending on whether it is just a list or involves a process, respectively. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm trying to keep a single paper notebook so I don't have to open Evernote or Trello when an idea strikes.

I created the suggestions for the lists based on information I thought would do well in a list format. I think some of them might need a bit more explanation. I hope these short descriptions also help you think of other "lists" that could benefit your genealogy research.

Actionable Projects

I don't think this should be one list. The infographic shows "top," "easy," and "someday" as specific lists but you should group the projects in a way that makes sense for you. What's important is that you should list something that is somewhat specific. How specific probably depends on your list. For example, I would create a list of my "top projects." This would be the most burning genealogical problems I want to solve. I would list exactly what I want to know, regardless if I'm ready to work on that project or not.

So my number one project is "who are the parents of Rolin Patterson." [note: I've written elsewhere about creating goals, this is different so these statements aren't as specific.] I actually don't care if I only find his father or just his mother but this is supposed to be short and I know that (this list is for me). After that, I'm not sure I have a ranking but here are a few more of my "top projects" to give you an idea of how they vary: "can I prove Edward Williams is the father of Nancy (Williams) Patterson?" "Did Edward Williams serve in the Revolutionary War?" "Who are the parents of Emily Susan (Fowler) Miller?" I have a lot of "who are/is the parents/father/mother" questions.

I've also suggested a "someday project" list which might be the same as "top projects" for you. I was actually thinking of that as just a braindump to list projects when you just keep thinking of them (especially if you should be doing something else).

Conversely, I've suggested "easy projects." When you have some time (but not a lot of time) to research, you should grab a project from this list. These should be more than just tasks but will probably be a sub-project. Make your "easy" projects specific enough to take action on immediately. It's hard for me to give an example of these because they need to be easy because it's easy for you to access the necessary records (for me that would mean available entirely online or in my county or the county just north of me). An example would be, "where did Willis Lepard live between 1840 and 1860?" This involves several records so more than just a task. This isn't a burning question but I know it's an important step towards finding/verifying his father. If I know records exist that aren't "easy," this project could be moved to a different list after I exhaust the easy resources (how about a list of projects that have written research plans?).

I don't think a list of projects like "maternal line" is really worth keeping. It can allow you to prioritize your interests but I'd call that an interest, not a project. It's just way too vague. These projects don't have to be your actionable goals but they do need to be specific enough to break down or work on, as appropriate.

Research Tasks

This should be pretty obvious. These need to be specific so you can pick one and do it. You can break these up however you want. It might be "Ancestry.com Tasks," "Bartow County U.S. GenWeb tasks," "local library tasks," "Georgia Archives tasks" "FHL/FHC tasks." I like that last one because if the list gets too long, I start planning a trip to Salt Lake City. A task should look like, "check the 1880 census for John Smith," or "check the 1880 Bartow County census for John Smith or his widow Mary." It should be one thing you are going to do (the first would rely on the search box, the second might use the search box and then you read page by page because he really should be in that county). Most likely once you do one task, you will create one or more new tasks (or a research plan).


You can break this up however you want. I've suggested a formal "education plan" and just "skills to improve" but it could be "blog posts to read," "books to read," "print articles to get," or "institutes to attend." There's a blank Trello template in the Resource Library to create an education plan. I see an Education Plan as having a process (so more than just a list). That's why I made the template in Trello. If you don't use Trello or want a paper plan/lists, you could easily recreate it in another format.

Places to Visit

These are fun lists. List places to research (repositories, towns, counties, countries) or places to visit because your family lived there (just to visit and see).

To Save For

There are lots of expenses in genealogy. Make a list of what you need to put money towards (all the other lists are really about "spending" time). You can take it farther and chart your progress towards saving for an item/trip/etc.
RELATED POST: Budgeting for Genealogy Part 2: Planning and Budgeting (and follow it with part 3)

Simple Questions

Sometimes you just come up with a question that doesn't belong somewhere else. Eventually you might find you need to create another kind of list. You might also record questions that don't belong on a list but belong in something you don't have time to pull out (like a research plan).

I think a collection of lists will be most useful with a cross reference system but I haven't decided how to keep one yet (numbered list with the reference being the journal page number and item number?). This should allow you to reference a task or project without having to write it out.

I see the advantage of having a collection of genealogy lists as having cues to quickly help you decide what to work on. This can turn into a list of citations. This might also be how you go from the "top project," to sub-projects, to defining the tasks, records to order, and trips you'll need to make.

There are parts of genealogy that can't be handled in a list or outline form, but there are many things that can. If you're a list maker, there's no reason you can't include genealogy lists.