What are the tools and methods actually used by genealogists in their work?



I am under the impression that amateur genealogists, like most amateurs undergo a rite of passage before turning their hobby into a passion. One of these rites of passage is finding a tool that works for you. Possibly trying out a number of them along the way and then by and large sticking to it.

I am sure it is not all done at ancestry.com and stored in a cookie cutter software solution. But it can't all be done in physical filing cabinets or custom software either.

What are the tools and methods you as a genealogist are actually using to get the work done? And more importantly why? Are you happy with your current solution or do you think switching to a different system would be too costly (mainly in terms of time investment, loss of information etc.)?


Posted 2012-11-28T17:47:35.180

Reputation: 37

Question was closed 2012-12-03T01:06:06.773

2As currently phrased there is no real "right" answer to this question - at best it is soliciting a list and at worst it is actively inviting debate. I think you need find a way to rephrase it so that it is asking a single question that has a single answer. – TomH – 2012-11-28T18:09:06.357

1A "single answer" will not always be possible. Some answers are subjective, in which case you'll get a different one from each person. – ACProctor – 2012-11-28T18:26:42.593

That was probably badly phrased, but I do think the question falls in the category questions which "will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion" to quote the FAQ and/or is a "list" question – TomH – 2012-11-28T19:11:01.767

3Many interesting questions, but let's get specific. What is it you are trying to do? What problems have you encountered in your studies? You see, these types of open-discussion questions are not a great fit for *this* type of Q&A. It's better to ask very specific questions about problems you encounter in your day-to-day work. That's how this type of Q&A works... otherwise folks are only left guessing how they can help you. Questions soliciting debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion tend to get closed. Good luck in your studies and I hope you will try again. – Robert Cartaino – 2012-11-28T20:01:29.497


Would it be possible to re-stage your question in the context of an actual problem you face. For example, "I'm teaching a class on beginning genealogy. I'd like to recommend a solid set of beginning tools that really work. I'm thinking of ..." I've opened a meta discussion here: http://meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/1352/recast-what-are-the-tools-and-methods-or-is-it-fine-as-written

– GeneJ – 2012-11-28T21:39:10.613

1Your question is a little "overloaded" @user492 and so I understand the suggestions here about being more specific. Don't be disheartened though. We need lots of questions here so please ask as many more as you like - just remember to try and keep them focused since the site is for Q&A rather than discussion. I recommend we keep this question but keep the answers generic since I can imagine many newcomers wanting to ask the same sort of question(s). We certainly don't want to deter any one :-) – ACProctor – 2012-11-29T10:30:42.950



Every genealogist is a different case, and you'll likely get a different answer from each one. There are many software products out there, and many sources - some online but a huge number that aren't online too.

Regarding sources of information: we use as many as we possibly can, constrained only by our ability to travel and our finances. Yes, it can be an expensive hobby. :-)

Regarding software: A software product certainly makes life easier for maintaining your data (including photos and other artefacts) but it is not essential.

I worked for a long time recording my data in a semi-formal written style. When the time came to look at products, I realised that none could cope with the structure and content of my data, so I wrote my own. This is unusual and not recommended unless you're a software professional.

I do publish a subset of my data in an online tree, on genesreunited.co.uk. The reason for this is mainly to make contact with distant relatives. This particular site is very cheap and has a good working model for making contact.

If you want to ask about the actual research process, or method, then that's a huge subject that I will leave for someone else to attempt.


Posted 2012-11-28T17:47:35.180

Reputation: 5 762


I use many tools for my Genealogical purposes. First tool is my laptop, I have a home PC but only utilize my laptop for Genealogy. Second, My android phone, I'm answering this question with my android. I have many useful tools on both my media devices that I use daily. Apps on my phone are evernote, adobe flash player, blogger, ancestry, not to mention my online connectivity in most places. This all is paramount in my ancestral searches. Third tool is my offline records, I use dry-erase markers and dry-erase boards to plot my research and forms I've made on word or downloaded online. I keep my binders of women and men ; } with indexes for easy to reference findings. My photos are kept in black plastic accordian binders and labled as well as seperated to preserve them. My photos are indexed as well. Fourth tool I use is a log of my research, this log helps me know what I've researched. The fifth and most important tool I use is social media, when you learn something useful and share, I learn something and vise versa. The most important thing to know about Genealogy is no one of us knows everything. Hope this helps user492, I could break down more tools and of those I could break down into chapters but that may turn into a good book.: }

Ezri Rediker

Posted 2012-11-28T17:47:35.180

Reputation: 2 224