Course: 2024-04 – Genealogical Organization: Increase Your Productivity

Coordinator: Kelli Jo Bergheimer


One of the most overwhelming tasks in the pursuit of genealogy is to get organized and stay organized. This course will take attendees through organization methods for photos, documents, digital records, digital trees, online tools, DNA tools, DNA matches, projects, and preservation and backup necessities.

Other Instructors: None

Student Prerequisites:

  • Students need a laptop computer or desktop computer, not a tablet.
  • Two monitor screens would be beneficial to have the Zoom window open, the syllabus available, and the software or application open.
  • Students need an understanding of their own laptop/desktop functionality, operations, file management, troubleshooting skills for their own device, and knowledge of how to troubleshoot their own wi-fi network.
  • Students need DNA account login information.
  • Students need a working knowledge of both Dropbox and Google Drive.
  • Students should have a Microsoft account and download Microsoft OneNote.
  • Students need familiarity and basic skills with word processing, Excel, or other spreadsheet software, and how to edit, save, and create these file types.
  • Students need a snipping tool to use for this course.
  • Students would benefit from having Family Tree Maker software (or another family tree software), but it’s not required.


This course is taught using Chrome Browser, Windows PC (not Mac), Microsoft Office Suite including OneNote (not open-source docs, sheets, and Evernote), Family Tree Maker (not RootsMagic), and a few other specific applications. You may choose to use another software or application but cannot spend course time troubleshooting these alternate programs.

Day Session Title Description Instructor
Monday 1 How to Clear the Mess on Your Desk (Part 1: Papers, Photos, Documents) Learn tips and tricks to organize your papers, photos, documents, research, DNA cousins, research trips, and digital records. Learn some standard backup tools to protect what you have acquired. Get the most out of your family tree software program to allow your ancestry information to be available on the go. Organize yourself in a way that leaves you more time for the fun stuff of genealogy– sharing, publishing, and finding even more! Bergheimer
2 How to Clear the Mess on Your Desk (Part 2: Digital Organization) Learn strategies to build a robust, portable, sourced, cloud-synchronized digital tree. Learn about privacy options and how to back up your tree to prevent losing everything. Learn strategies to maximize your DNA information—messaging matches, preparing boilerplate language to streamline communications, and sharing trees. Bergheimer
3 Using OneNote to Organize Your Genealogical Research Workshop (Part 1) Learn the procedures and tools of OneNote to organize your genealogical research, notes, research logs, websites, photos, documents, and more. Introduction OneNote v. Evernote Files and Backups How is it organized? Tools Sending files Sharing files Bergheimer
4 Using OneNote to Organize Your Genealogical Research Workshop (Part 2) Learn more about OneNote: How can I organize for genealogy? Toolbars Store, save, and sync Tablets, smartphones, and apps. Office application integration Settings, preferences, and backgrounds Bergheimer
Tuesday 5 Using OneNote to Organize Your Genealogical Research Workshop (Part 3) More about OneNote: Search OneNote Search computer Tags Feedly Security Genealogical Uses Other Uses Templates Bergheimer
6 Research Trip Organization (Part 1)  Preparing for a Library/Archive Visit BEFORE You Go Learn strategies to prepare for your trip to research at a library or archive. Use a simple plan before you go to maximize efficiency while you are there. Find out what to do before you go, when you get there, and then after you get home to make the most of the time, effort, and money spent. Bergheimer
7 Research Trip Organization (Parts 2 & 3)  How to Organize at the Archive WHILE You Are There Ask for a tour (they love to talk about their specialties). Ask the librarian if anything unique or of interest is not online. Go to the Top Ten List and get started. If time allows, begin in the stacks, writing citations as you go. Bergheimer
8 Using Tools to Organize and Analyze Your Autosomal DNA Matches Now that you have your results, how do you organize them to make the most of the information? Learn how to make your matches work for you. Use tools like Excel and OneNote to get yourself organized and make progress in your search. Bring your laptop and learn how to transfer your DNA matches from the five major DNA companies into spreadsheets. Then, learn some approaches to get the most out of your results. Bergheimer
Wednesday 9 Organize Your DNA Matches with Sorting, Filtering, and Clustering Tools Learn how to sort your matches (Leeds Method) and use clustering tools to build a master list of how each match is related to you! Learn to take advantage of inferred matches of your siblings to add more depth and data to your list. Develop a plan for identifying each first, second, and third cousin match in your match list. Bergheimer
10 Work Your FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder and y-DNA and mt-DNA Results Together in One Organized Endeavor Learn to use your at-, mt-, and y-DNA results in tandem to make progress in your research. Bergheimer
11 Using Technology and a Research Report to Make the Most of Your DNA Results Learn to use spreadsheets and a folder structure to organize your DNA results. Use a research report for DNA analysis to formulate a question, organize your information, and track your progress. A research report will allow you to set something aside and jump back in as new matches are found. Bergheimer
12 Pulling It All Together into a DNA Research Report (Case Study) From the research question to the final report, learn how to organize a DNA research report to include what’s needed to meet the genealogical proof standard. Bergheimer
Thursday 13 Retread Efficiently: Using Excel and Google Docs to Organize Learn tips and techniques for using Excel to organize source Websites and family history sites visited. Learn the methods of “the perpetual spreadsheet” and “the perpetual Google Doc” to organize in a large-scale way. Bergheimer
14 Online Tools to Organize and Collaborate with Your Cousins Learn approaches for online wikis, blogs, and collaborating tools to share your family history with your cousins, friends, and family. Bergheimer
15 Successful Online Genealogical Searching Learn tools for successful searching online. Learn about browsers, search engines, and Boolean operators. How can you find some help with genealogical terminology and citations? Find some gems in WorldCat, Google Books, PERSI, and more. Bergheimer
16 Using Aggregators Such as Feedly to Organize Your Genealogy Leads Learn hints and functionalities of an aggregator such as Feedly to organize source Websites, blogs, and message board groups. Bergheimer
Friday 17 How to Organize and Write Ancestor Stories Helping a client or your family build an engaging and interesting family history book can be a challenge. Each client has their own vision for a print or digital book. Learn from start to finish how to work with a client to write and compile ancestor stories or write your own ancestor stories. Bergheimer
18 How to Organize and Pass on Your Family History Wouldn’t you like to give your family and friends clear instructions on saving your accumulated family history? You have spent thousands of hours organizing, digitizing, searching, compiling, and archiving your family story. Don’t let that effort be lost! Bergheimer