4 Tips for Digitizing Your Genealogy Effectively

By Vanessa Wieland

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Why should you digitize your genealogy?

Genealogists are well-known paper lovers. We tend to hang on to each photocopy, printout, and note “just in case” we need to refer to it again. But many of us don’t like managing all that paper. We’d much rather be following ancestral clues than filing old paperwork. Digital copies can ease much of that paper burden. Below are 4 reasons to digitize your genealogy research.

Digitize Your Genealogy with a Digital Workflow

1. Clear some space

Digitizing your genealogy paperwork means clearing out space where all those old binders and bins of paperwork used to live. By going paperless, you’re not getting rid of the information, you’re just storing it differently. Take the time to separate those items that can be scanned and tossed from original items you want to keep. Then, tackle the piles in short, timed intervals so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Both need to be digitized, but once you’re done and you’ve tossed all those extra copies and surplus notes, you’ll find you have a lot more space to showcase the items that really matter.


2. Organize as you go

There are as many organization systems as there are people. The most common method for genealogists is to create folders by surname. You can also easily find and adapt online tools that help you keep all your research together. Before you begin to digitize your research, determine the best system for you.

Another tip as you organize: Divide the job up into smaller tasks so you don’t get overwhelmed. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish in fifteen minutes.

And learn from my cautionary tale: In my excitement at finding several new photos at my sister’s house and trying to cram them in before I left, I neglected to label or scan them as I went. I can go back and review them, but that may not be an option for everyone. Label and cite them as you scan, so you aren’t left scratching your head down the line.


3. Preserve your research in the cloud

No one likes to think about disasters happening, but floods and fires can destroy decades of work. Digitize your genealogy research by storing it in the cloud. Even if your originals are lost, you’ll still have the reproductions. And if your computer breaks, you’ll be able to access them on another device.

4. Take it with you

Whether you’re going to the local cemetery, courthouse, or library or you’re heading out of town for a big research trip, having your research digitized means you don’t have to haul a bunch of paperwork with you. It’s all at your fingertips in your phone, tablet or laptop. So if you need to reference a record you already have, or double-check dates in your family tree, you can do so easily.

Use an online app such as Evernote to create your list of items you want to find to save time on your trip, and use the mobile apps for your favorite subscription sites to access your online trees and records.

Last updated, January 2018.