Family History Back to School: 5 Genealogy Supplies You’ll Need This Fall

By Andrew Koch

Sign up for the Family Tree Newsletter Plus, you’ll receive our 10 Essential Genealogy Research Forms PDF as a special thank you!

Get Your Free Genealogy Forms

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Go back to school with these need-to-have genealogy supplies.

You can skip the gluesticks and red pencils, but you still need school supplies to make the grade in your genealogy research this fall. Here are five genealogy supplies you should stock up on as you see your kids off to the bus.

1. Forms and worksheets

Just like school, genealogy requires you to complete worksheets. But these worksheets are more fun than multiplication tables or vocabulary lists! Genealogy forms can help you record and organize key names, dates and events that you discover in your research. They also make it easier to save and share your family tree data with friends and relatives. Family Tree has several free worksheets available for download, or you can check out our Essential Forms Library Download (which has 75 typeable forms you can download, fill in and print).

2. Research log

If you feel like you’re doing the same research over and over again, you might benefit from creating a research log. Your research log is simply a place to record what you researched and when, plus what you found. Think of a log like your ruler and protractor—setting the boundaries for your work and helping you keep accurate data about your research. A log can save you valuable time and make it easy to pick up your research after a long hiatus. To make your log searchable, you could record it in a word processing software or an app like Evernote. Simply make a log that works for your research. We have a template that can get you started.

3. Photo and document scanner

We’ve all got stacks of photos, records and other documents piled up in boxes around the house. But with more and more genealogy being done online, it’s time to digitize those precious heirlooms and sources. Though effective, flat-bed scanners are pricey. Instead, consider using an app like Google PhotoScan to take images of your documents and photos with your smartphone. Then you can use software such as Vivid-Pix to edit or touch up your images. Our How to Organize Your Digital Photos eBook has more great tips and strategies for digitizing and archiving your photos.

4. Organization system

While not really a physical object, an organization scheme is key to keeping your genealogy in order. Deciding how you want to name your files and folders (either physical or digital) is a good place to start. As with research logs, your organization scheme will vary depending on your research goals and the sorts of files you already have. But having an organization system in place will keep you from losing any hard-earned data and make it easy to find later on.

Don’t be discouraged if it takes you a while to add an organization strategy to your genealogy backpack. Think of this as a semester-long project, rather than something you can cram for in one night. In the Organization Strategies in 5, 10 and 30 minutes webinar, we talk about the importance of taking small steps towards the right organization system. By breaking organization goals into small, achievable tasks, you can better implement practical strategies into your routine.

5. DNA test

Head back to science class by getting your DNA tested this fall. We’ve talked extensively about the benefits of DNA testing, but it warrants repeating: DNA can solve genealogy problems like no other tool, especially if you have an adoption in your family tree. You have several options to choose from, and we’ve compared the five major testing companies to help you pick the one best for you and your research. You can even buy a test for a friend or relative if you want to take your genetic genealogy to the next level.