Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Tuesday's Tip - Index Cards

A recent thread via the Guild of One Name Studies mailing list resulted in my sharing a few comments and then an example of my index cards.

When I started researching back in 1986, none of my records were computerised. Every individual's data was held on an index card, and for a few individuals there data goes across several cards. As time went on, and my skills increased, my genealogical lines became more complex and the amount of surnames grew and grew, I found there was a need for computerisation.

I have the added issue of several lines inter marrying and in some cases the same surname crops up, but on different lines of my family, or with no known connection. I therefore set about thinking how I could cope with the computerised  & paper records. After many, many weeks of agonising here is what I decided on.

  • One computer file - called Mainfile. This starts with me and goes back to my earliest ancestor. it also goes sideways, from my husband and then back to his earliest ancestor.
  • Paper copies of Main File - mine are referenced Mainfile (JDG) and Mainfile (SPG) for my husbands.
  • Electronic copies of Main File - mine are referenced Genealogy> Mainfile (JDG) & Genealogy > Mainfile (SPG). You can read an earlier post HERE
  • Things that do not fit into our specific lines of descent are held in a filing cabinet with each surname A-Z
  • Things that do not fit into our lines of descent but held on computer are held in a series of document files with the surnames A-Z
  • My trusty card index. Every ancestor in Mainfile, including living relatives.

Here is one example of an index card for my ancestor Daniel Butcher. His data currently goes across 2 cards.

The data recorded on the card indexes is replicated in the computerised file and the physical file, which incorporates any documents such as the sale of a property called Biddles in 1755. Whilst, this may seem like a duplication, I like the cards as it enables me to see at a glance a time line of what a specific ancestor or individual is doing. It also takes me back to those early research days!


  1. Hi Julie, I am really enjoying your blog and all of the helpful information that you are putting out there. Thank you!

    As I go through my thousands of pieces of Letsom family information, I am still sorting. But after that, I will have to organize and figure out what to do with everything, so all of your tips are great.

    Kathy M.

  2. Kathy, Thank you for your lovely comments. The problem is that with the internet, access and data becomes so easy to locate that it is easier to get overwhelmed with information and then forget items that we have, or the information contained within what we have. I look through the cards once every few weeks and always spot something that I need to check or explore further.

  3. Julie, like you my FH started with index cards as I worked out who was whom and how they connected. I then moved on to a separate page for each person on which I detailed everything I found. This let me write up people of the same name even when I wasn't yet sure where they fitted in. I filed in A4 ring binders by surname and generation. Some families have multiple folders and some couples have one or more to themselves, with tab dividers for religion,land, naturalisation etc. I have put some details into my genealogy program but do feel confined by it. I learnt from some experienced researchers in those pre-internet days to write up a narrative and I still do that -it seems to make it easier to spot gaps. One of those situations where we each have to work out what is most effective for us. Thanka for providing a different perspective.


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