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Genealogy and Family History

How to Begin

Organizing Information

Computer Methods

The computer allows you to search the Internet. Just as important, however, is the computer's ability to store the electronic data you collect and facilitate the use of genealogy applications to organize your data.

Storing data

You will want to save on your computer some of the electronic data you find on the web scans and digital photographs, word-processing documents, etc. You should come up with a method of naming and storing files so that you can find them again easily.

One method that works is to use the directory and subdirectory capabilities of your computer. You can create a directory for the major branches of your family and then within that directory, subdirectories for the unique surnames you have in each branch. You may also create directories for images such as maps, subdivided by region or country.

Standardized file naming is also useful. However you decide to name your electronic files, choose a method that works for you and be consistent. You will find that, as you collect more and more data, files will become fairly easy to find and browse through on your computer.

Genealogy software

Many genealogy applications are available on the market today for most operating systems (Windows, Mac and Linux); and the interfaces of many come in multiple languages. These software packages let you do the following:

  • assemble and organize your family data;
  • produce reports and charts; and
  • exchange information and files with colleagues.

Comparison websites will help you choose a package that suits your needs.

Many genealogy software packages have free trial versions that you can download. Your local genealogy society members will tell you what they use, and why.

Start out with an application you are comfortable with. As your research progresses, you may wish to switch to a more robust application. This can be done as long as you have a software application that respects the genealogical data standard GEDCOM.


GEDCOM [ FAQ=faq_gedcom.asp] stands for Genealogical Data Communications and is a file format specification (not software) that allows different genealogical software programs to share data with each other. It was developed by the Family and Church History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to provide a flexible, uniform format for exchanging computerized genealogical data.

Whatever you do, BACK UP YOUR DATA!