Category Archives: Genealogy & Technology

Genealogy Organizing: How I Do It

From time to time, I am asked how I organize my 40+ years of genealogical treasures and data. If you’re expecting this to be a long post, or even a multi-part explanation, you’d be wrong.

SIMPLE is always the best way to organize anything and, although I’m sharing my method, the way you organize should be the way that works best for you.

How Do I Do It?

1. Paper and digital records are organized in exactly the same way – by SURNAME. I have a folder for every surname in my direct ancestral line. Records created by a female before marriage are placed in her father’s surname folder. If a female married more than once, all her married records are placed in the surname folder for the husband that is in my direct line.

Cousin files are grouped under the surname folder of our common ancestor. For example, my first cousins are nestled under our grandfather. Second cousins are found under our common great grandfather.

2. Original paper items, such as baptismal certificates, photos, etc. are also filed alphabetically by surname in the same manner as digital records. I inherited original photos of my 2X great grandparents, Calvin Adams and Nellie Tarbox, so they are together in the albums under “Adams, Calvin.”

I have discarded all photocopies and non-original paper records, but have scanned and saved them digitally.

Originals are kept in archival albums with slipcovers, in a closet away from sunlight. My company of choice is University Products in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

3. After trying several styles of naming digital images, I found one that works extremely well for me and makes it easy to find something when I need it.

Some choose to save images in folders named by type of record – e.g. Births, Marriages, Newspaper Articles, etc. with everyone, regardless of surname, grouped in those categories.  That doesn’t work for me, as I prefer to keep all my records together by surname.

How do I name my images? This is what I’ve found works best for me:






I try not to make the description too long, but just long enough to jog my memory of what the item is.

If I am looking for a cemetery record, I go to surname folders, find the person’s name in the list, open the file, scroll down to “Cemetery” and click.

That’s it! I promised a short explanation! Remember, the most important thing is to find a system that works for you and BE CONSISTENT!

Happy Organizing!

Trying Out Centurial – Evidence Based Genealogy Software

A couple of weeks ago, I posted five suggestions for managing genealogy research. The fifth item in my list was Centurial, a Dutch-based genealogy software program that is evidence based.

What does an evidence based program look like?

Well, to begin a family tree, you must first enter a source, whether it be a document, a photograph, or a vital record, etc. The Centurial tutorial began with the image of a gravestone and showed how to enter the information and then add a person.

How does it work?

I initially tried to add a different type of record – a marriage certificate – and then add my grandparents. It was easy to add one person, but then when I added my grandmother, she was in the person list, but I couldn’t figure out how to attach her in the tree to my grandfather. I got so frustrated that I deleted the program. That was about a month ago.

For my second try, I decided to mimic the steps in the tutorial and chose a photo of my grandparents’ gravestone. That attempt went much better and it only took me about six views of starting and stopping the tutorial to make sure I was clicking in all the correct places.

Next, the tutorial showed how to add a vital record from FamilySearch, so I did the same and found my grandfather’s birth record in Calais, Maine, which is digitally available on FamilySearch.

The demo about how to choose the pieces of the citation to add into Centurial’s boxes went too fast. I had to stop and start the video at least six more times to be sure I had the correct bits in the right places. I’m still not sure I do because the Maine Vital Records collection had a more vague citation than the German collection used in the video lesson.

With that, I think my patience was worn out and normally, with non-tech stuff, I have a very high patience level.  After about an hour, I had accomplished:

I had originally planned to go a bit further with Centurial, because when we are required to first enter a source in a citation format, the problem of not knowing where information was found will never happen.

In theory, this is the right way to do genealogical research.

In reality, I have found several shortcomings with this program, just by dipping my toe in the water, so to speak.

First, I don’t find this program at all intuitive. Without the tutorial, I wouldn’t have gotten the two steps ahead that I managed.

By the way, there are only three very short tutorials, all created in 2017, when the first edition of this program came out. I didn’t find any manual, either and without either videos or a manual, or both, I will be hopelessly lost when trying to add to this tree.

Second, and I would normally have an image here, but I can’t figure out how to get back to the data box for my grandfather’s information, I followed the presenter’s steps. The person data box had a place for surname, given name and nickname. I would normally have put my grandfather’s name in the given name box. I actually did that by mistake first. His name “Vernon” was converted to “V.” as his given name. Why, I don’t know.

The presenter said to insert the first name in the nickname box, so I deleted my try and followed the directions. That box kept his name as Vernon.

I was curious to see how Centurial’s information would export in a gedcom and then open in RootsMagic. Look what happens to the names because Centurial uses the nickname field:

They are duplicated with quotation marks around them. My grandmother has no maiden name listed, but that isn’t an error. Their gravestone doesn’t included Coleman, so I left that field blank.

Third, I haven’t found any place to add my own notes. Let’s say my grandparents had an original gravestone that was somehow destroyed and the current one was a replacement, in a different style with different information and no image existed of the original stone. Not true, but if it was, I didn’t see any place where I could explain and save the information.

Fourth, the learning curve for me would be fairly steep until I mastered quite a few steps. Centurial has an import gedcom function, so I created a practice tree in RootsMagic that included just my grandparents.

It changed their given names back into the first initial format. I didn’t attach any sources, but inserted my grandfather’s birth and death dates. I then added a photo of the gravestone, but couldn’t figure out how to connect it to Vernon.

Gedcoms move the information back and forth between the programs, but just correcting all the names would be a massive job (I have about 8,000 people in my tree.) I also don’t know what other errors would pop up in a bigger sample tree.

Fifth, users don’t purchase this software. It is by subscription and costs 20 euros per year with continuous renewal or 24 euros for a single year. That gets expensive over time and it doesn’t look like exporting your tree if you want to switch to another program is going to be a clean move.

To conclude, I love the idea of evidence-based software. However, practically speaking, it would take forever for even a person skilled at using Centurial to re-enter my family tree data manually and I’d be back to the same error issues if I decided to gedcom it to another program. There also seem to be a few quirks in the program, like not being able to save a name in the given name box.

My curiosity about Centurial has been satisfied!

If you have used this program, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment and share your experience.



5 Free Tech Tools to Manage Genealogy Research

It might seem to be a bit early in the season for the dog days of summer, but they have arrived in Tucson with a predicted high this week of 110. That means it’s a great time to be inside, whether because of the pandemic or heat, and learn about some tools to help you manage your genealogy data and documents, aside from the regular software programs like Family Tree Maker and Roots Magic.

There are a number of computer programs available that may not have been specifically designed for genealogy researchers, but which are excellent tools to help manage the accumulation of information we find about our ancestors.

Today, I’d like to share several programs that I’ve tried out. Each piqued my interest, but I am the first to admit that I’m not an expert with any of them. All have free versions and four of the five have upgraded Pro versions that offer more options.

First – How many times have you struggled to read a land deed, will or some other document while transcribing or abstracting it?’s Transcript is the perfect solution. I always use this program when transcribing documents. It is freeware and downloadable. All you have to do is upload the file that you want to transcribe and you are ready to go. The text can be enlarged (a lot!), which really really helps when trying to figure out that old handwriting or even text that has faded. (Note that it doesn’t enhance faded text, just enlarges, which sometimes is enough.)

I will admit, though, that I don’t save files in Transcript. Instead, when I am finished, I copy and paste the file into Word and save that way.

The home page includes an image of what the program and text box look like (right bottom corner):

I am not a super techie person, so when I say this program is easy to use, that means it is super easy! Pro Version = $19 one user license.

Second – Do you have images to which you’d like to add captions? Canva might be just the program you are looking for. Canva actually does much more than captions, as it is a design program. However, the only feature I’ve tried out is captioning images.

After creating a free account, begin by clicking the turquoise button in the top right corner CREATE A DESIGN. Choose your format and you will be ready to go.If you are heavy into design, there is a  Pro Version = $9.95/month.

I just added a simple caption here to share with you, but if you click on the image, you will see that the text box is more than double the height of this postcard. If I had a photograph with multiple people in it to be identified, or I needed to create a source citation, there is space to do the task.

I learned about Canva from Alice Childs in her guest post last April, Using Canva to Add Source Citations, on Diana Elder’s and Nicole Dyer’s Family Locket blog. Her explanation of how to use the program is excellent! Be sure to visit to learn more about navigating Canva. Tutorials

Third – How do you create source citations and how do you store them? Some genealogy software programs include templates for creating source citations. I will be the first to admit that I find those templates cumbersome and I still haven’t mastered the art of creating them correctly. I’ve made due using my old college paper bibliography style of citing sources and typing the citations in the notes section of my software program.

Zotero, described as a research assistant, is an alternative that might appeal to you if (1) you aren’t hung up on using those software templates and (2) you are comfortable with my belief that a citation is correct if there is an appropriate amount of information in its details to allow other researchers to find the same book, document, or whatever.

Zotero was created for the college/university community so citations don’t always adhere to Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained format. However, the citations can be manually tweaked to match EE. Tutorials

However, I would also recommend Donna Cox Baker’s book (paper version, not ebook), Zotero for Genealogy if you decide to go full in with Zotero.

Fourth – How do you keep track of the books you own? Have you ever purchased a second copy of a book you forgot you had? LibraryThing is my choice to solve that problem. Catalogue your book collection online so you don’t have to wonder if you already own that one! This is also a social media site to share with other book lovers. There was some great news in March 2020 – LibraryThing now offers users the ability to catalogue an unlimited number of books. There used to be a free limit of 200. Tutorial

FifthCenturial is a unique program that I recently learned about and have been playing with. It is a source-based genealogy software program that is used to build your family tree. Never again will you wonder where you found a piece of information, whether in a document, a book, an online image or a family letter. That is because you CAN’T enter a person without first adding a source of some kind. Tutorial

I decided that this is my summer learning project. Right now, I’ve only just taken the first steps of downloading and entering a source. I am using the trial version (Pro version = 20 or 24 euros per year, depending on whether you use continuous renewal), which limits me to 20 sources. However, that is plenty to give me a taste of what Centurial can do. I will be writing a post or two, sharing as I’m learning!

I hope I’ve given you new ways to enlarge your genealogy resource toolbox. If you are like me, whether or not I find a new resource a “good fit” with my research habits, I enjoy learning about what’s out there. 

Have fun and, please, stay safe and healthy!