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    « What's the Difference Between a Chronicler and a Historian? | Main | A Question for Family Historians: Do Your Images Lead to Stories? »
    Tuesday
    Feb222011

    Tried and True Organization for Your Family History? 

    What’s the best way to organize a big project, like a family history book?

    We regularly teach a seminar, How to Plan and Organize a Family History Book. We recommend that people begin with the big ideas first, listing what should go into the book. And ultimately, they should arrive at an outline. But in the middle between these two points, there’s a murky area, a process that seems to stump our audiences.

    Ironically, the sticking point comes when we refer to a process we all probably learned in middle school: index cards. Remember them? There are software variations now, using the same principles of organization.

    We like index cards because they are hands on, they’re visual, and they are easy to change, add or discard. You can use different colored cards to designate big ideas, subheadings and specific details. After you develop one organization, it’s easy to move the cards to a different arrangement of ideas. When you’re happy with the way the cards are arranged, you can transfer the ideas on the index cards to paper and you’ve got a preliminary outline.

    For most folks the index card method makes perfect sense, but others just don’t get it. “Should it be a red card or a green card?” they ask. “How many subheadings should I have under a big idea?” The very strength of the system, its flexibility, confuses people.

    Do you have other techniques to suggest? How do you like to organize ideas for a big project? Post a comment and share with us, and our readers, your favorite method of organizing. We’ll look forward to reading what you have to say and I’m sure our readers will too.

    

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