Genealogy Journaling

In October of last year I began an experiment in getting myself organized called bullet journaling. It fed my list making tendencies and also my crafty side. I liked that I could make it as simple or decorative as I liked. It’s a flexible system to organize yourself. Eventually I began notebooks for a number of different purposes including my genealogy! I have been jotting stuff on post-its and scraps of paper for far too long. I thought a notebook with a focus on the known and unknown might help.

So I created a notebook to house my ancestors. In it I include my grandparents, great grandparents, and great great grandparents. This is a work in progress, but I thought I would share what I have done so far. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to create your own version or you might have suggestions of other things I might think to consider.  So, here we go!
Front of My Genealogy JournalBack Cover

I started with a notebook that I had on hand. I have a bit of an addiction when it comes to office supplies… if I see a cute notebook or colorful pens… I struggle not to buy them!  So when I had come across this notebook at Staples I had only hesitated for a moment before springing for it.  I then took the notebook and added my own little accents to the front and back covers. I added the countries of origin of my ancestors to the front.

On the back, I added the surnames of my great grandparents.

Within the notebook I even added a little something to remind me of what inspires me. This photo is of a wall hanging that was in my Grandma Morse’s house. I used to read and reread this wall hanging when I spent the night at her house. She watched me frequently in the years before my mom remarried and we moved to Ohio. I used some washi tape to add the photo to my notebook. If you are new to washi tape- it’s simply a decorative tape that is usually able to be placed and then can be re-positioned as needed. There are lots of decorative tapes out there, but not all are able to be re-positioned. I often screw up when I first tape something so I like having the option to fix when something is crooked. After all, I am a bit of a perfectionist (it’s that engineer side of me).


Next I created a very basic index page. It could have been more detailed, but I wanted to be able to quickly find the generations I was interested in. So I just listed grandparents, great grandparents, etc.


My next set of pages was a kind of surname list of my ancestors. I divided the pages into sections and added the surnames and the given names of my ancestors. As I work my way back through the generations I will add more to these as I go.


So then I went through and started adding pages specific to my grandparents. Here are the pages for my paternal grandfather, Billie Thomas Alford. I blurred out some of the details that pertained to those living.

The pages dedicated to Billie Thomas Alford
The pages dedicated to Billie Thomas Alford

The first section I made is focused on his vital information… birth, marriage, children, and death. Here you can see not only that my grandfather was married previously and that he had a child before he married my grandmother.


I went on to create a section titled “Tidbits of Interest” where I wrote about some of the other interesting aspects of his life. I wrote about how he was raised by his Aunt & Uncle as mentioned in the previous blog post. His different occupations, religion, and hobbies. I also included a mention of the source of the information too.


Another section that I included was a spot for the questions that I still have. It’s just a reminder to me of some things I still need to research or ask my extended family.


Lastly I added a small area where I could list any DNA testing that has occurred or who I might get tested if the opportunity arises.


So as I progress through my book I’m sure I’ll continue to add new elements. Or perhaps I will include some of the other lines of the family? I look forward to your thoughts on how you might approach genealogy journaling and please feel free to share your thoughts on what I’ve done so far.


20 thoughts on “Genealogy Journaling

  1. Jen – I love this idea! I’ve toyed around with something like this too. I thought of it as an “ancestor book.” Something smaller I could easily carry yet have vital statistics on several generations. I think it’s a great idea and you’ve inspired me to jump in!
    Thanks! Cindy


    1. That’s great to hear! I like having the vitals right there too. I am always forgetting dates and sometimes even names of children so this is handy to have in my possession when I’m struck by the genealogy bug. I’m headed to Fort Wayne this weekend so I’ll probably put it to good use then!


  2. Simply Brilliant! I also start a journal, but yours is so much more organized and easy to read.
    I need to ‘borrow’ all of your ideas. Thanks you so much for sharing.


    1. I have many journals/ notebooks that are much less organized. My hope is that I’ll compile the “questions” that I’ve raised in those other notebooks and add them to this journal. Then I can be a bit more deliberate in my research. Thanks for commenting!


  3. I love this idea, but the perfectionist in me is thinking I will use a small looseleaf binder or one where pages can be inserted. I know this is supposed to be a brief synopsis, but what if I need more than a two page spread? I don’t think I would be content with “continued on page 68.” I absolutely am going to use your idea with this one tweak. Thanks for sharing!


    1. The nice thing about journaling is that you can do whatever you like! Our brains all work in their own ways and the system needs to be one that works for you. Best of luck and thanks for commenting!


  4. This is an awesome idea!! I have also just started organizing and expanding my decades of collecting. I use 3 ring notebooks for some stuff bit this will be great for other things!! I am an office supply collector also!! Another thought is using the little flag markers to find each section easier!! I may made some of these for my grandchildren also as they have four sets of grandparents and know little about anyone past their grandparents!! Thank you so much for inspiring me Ms Jena and I look forward to more!!


  5. What a great Journal! I just purchased a journal to help organize me, and I really like this idea to get one for my research! Thanks for sharing.


    1. Thanks Patricia! I have found this to be a great way to focus on one ancestor when I research. I will probably have a separate one that I use for tracking my research a little better. Best of luck to you in your research!


  6. Very helpful! I like the way you are grouping family lines and leaving lots of room for notes and next steps. Side note- I’m a Morse! I have a phenomenal book about Morse history with lines to the original 8 or so Morse immigrants. I don’t have it with me but message me and I’d be happy to share the publication details. It helped me track my paternal line back to the Mayflower. Pretty cool!


    1. Hi cousin! I was able to track my Morse family back thanks to the Morse Society ( I’m a descendant of William Bradford. My Morse family first settled in Maine.

      Have a great day!


  7. thank you for sharing, it is a true inspiration I defenitely will try this in my chaotic family history research!
    we might even be related 🙂 as we share the name Krueger mine come from Brandenburg, Preussia, Germany

    looking forward to read more of your blogs


  8. Being an ancestor detective for fifteen years, I have several notebooks with little bits of information that I’ve collected. I love your idea. I do believe you’ve inspired me to get a journal to organize the families into one book. It will be so much easier to carry back and forth to the library, courthouse, and other places you find those little bits of information. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas. I love this one.


  9. I love your journaling ideas! I am going to incorporate into my effort to get more organized. We are cousins on the Arkansas Alford line. DNA confirmed!


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