5 Tips to Make The Most of Genealogy Research Rabbit Holes

Genealogy research rabbit holes are fun! Nothing beats the joy of finding yourself utterly fascinated by some random part of your family history. Whether your genealogy research rabbit hole has been induced by looking at a person, place or time there’s something wonderful about getting lost in history.

But, all to often we fall down these rabbit holes and then leave them, empty handed. We’ve learnt nothing much more than a few interesting facts and we’re likely to forget them fairly quickly.

So how can you enjoy a genealogy research rabbit hole without getting so lost you waste 5 hours looking a a history of teaspoons?! Here’s my 5 tips.

1. Group Your Website Pages

Normally falling down a rabbit hole means having 50 different tabs open on your internet browser! Keep control of all those pages by using either Google Chrome’s tab grouping feature or it’s reading list tool.

Simply right click on any open tab and select “Add Tab to New Group”

Now you can drag relevant tabs into a group, keeping your open pages manageable.

Alternatively right click on a tab and select “Add to Reading List”. This will save the page to a handy list.

See these Google Chrome articles for more detailed instructions:

2. Return to Genealogy Rabbit Holes By Bookmarking All Pages

One you’ve finished your genealogy research rabbit hole session, make use of Google Chrome’s ‘Bookmark All Pages’ feature to quickly save all your open tabs. Give your folder a really clear name, and when you are ready to return to your research use the ‘open all’ option.

3. Enter Your Best Finds in Zotero

Zotero is a free citation manager tool, but I mostly use it for keeping track of bookmarked links.

Zotero allows you to tag your bookmarks with key words, making them easy to re-find. Better still, you can use multiple tags – so that 19th Century spoon making article could be tagged by date, my occupation and so on.

A stack of books with bookmark tags visible

Return to the websites you’ve saved in your book mark folder (see ‘Bookmarking All Pages above’). Review each site and decide which are actually work returning to in detail. Save these to Zotero!

See these links for more information on using Zotero for bookmark management:

4. Make Notes on Key Findings & Questions

We can get so engrossed by our genealogy research rabbit holes that we completely forget to write anything down.

Whether you take notes whilst in your rabbit hole, or afterwards during the bookmark pruning stage is down to personal preference. But whatever you do, make sure you write something otherwise you really will forget everything you’ve learnt.

Now, you might be thinking ‘but I haven’t learnt anything yet’. In that case – write your questions…because trust me, you will forget them.

pen and paper

Of course you can write notes in Microsoft Word or Google Docs but you might also like to check out note-taking apps like:

5. Think: What Did I Learn Today?

Along noting down you key findings, ask yourself what did you learn today? What did your genealogy research rabbit hole teach you?

This lesson may not be about the actual ‘thing’ you were researching.

Often rabbit holes help us hone and perfect our research skills. Spend 5 minutes thinking, how did I find X, what techniques did or didn’t work?

Give yourself a moment to bask in your own glory and cement that learning!

Save this image as a handy reminder:

summary of the 5 steps detailed in the above article

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