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  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

3 Things to Do Immediately After Finding a Genealogy Source

What to Do Immediately After Finding a Genealogy Source

Let's do a happy dance. You found a great resource that provides details about your ancestor. Hooray!!!! But before you go searching for another record, there are three things that you should do right now.

I promise it will be worthwhile. In fact, you'll thank me for it someday.

Much like you thanked your mother long after you grew up for the mother she was. Yep, these are those kinds of tips.

What Is a Source in Genealogy Research?

This question has many answers and can cause many experienced genealogists to argue. But let's keep things simple.

A genealogy source is any d document or artifact that records relevant information about one of your ancestors.

Census records, city directories, tax records, land records, probate records, photos, published genealogies, interviews, and so many different sources can tell you when and where your ancestor lived and what they did. You can find more training about those documents by clicking on the links in this paragraph. You can also see a huge list of sources in this free guide about all the records to search for whenever you tackle a genealogy brick wall.

Regardless of what format you find information about your ancestor, remember these three things and you'll have a well-documented family tree.

To learn more about stop, save and write, watch this video:

3 Things to Do With Every Genealogy Source

It's easiest to remember things in groups of three. Think: Stop, Drop, Roll.

Well, with genealogy research, after you find a potential source that documents your ancestor, do the following:

  • STOP

  • SAVE



Isn't it super fun to find a record about our ancestors? Their name is in print, on paper, or we learned something new about them. Before we stop the presses and bore everyone with that new discovery, let's slow down a bit.

First, are you absolutely certain the record refers to your ancestor?

We need to take time to read and reread our sources. We need to ask follow-up questions from the interview we found. Take time to evaluate your genealogy source to be sure that it says what you think it says and doesn't actually discuss another person with the same name that isn't your relative.

Then I follow the advice of my friend, Amy Johnson Crow, and I transcribe the document. I copy every detail related to my ancestor(s) into a notepad file until the next step.

As Amy says, "transcribing forces you to slow down and read the whole thing and you will find so many more details."

I find this statement to be quite true.

↪️ Are you new to genealogy? Grab your copy of this FREE Beginner Guide:

laptop and writing notes with title Free Guide: 5 Steps for Successfully Starting in Family History


The most frustrating thing in genealogy research happens when we don't save the discoveries we make. Since the early 2000s, I rarely lose my discoveries because I save sources to:

  • Online family trees such as FamilySearch, Findmypast, Ancestry, MyHeritage, and WikiTree

  • My preferred genealogy research program - RootsMagic

  • Into a genealogy research plan if I'm working on a research report.

Save your source and the transcription everywhere and you'll decrease the chances of losing your research notes.

Depending on where I'm saving the information from the sources I might not need to craft a genealogy source citation. By linking a source to an online tree, often the website creates the source citation for me. However, I can always use RootsMagic source templates to generate citations if I need them for a research report.

Once the source is evaluated and saved, I can then do one final step few genealogists ever do.


The benefit of transcribing the source in step one is now I have the foundation to write a family story.

Record by record, I write stories about my ancestors.

With the transcription, I can then identify all of the people and places mentioned in the document. I can discuss how they are related and why they were included in the document.

I strive to answer what this new information tells me about the person and their relatives.

If I read or hear unfamiliar terms, place names, or relationships, I create a genealogy to-do list, which will guide the next phase of my research.

I finally add a little historical context to the brief story based on that source. Suddenly, I may have a 600-word family story or a number of paragraphs that I can add to the rough draft of a larger book.

Family history is more than tracing your family tree back to Adam or Charlemagne. It's about connecting to the past and strengthening family ties. If you take time to save what you find and write a little about your discoveries, you'll be surprised how much you'll have to share with your relatives. And, what you share will be less boring. (Well, it might still be boring, but I have some solutions for that in this blog post.)

↪️ Do you want to write a family history book?

Grab your copy of this FREE Writing Guide:

For more tips on building your family tree, check out these blog posts:

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