|Cartoon Family Holding Hands|
Whether you plan to write a few family stories or devote years to developing a family tree, it is important early on to have a consistent way to list people's names in the information you gather and store. Using standard format makes it easier to locate your notes, find those digital photos you've scanned or uploaded, and establish that the new information you've just found is really about your relative.
Tip 1: Label, tag, identify, file your material using a person's entire name, surname first, followed by first name and middle name or initial. Listing an uncle as Smith, James Edgar keeps his information stored alphabetically near that of other Smith family members. It also makes it easier when you have information with a variation of his name, i.e., J. E. Smith, Edgar Smith, or even Jim Smith. Some choose to capitalize the entire surname, others don't; it's your choice.
Tip 2: Record a female by her maiden name. Whether a women remains single, uses a variation of her birth name, or marries, information about her will stay in the same place in your research files. For clarity, you can add a married name in (.....) on a file tab or computer tag, showing Grandma Jones as Smith, Mary Louise (Jones).
As you take personal notes, you can refer to that person as Uncle Jim or Grandma Jones but follow the practice of using these tips to identify the person as you file or store information either electronically or on paper. Practicing these two tips from the beginning will help you both as your collection of family information grows and as you share information with others.