Monday, January 2, 2017

My Genealogy Bullet Journal, Day 1

Between Pinterest, Instagram, and Feedly, most of us have seen the explosion of people using bullet journals. Some track fitness. Some focus on gratitude, religious, or inspirational topics. Some are a type of To-Do List. And some focus on genealogy.

Through the month of December my husband and I used an old notebook to help us track all we wanted to accomplish during the time available between traveling to various family gatherings. We actually did everything on our lists and even had time to relax. That was enough to convince me to give bullet journaling a serious try in the new year.

What started my decision to use it for genealogy was watching Dear Myrtl's Google Hangout on What's Bullet Journaling? Her guest Tami Mize showed how her bullet journal was organized and suggested a variety of ways to use one. Then, Dear Myrtle had a series of blog posts detailing how she was setting up her bullet journal. Dear Myrtle even included a link to  a wonderful, easy to follow video by Ryder Carroll, the "father of bullet journaling". I was hooked. And yes, I even went so far as to set up a Pinterest board on Bullet Journal Basics as I was starting to get into it.

So here is where I am after Day 1.
  • I'm using a simple spiral journal given to me about 10 years ago by a former student. It had been sitting on my genealogy bookshelf, just waiting for the right moment to come along. Last week I started getting everything ready so I could begin using it January 1. But a great aspect of bullet journaling is that you don't have to wait for a new year to begin; you can start anytime you want to and for any reason.
  • As Ryder Carroll suggests, one of the first things I did in my bullet journal was to number the pages, all 160 of them.
  • Crafter and scrapbooker that I am, I decided to NOT let this become a craft project but just to try to maintain it as an organizational tool. I admit, I did find a roll of washi tape with the days of the week printed on it among my craft supplies. That roll is already being used in my bullet journal. And I tied some ribbon scraps to the spiral to be used as bookmarks. I'll admit, it is still tempting as I pass the entire aisle of my local craft store and gaze at the variety of papers, pens, stickers, etc. all designed for use in a planner or journal. I tell myself to just keep walking. Again, how ornate or minimalistic you make your journal is an individual choice.
  • I decided on the keys / graphic symbols to use in my journal. They are basically the ones Carroll shows in his video together with a few others I've used for years.
  • An index is a necessity for a bullet journal. I allowed a page and a half, probably should have allowed more, but I know I can always add an index entry for "Index Continues, p 100-104".
  • Instead of New Year's Resolutions, I chose to write some specific goals, calling it "2017, My Year to ..." I have five things listed, all things I had thought about, or started but laid aside, or else spent money on but not used sufficiently. Actually writing them has made me feel that accomplishing them is must more likely than when I had previously just thought about doing them.
  • I love, make that LOVE, the Future Log spread. I've already noted when various subscriptions and memberships expire, what events are scheduled for the year, and some specific deadlines I am setting for myself. Later, I'll add some personal things like trips, vacations with family, etc. This will help me more realistically allot time to various projects and goals. I've always been one to get the big picture first then develop the steps to get there so the Future Log fits the way I think.

  • The next two pages are for the Monthly Log. Each day is noted on a separate line. There is also room for me to list specific things I want to do for the month. Some people rave about the monthly log. Right now I'm ambivalent as to how much I will use this feature. Time will tell.
  • For my Daily Log, I settled on a two page spread, each page divided into four blocks. I use one block for each day of the week and block eight for things I want to accomplish or address this week. Across the top of one of the daily pages, I added a box to check daily for my 3F project. I'm trying to First spend Fifteen minutes Filing (the 3Fs) some of the stuff that gathers in my never empty file trays.  Each daily block will be for quick notes about what I researched that day, questions I want to check on (also listed in my Collection section of the journal), other genealogy related information for that day. Today's block includes the note "started writing Bullet Journal post!" After the first four weeks of January are covered in my Daily Log, I'll add a Monthly Log for February, then start another series of weekly spreads for Daily Logs and add February to the Index.

  • The last 30 pages of my book have been reserved for my Collections. I appreciate the versitality of the Collections section. It is MY collection, those miscellaneous things I want to keep up with, remember, check into. And when I use all these 30 pages, I'll just add another Index entry for each new collection page, selecting pages in another section toward the back of my bullet journal. My first collection page contained information about a library I plan to visit this year, things like address, phone numbers, reminder to set up an appointment specifying my research needs, and of course, the persons I will be researching. Back in the Index, I listed the name of the library and page on which I have the information. Last week I also started a page of Research Questions. In the middle of researching a relative, I realized the need to clarify something about another relative. I quickly added it to the Research Questions page then returned to my original research. Later I'll go back over this page and try to find answers to these questions. Another page in my Collections will be a list of Correspondence. Previously I have tended to add this as a note in Family Tree Maker but then to forget about it. Out of sight, out of mind. This way I can keep closer tabs as to when I ordered a record, e-mailed someone, etc. 

So there it is. My bullet journal. Part calendar. Part planner. Part diary. Part catch-all for things I need to remember. Part motivator. I can already see the value in reviewing my research and in having a specific place to record information in a simple format. Much as I feel I could not manage without my laptop, my smartphone, my genealogy software, Google Drive, the internet, and so much more technology, it is also satisfying to put a lovely journal to a constructive purpose.

And I plan to post in the future on tweaks I've made to my first bullet journal. It is just day two, and I already think I may highlight on the Daily Log the name of the family I'm researching. I might replace the ribbon bookmarks with sticky tabs from an office supply store. Here we go ...

What has been your experience with bullet journaling? I hope you will share some of your ideas.

#bulletjournal #genealogybulletjournal #organizinginformation


  1. I am going to add this post to my Google+ Bullet Journalling for Genealogists Links collection where I am gathering anything I may want to refer back to for ideas and suggestions.
    Thank You for sharing what you have been doing.

  2. Mary, I really enjoyed this post. I've been keeping a bullet journal for personal stuff since last September - and it's been very successful for me. Like you, I love all the pretty ideas I find on Pinterest but find that it's more productive for me to just keep it simple. I have a few bullet journal tools that I use for genealogy but am looking to expand on that, without becoming overly complicated. After reading this post, it occurs to me that I might try keeping an entirely separate bullet journal for genealogy. The thought has crossed my mind before but since I have a tendency to over-complicate a thing, I've been avoiding that option as a solution. Anyway, I like some of your ideas so I think I'll give it a try. Thanks for the post.