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Got a complex genealogy problem? Try creating a Mind Map

When you have a difficult genealogy research case, creating a mind map of your ancestor's evidence just might be the tool you need to get you beyond the problem.

Ron Arons, who has a history of using mind maps to solve genealogy brick walls, and is the author of the new book Mind Maps for Genealogy, attended Warren Bittner's recent webinar on complex evidence. Warren's phrase, "web of evidence" struck a chord with Ron, and so did this graphic where Warren showed how he tied all of the evidence together:


It immediately reminded Ron of mind mapping and so guess what Ron did next? He created a mind map of Warren's research. (Click to enlarge.)


In this mind map Ron used different colors to connect the same individuals across different documents. He matched up common data points (individuals' names, locations, etc.) and organized it in clockwise chronological order, creating a timeline. For example, Frederick Behre is connected across documents using a rich/deep blue set of connector arrows, Minnie's connector arrows are in pink, Dora (Fred's wife) is in crimson, and so on. In some cases, Ron connected the same residential address across documents using grey connector arrows.

The end result provides the ability to visualize how the evidence in seemingly unrelated documents fits together, thus giving the researcher a new angle to visualize their problem.

Mfg-coverMind Maps for Genealogy: Enhanced Research Planning, Correlation and Analysis by Ron Arons

Ron also has a new book out on the topic. Mind Maps for Genealogy: Enhanced Research Planning, Correlation and Analysis provides an introduction to the concepts of mind maps. In addition to providing step-by-step instructions for using two of the leading mind mapping products (which also just happen to be free), this book provides numerous examples of how these tools can be used, including with the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS), the FAN (friends and neighbors) Principle, and Inferential Genealogy.

Click here to purchase.

Webinars on Mind Mapping

Learn more in our webinar library from both Ron Arons and Thomas MacEntee:


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I've kind of done the same thing. Except I use numbers rather than colors. For example I will find cemetery listings and for whatever family/families I'm researching I will ascertain the person with the oldest stated birth. I will call that person #1. The next oldest date of birth I will call #2 and so on. Then I can make simple notes for each of them such as for #2 - "sp of #1" or "m. #1". If one of their children was #15 in the list, I might put a note for #15 -- s/o or d/o #1 & #2" and so on.

Or for census listings I will number the families. In a notebook right now I am going through an online census index and have notes such as this:

1910 Census
Houston Co, AL
#80 (80th probable separate family in the censuses being researched in question)
Cadie Chandley (Nancy Chandler, No Name)

1920 Census
Houston Co, AL
#80? C. B. Chandler (Nancy, Sam, Eula, Raly, Emma, Martha)

1930 Census
Dale Co, AL
#80? Cody Chandler (Nancy, Eula M., Emma, Martha, Preston, Walton, James, Mixon)

1940 Census
Dale Co, AL
#80? Nancy Chandler (Preston, Walter, James, Mixon, Martha)

The names in these families seem to possibly be the same family. So I have used the designation for them of the number "80". Altogether in the list of Chandler families in the censuses of certain counties in southeast AL (1850-1940) I have them numbered up to 129. Not finished with 1940 quite yet. This helps me to keep track of them and then possibly link up some of the numbered families who are related in yet another separate listing.

These are just scribbled notes for my own research with probabilities for further research. I'm looking for information for a particular Chandler family in southeast AL for an inquiry submitted to our Chandler Family Association Genealogy Panel.

I also consistently use chronological listings in almost all of my genealogical research no matter what type of records I'm dealing with.

It is like down to earth rocket science! I wish you well with the lift off...

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