Mind Mapping for Genealogy

Mind Mapping for Genealogy

methods & strategies tools & technology Jan 18, 2024

This post is in memory of Ron Arons, who recently passed away. Ron was the author of Mind Maps for Genealogy: Enhanced Research Planning, Correlations, and Analysis. I have yet to read his book, so I can’t speak to it or his strategies for using mind maps for genealogy—I can only speak to how I use them and the different tools that exist, which I will do in this article.

A mind map is a visual brainstorming tool to help you organize your thoughts. Project managers use them to plan their projects. Authors use them to outline a book (or article). Educators use them to map out courses. Students use them for taking notes. Genealogists use them for these same purposes and more. I use them for creating a visual representation of FAN Clubs in genealogy research. (To learn more about the FAN Club, see my article How To Use the FAN Club to Solve Your Genealogy Brick Walls.)

In short, the FAN Club is a term used in genealogy to describe a person’s network of Family, Associates, and Neighbors. While I teach my students how to manage a FAN Club using the list method (because it’s the simplest and I want them to take action quickly), I eventually encourage them to use the mind mapping method for the visual representation it provides. This allows for more associations/connections to be made and advanced analysis of the network. Below are two examples of the same FAN Club, the second one being more detailed than the first. These two examples show you how a mind map can represent an ancestor’s network and that it can be simple or complex.

Following are some tools that you can use to create all sorts of mind maps.

  • Coggle - Web-based, free (with limitations) or $5/month
  • EdrawMind - Web-based and downloadable app for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android; free trial; $59/year
  • Scapple - Downloadable app for Windows and Mac, free trial (30 days of use), $20.99 one-time payment
  • Xmind - Web-based and downloadable app for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android; free (with limitations) or $5.99/month

Or, you could use a non-digital method such as pen and paper, sticky notes (my personal favorite), or a whiteboard.

You can also try tools with a broader scope of use in the creation of diagrams, such as Lucidchart, Microsoft Visio, and EdrawMax (the mind maps above were made using this program).

Now that you have a basic idea about how others use mind maps, think about your genealogy research and how mind maps might help you visualize certain aspects. Use the ideas and play around with the different tools (either through the free version or the free trial) and see if mind maps would be of use to you and which tool would work the best for you.

I hope you enjoyed this article and that you’re ready to try mind mapping for your genealogy research. If you found this article helpful, be sure to add the Genealogy In Action blog to your favorite RSS reader.

© Julie Tarr. This article was first published at Genealogy In Action; appearance of this article elsewhere, without my permission, violates copyright.