Organize your research using Trello

Trello is a free web based product that can be easily tailored to organize your research. Think of Trello like you would with a set of paper index cards. On paper index cards you can write important notes that you want to remember and you can then organize the cards into particular groups.

Think of Trello in that same way although the cards are digital. With each digital card you can add a written note or more importantly you can attach a photo, a copy of an email, a screen shot of a web page, a web link, a PDF or whatever document you need. Over time you can add cards, re-arrange or archive cards.

The digital cards on Trello are organized into a set of boards. You can name the boards and cards anything you like and overtime you can re-arrange them as needed.

Trello is free and can be found here =>

For each person I am researching I create a Trello Board and then within the Board I add a number of digital cards. Below is the Board for Alex Kaminski. Within the Board for Alex I then created several families of Cards. Starting on the left you can see there are three main categories, Supporting Documents, Dates & Locations and Questions & Notes. Below each you can see individual cards have been added.

For each Board I create a group called supporting documents and then within that group I create cards as shown below. Trello is totally free form. You can very easily organize and name the boards and cards to fit your project.

Below is an example of an individual card for Misc Documents within the family of Supporting Documents where I have stored a PDF copy of a divorce record and a screen shot from a digital newspaper.

I also create a family of cards for dates and locations.

Within Dates and Locations I will store notes and questions that are chronological. I found this to be incredibly useful when researching someone who has moved around a lot and is particularly difficult to track. I create a folder for each year that I have documentation. For Alex I attached copies of the city directory for 1910.

Trello makes it easy to add a comment or attach a document. In the example below you can see there is an activity input box. To add a comment to the 1910 data and location card all you have to do is start typing and press enter. The newly created comment will be stored on the 1910 card for Alex.

Below is an example under Supporting Documents where I saved a Necrology records that I gathered from the web.

Trello also allows you to create “Organizations” which then allow you to interactively share Boards and Cards. For example I set up a shared set of cards for my grandfather. I added adjusted the Trello setting to allow my mother to have read and write access to certain boards and cards. I could then post a picture or pose a question and she could answer on Trello. The shared access is a powerful feature because it is a shared space allowing for multiple document types and it records and saves questions and answers in one easy to access format.

The other important benefit of using Trello is the ability to pose questions which you revisit at a later date.  As you research a particular person along the way you come across many little tidbits of information or questions which at sometime in the future you may want to revisit.

With Trello you can leave those notes or questions electronically on the cards and then later on when you revisit that topic your notes are saved right where you left off.

Writing down questions is also a helpful way to organize your next steps.  Prior to your visit to the county office or library write yourself a few questions on Trello directly tied to what you want to research.  Then update those questions with what you found.

I think you will find Trello to be very helpful.  Trello is not good for all your documentation needs and I am not suggesting that.  You many have large collections of thousands of pictures or documents that need to be stored in a more durable manner which would better suited for a different software application.  My suggested use of Trello is to organize your research while you are conducting the research.  It has helped my al lot.