Planners, Notebooks & How it Came to be…

I was educated in Surrey, where at the time the school system was three tiered – a primary school, middle school and then senior school. On day one of senior school I, along with my class mates was presented with a small book, measuring 8 cm x 15 cm on the front of it was “homework journal” Inside there was space for each day, Monday to Friday and a small section for notes. As I progressed through probably the first few years I found that the homework journal didn’t have enough space and by the time I was working towards O-Levels it certainly didn’t and I migrated into a notebook. At the time it seemed bizarre, none of my friends that went to other senior schools had those books of course, looking back it was a really useful thing to give a teenager so that they got use to the concept of planning and remembering when things were due

All the way through senior school, University, additional courses, working and decades of genealogical research I have kept both a planner and a notebook. I have always kept one planner; a page a day and use that to track appointments, my to do list, notes when I have called somewhere and what was said. In a working environment I used the same planner. I knew of colleagues who kept a work planner and private planner but I found because of the roles that I had that the day job would merge into the evenings and two planners would have been a nightmare.


Planner exampleThis is a page from my planner from last Friday. I had no appointments or timed specific matters, so the page has my to do list. If I had a timed appointment after I started the to do list I would have either written in a different colour or highlighted it so it was not missed. In some ways I use a bullet system, I number my tasks, a tick means I achieved the task and the > means I migrated the task to a different day, sometimes that is the next day and on other occasions it is a few days later.

This particular planner is the large hardback Moleskine page a day and has in my view a few unnecessary pages at the front of the book and has a bookmark built in. The best bit is the integral pocket at the back, where I can keep any bits of paper that I need to retain, usually post it note size, the other thing I especially like is that Saturday and Sunday have a page each, whereas most other page a day planners have the weekend days share a page. These planners are not cheap, and the 2019 is currently retailing at £22! I know, that is wow! and I have never paid that, I wait until a bit later in the year when the price drops!

NotebooksOn occasions I have lots of both appointments and items to do, in that case I write the additional few on a post it note and stick it in. I retain that post it note too and often use washi tape to fix it in.

Notebooks are an essential part of my schedule and working life. I note everything. I am and always have been a prolific note taker. My preferred notebook is from Leuchtturm1917. These notebooks are not cheap and they come in a range of colours and in a lined, plain and dot grid which is what most of the “true bullet” journal folk use. These books come with two page markers, the pocket at the back, which is the same as the Moleskine range of planners and notebooks. They also come with the pages numbered already and two pages marked ready to index the pages. Some of the large grocery stores do their own brand of these books, with the pocket at the back and they are cheaper, if I purchase one of those then I leave a few pages at the front for the index and number each page myself. I also date every page.

I tend to use lined and my notebooks incorporate a number of things. Scoping out presentations, proposals and articles, research notes, writing notes from a website & reading etc, all with citations. I have a page for books I want to read and websites that I come across when I am reading. I draw out trees when I research as that helps me think and I often do a page for ancestors or people in my study where I want to track them.  Here are a few examples:

Notebook Example 2

So this page is where I was working on a branch of my Italian family – the page on the left is where I was following Concetta Bellantoni whose mother’s maiden name was Licata, sister of my paternal Grandmother. Concetta migrated to the United States along with her Mother, Sister and Aunt; her father had already travelled to the US and settled. Her Aunt, also called Concetta was according to the passenger list going to meet her brother who had already migrated. On the right is the print out from where I was looking at the distribution for the surname of Virciglio which is the surname of my paternal Great Grandmother.

Notebook Example 1

This is the page where I was working on the Licata family and you can see Concetta who migrated to the United States and was Aunt to Concetta Bellantoni. My Grandmother is the youngest in this family, Maria, who was the only one of her family to remain in Sutera, Sicily. You can see on this page the washi tape, that appears on every page with a tree.

The reason I draw this out like this is two fold – it helps me think! and it helps me identify who sits where, especially with Italian families where names often repeat. Italian certificates provide the full names of the parents; women retain their birth surname even after marriage.

I do transcribe and add this into my genealogical programme, which is Roots Magic – I always work this way for my own family. For individuals in my study it varies. When I work on a particular individual, family or group of people, then I do work in a similar fashion as I reconstruct their family. Sometimes, this is a partial note a list of the Census years and a tick for when I have located them on a Census & downloaded a copy, I note the place they are living and the occupation. As I work through the data for any individual or family I record where I found what and what I didn’t find, children on one Census but missing from the next is an example.

I also scope out blog posts in this notebook – especially if I am planning a series and when I will scheduled them; as they are scheduled they receive a tick. I have just planned out a series for this blog for October and I did one during April this year. I have the material for my DNA results and I am currently scoping our a DNA series for this blog. I am no expert on DNA, but things I have observed on my own results, about my DNA surname projects etc. On occasions someone will ask a question on this site and I answer the question, but perhaps it eventually generates into a post of it’s own. I have a list from the April 2018 series, which I won’t show you, otherwise it will spoil the surprise!

I am busy planning a trip to Sicily for next year and purchased a specific notebook, in lime green, but opted for the plain version because I know I am likely to stick bits in. That will contain all the notes in the planning stage of the trip and material once we get there – some of the usual holiday things  – what we do and when as well as research material, by that I mean notes taken whilst researching on the trip and the Italian bit of my to do list. The rest of the material will all be on my website – even if the One-Name Study of the material is not completely up to date, my personal line will be so that I can use the website instead of carrying paper around. Material on the website that relates to living people is hidden, but I will be able to see it, as long as I am logged in.

I use both Evernote and One Note and I use them for different things. I might have an idea and want to record that, so a one line pondering which I might scope out later and sometimes, much later.  I much prefer pen and paper, even though I love the technical abilities we now have. The Evernote web clipper is fabulous and a real help to archive material. I used One Note to scope out a project which I have just about completed, all 50,000 words of it. I chose One Note in 2014 when I started the project and whilst I have some of the notes I took as I researched that project in previous notebooks, the basic idea and the scope is in One Note. I will at some point archive the material electronically, because I never discard anything, even if I never used the material in that particular project – once I research I retain the information as sometimes it contains a gem which I use for something else.

Sorry this has been such a long post and I hope those Guild of One-Name Studies members who were interested found it helpful and if you have a comment or there are any questions, ask away…….


About Julie Goucher

Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationery & History; Surnames, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies. Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies/surname courses as well as Researching Ancestors from Continental Europe.
This entry was posted in Genealogy, Stationery, Filofax, Journals & Notebooks. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Planners, Notebooks & How it Came to be…

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  6. Matt Harrison says:

    Thank you for the great examples of uses of your notebooks. I got to this page from a link in Travellers Notebook Times. I know others use various notebooks for Genealogy but this is one of the most useful examples I have seen, and want to use your format more in my research. It is always difficult finding a way to keep all the various bits of information I find, and everyone has a different method.

    I also really liked the example of your schooling. My kids all get these fancy planners from their schools, that work well in elementary and junior high but not so well in high school. Having a notebook/planner that is durable, more plain and to your own liking would be a great idea for my kids.

    I have tried many different ways of making notes, reminders and journaling, and have tried a few types of notebooks for my everyday use, and I like seeing others examples and methods they have come up with.


    • Hi Matt – thanks for your comment and glad you enjoyed the post. The planners that the school gave us were paperback and not suitable for me once I got to include things like hockey practice and extra Maths tutoring etc. For me working with these two books – planner and notebook I find really helpful. I don’t carry my planner with me everyday, I tend to leave it on my desk, but if I need to carry it with me for an appointment then I do and I always take it away with me if I am travelling. When I was last in Australia for example I copied the pages for the time we were away, keeping the paper with me, then I could update the planner when I was home. It was much easier to note appointments and alike that I might have made whilst I was away. I also kept a more detailed note of where we went and what we did in my notebook along with some research whilst I was away.

      In a genealogical world the drawing out of trees helps to think and I can easily build my to do list up. I also have separate pages for specific individuals if they are “document heavy” individuals, as it helps to build a timeline up for them and if they appear in documents relating to other family members and/or their local community – I will write a post about that one day this next week because someone else wrote to me about that. I do keep my material in a genealogical programme (I use Roots Magic) but I have lots of paper from the late 1980’s and want to be sure that I have captured all that information into the database before I recycle the paper (notes, not documents).


  7. Great post! I use a Rhodia soft cover dot grid notebook. At the beginning of the month I make pages for monthly goals, a tracker (track some health stuff), a two page month calendar, and then 2 pages for every week. I put appointments and to dos on my two page week. Before the next month starts I have room for notes and lists. Then I start the next month. I have been looking for an easy way to leave myself a note as to where I left off when I have been working on my Genealogy and think I am going to use my notes section between each month. I use Evernote for everything genealogy and in between (it is my brain) but I like to write things down too. At the end of each month I transfer any notes to Evernote. I believe this is my 5th notebook. I have not decided if I will keep them or toss them since important stuff has found its way into Evernote.


    • Glad you enjoyed the post Shannon. I have every planner and notebook I have ever written, including those very early homework planners. I have kept them for several reasons, the “thrill” of looking back to previous days, sometimes I want to check something and then of course, seeing something handwritten – whilst my handwriting is nothing special, there might be a thrill for another generation to see it.

      I too track several health related things, one of which has an alternating dose which you can see in one of the examples. I track my blood test appointments & results and type the results up into a spreadsheet, by doing that I was able to see a rather curious pattern, although the consultant was dismissive!

      I use Evernote too, and have a complete set of medical records there and a complete set of other material genealogical related, including material for my one-name study divided between two folders – processed and unprocessed.

      Liked by 1 person

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  9. Magda Miller says:

    My very first, very red Leuchtturm1917 landed on my porchsteps today! Thanks for demonstrating how you do family history with it. The table of contents, numbered pages and pocket in back blew me away. Also that elastic band to tuck in my “microfilm index cards” is going to be a great solution on my library days. I don’t have a smartphone to take pictures so I do a lot of transcriptions on index cards. The composition books, binders are too big to carry around and the cheap little ones won’t lay flat.


    • You are welcome; I am glad you enjoyed the post and found it useful. In notebooks that don’t have an index at the front I leave a couple of pages and index (page number too) as I go. I also use a couple of pages at the back – my postal Christmas card list is one of those and if I have a few things that I want to write, but I am in the middle of writing at the front, so my February surname series is dated and at the back – I will index those few pages when I get to the end of the book! That pocket at the back is useful and I tend to use it for some of those coloured tags that are adhesive, they enable me to mark any pages for specific reasons – you can see what I mean on the planner page photo. I know some folk prefer the electronic way, but sometimes you just need to write stuff down and I find that I remember things more if I write it rather than type it. Enjoy your new book – red is never a colour I have used – I should also say that these books come with a useful set of sticky labels so you can easily identify what is in the notebook. Enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. bobj2361 says:

    Where do you keep all the Notebooks and files? Do you keep electronic files online? I’m trying to get rid of stuff in my house. Don’t want the kids to have to go thru it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am gradually digitising my genealogical records with the aim of having all material online at my website. Material related to living people won’t be available though but it will be archived. I also keep a complete set of material in a file on Google Drive & Dropbox. Once a month I make a backup and store that in our safe. I retain photographs, certificates, documents, notebooks and planner and these are specified within my will on who gets them. I also have ownership of the grave of my great grandparents and have specified that in my will so that it does not revert to the state. Physical items I have tracked and made a record of, so things like medals are photographed and a photo will be uploaded to the website. Where I own them I have left them for a family member.


  11. Lisa Hill says:

    I’ve bought many planners over the course of my life and start them with good intentions, but my dedication has always fizzled out.
    I’m interested in what you say about One Note: I use to keep track of my interactions with publishers so that I know which books I’ve committed to review and so on, but I know I don’t use it to the best of its possibilities. I’d be interested to know how you set it up for a FamHist project because although I have abandoned any further research I must do something with what I already have because I used The Master Genealogist which is now defunct and unsupported so I can’t pass it on to anyone who is interested. I need to retrieve what is useful and get it into some sort of order and I just don’t know what to use.


    • Lisa, I know several people who are still using the Master Genealogist. Are you able to download a GEDCOM file? If you are that would be a way of transferring to another researcher – In terms of programmes, I use Roots Magic which does allow a free download for you to test out and that might be worth exploring. Equally, I have a friend who uses Legacy and recommends them.

      I will see if I can pull together a post about using One Note for a project, and explain what I did, as that might help – will try and do that sometime in the next week.

      Are you not planning to go back and do any further research?


      • Lisa Hill says:

        Hi Julie, I can still use TMG, but I never really mastered using it properly and I can’t get it to print out things the way I want it to.
        What I really want is to be able to pass on a folder with a tree and some anecdotes about the family, plus a USB drive of the files to the next generation (who at this stage aren’t interested but may be when they are older.) I don’t know what a GEDCOM file is…
        I’m not planning to go any further because it’s my Ex-husband’s family…


        • Lisa, I don’t use TMG but I know a man who does! I will drop them a note and see if they can write down the directions for exporting a GEDCOM file.

          A GEDCOM file is a way to export from your family history programme so that others can can import it into their programme. Also from that Export you can upload to a piece of software called TNG (The Next Generation) or Second Site and make a website out of it – so I guess GEDCOM is a nothing more than a genealogical process method to achieve other things, in much the same way that a wheelchair enables movement of someone who is unable to walk through health issues – a means to an end. I will see if I can get those instructions for you and leave a note on this thread.

          That way you can pass along a folder (either digital or paper) to someone and can add the GEDCOM to the USB stick.


  12. fhtess65 says:

    Great post! I too love all kinds of books and planners…I’m just not quite as good as you at using them in such a dedicated manner – you’ve inspired me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for such a lovely comment. I don’t always get it right and do on occasion drop the ball! Key is to find a comfortable way of working that works for you and one that you can adapt as you and your lifestyle or way of working evolve and adapt. Good luck, let me know how you get on!

      Liked by 1 person

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