Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Day 8: Organize Your Browser Bookmarks/Favorites

Among the estimated 200 million active websites, there are many of some interest to genealogists. Cyndi's List has links to more than 337,000 of them. But if you're typing the URL for each of these websites, you're wasting a great deal of time. Your browser has a feature that adds a shortcut for any site you like, so that all you have to do is choose the site from your browser's menu. For Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari users, we're talking bookmarks. For Windows built-in browsers (Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer), we're talking favorites. (I'll use "bookmark" from now on, as that should apply to at least 85% of you.)

I would be highly surprised if you're not already making use of your browser's bookmark features, although you may not use it as often as you could. I'd be much less surprised to learn that you use the bookmark feature a great deal, perhaps to the point where you have so many bookmarks that you spend some of your time trying to find the one you need. This is where a better bookmark organizing scheme comes in.

Let's remember those two basic rules of organizing: (1) keep it as simple as possible, and (2) put things closer or farther away depending upon how often you use them. How do these apply to bookmarks?

Because bookmarks can be placed into folders, you might be tempted to create a hierarchical system where you have links inside of folders inside of folders inside get the idea. But this would be a complicated system. You'd be better served by a system that is not nested too deeply (folders with subfolders, but that's it). If you have a large computer display, and you don't enlarge your displayed image too much, you may be able to have as many as 20 items at the top level (a lot also depends on how long each label is). I'd recommend keeping the top level somewhere between 10 and 20 items (either direct links or folders).

Unless you are accustomed to reading right-to-left, you're probably going to scan across your bookmark menu from left to right. This means that your leftmost links should be those that you use very frequently, from multiple times a day to at least once a day. For instance, my two leftmost bookmark menu items are direct links to Gmail and to Facebook. After those I have direct links to Feedly (where I read blogs) and to Wikipedia.

Once you have bookmarked your most frequently used websites and moved those to the far left of your bookmark menu, it's time to think about how to organize all of the remaining links. This is where you'll want to think about how your sites fall into categories. You might have a single folder for Genealogy, or you might have several (Records, Newspapers, DNA, etc.).  If you find yourself using any of the sites in these categories every day, then move them out of the folder and make them a direct link on the bookmark menu.

Sooner or later you'll get to some sites that you'd like to remind yourself of, but that you don't use often. These can definitely go into categories folders, and if you have a lot of these, into subfolders of the main folders. A main menu Surnames bookmark folder might be further categorized into subfolders for websites for specific surnames.

As I mentioned earlier, a lot depends on how long the bookmark label is. When you bookmark a site, nothing obligates you to keep the original site's long bookmark name. Edit its name so that the first word is the keyword, and delete any other words that aren't needed to tell you what the site is. For instance, if you were to bookmark the site, it would give you a default bookmark name of "Genealogy, Family Trees and Family History Records online - Ancestry®." You could edit that to say nothing more than "Ancestry." Make the first word of each bookmark the most meaningful, so that you can scan down a list of bookmarks in a folder to quickly find the one you need. If you use one (or a few) more than the others, put those at the top of the folder. If all the links in the folder are used about as often as the rest, alphabetize them.

One more thing (that George reminded me about): Backup your bookmarks file!


  1. This is precisely the way i've organized my bookmarks for many years. It has saved hundreds if hours of searching for randomly saved links. AND a monthly backup of your bookmarks to someplace in the Cloud will save the heartbreak of having to recreate everything if your bookmarks file is lost or damaged.

  2. I started using, a browser extension to organize all of my bookmarks. I have one page dedicated to genealogy. I love it.

  3. I have a page just for genealogy, with all of my genealogy links in one place.

  4. Drew, thank you so much for posting the organizing hints, because it has put me in the mood to get one thing done each day. That way it won't seem like an insurmountable task! Thank you so much for your posts.

    Davine Roberts
    Jacksonville, FL