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Mind Mapping for Genealogists

What is a Mind map?


A mind map is a visual means of conveying ideas and information. It’s a tool that helps you to structure, analyze and generate new thoughts in a visual format. The term “mind map” is in fact a trademark of the Buzan Organization. The brain child of Tony Buzan, his theory is that mind maps apparently resemble how your brain actually works and by utilizing them they can engage your brain in a richer manner allowing you to be more creative and  aid in memory function. How I’ve come to understand them, they help me to do a brain dump into a pretty colourful visual picture when I have too many ideas to juggle and chaos has taken over in my brain.

How can I apply mind mapping to my genealogy?
  • Mind mapping can aid in genealogical research, problem solving and breaking down brick walls. For instance, take Elizabeth Shown Mills Quick Lesson No. 6. In this post, Elizabeth demonstrates a mind map for a single record and how that one record generates numerous research options in a number of directions. She displays it visually in a mind map. Mind mapping your genealogy research can be done on a number of levels. For example, a single document as demonstrated by Ms. Mills or a single ancestor, or a surname. Consider mind mapping at every stage and level of your research to help identify, clarify and problem solve.
  • Mind mapping allows us to see the bigger picture while also giving us the ability to break that big picture into detailed information. You can take a large project such as writing your family history, an overwhelming task for many, and break it down into manageable chunks.
  • Mind mapping can help you organize mental clutter and information overload. We are all overwhelmed with juggling research, writing, blogging, clients, speaking and creating presentations. Mind mapping can help you  organize your priorities and time.
  • Planning a research trip, regardless of whether it’s a large scale trip to an ancestral hometown or to an archive, a mind map can help you create a game plan for your trip. A mind map will help to keep your goals in focus while organizing them into manageable tasks, increasing your chances of success and leaving you feeling less overwhelmed and distracted while at your destination.
  • Any kind of large genealogy project can benefit from a mind map, writing a book or blog, creating a webinar or presentation for your local genealogical society or for a conference. Mind mapping can help you to clarify your goal and brainstorm ideas and keep you on point. Mind maps allow you to make associations easily and generate new ideas. As a genealogy speaker, mind maps can help you to convey your message to your audience.
  • On the flip side if you are attending a genealogy conference or webinar mind mapping is a great note taking tool. Mind maps can help you summarize information during a conference in a quick and easy visual display. 

Mind Mapping Software 

There are several mind mapping software programs on the market today. Tony Buzan’s iMindMap comes in a free basic version with more advanced options at a price. The mind map included here, visually demonstrates the information for this post. It was created on the free basic program of iMindMap5.  Freemind is another popular and free software program.  If you're using mind maps for your own personal use, the free versions will do the trick. If you're looking for more elaborate mind maps for presentations and to use in business you may wish to consider an upgraded version. Many software programs also offer apps for android and iphones as is the case of iMindMap, allowing you to create a quick mind map on the go when inspiration strikes. You can access your information from anywhere and edit them on the go.

iMindMap Basic 
Of course mind maps don't only come in colourful and sometimes expensive software programs. You can create a mind map with a simple pen and paper, post-it-notes work well, as do cue cards on a bulletin board or a white board with erasable markers.

I personally use mind maps in my writing projects. When I want to create a series of blog posts, I often organize and brainstorm ideas in a mind map. I use minds maps on larger projects including outlining my family history books.

In our next post, we'll take a closer look at mind mapping your family history writing. We will walk through a step by step process of creating a mind map to brainstorm content for our family history blog to book project.

Do You Mind Map? How do you use mind mapping in your genealogy research?

(I am an affiliate for iMindMap and receive a small commission if you click on the links above)

8 comments:

  1. "My mind map has big holes in it...am I old? Or just dumb?"

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  2. Other than the mobile features, does the specialty software do something more than general diagramming software does?

    I like to organize things graphically and often use OpenOffice Draw. It is free. It is easy to make colorful diagrams that can be printed and outputted to PDF or about any image format. Since it is a vector based drawing program, as opposed to a raster based tool like Photoshop, diagrams can be scaled to whatever size is needed.

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  3. imindmap sign in has too many error messages and no info telling what does or does not work to your software expectation for user name [in filling out your form]. If I have to do more than three times the software is not worth trying. I will stay with FreeMind, although the imindmap looks good.

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  4. @Nettie, sorry to hear you had trouble with the download of iMindMap software. I assure you it's a great program, when you download it for free you get the Ultimate package for free for 7 days and then it reverts to the basic package. I put it on two computers now with no troubles, hope you have better luck with FreeMind.

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  5. Dan the Ulitmate package gives you a lot of bells and whistles, you can display your maps in 3D or presentation mode, you can output in every image format from Jpegs, to pdf's, web ready etc. You can attach images, notes, links. I really encourage you to try it for the 7 day free trial.

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  6. Just downloaded the free trial. Thanks for this!

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  7. Have fun Jana, let me know how you make out.

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  8. It's a year after you wrote this post, but I thought I would let you know that your post inspired my "Thankful Thursday" post for today (with a link back here).

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