You're at the library and run across a county history covering the county where your ancestors lived. Excited, you grab the book and start skimming the index for the surnames you're researching. But how do you ensure you haven't forgotten someone important? This is where a surname list can keep you organized.
A surname list is basically a list of the family and collateral surnames in your family tree - a tool to help ensure that you don't forget any important surnames when searching on the Internet and in the library. It can be as simple as an alphabetical list of the surnames you're researching.
If you need more detail, an annotated surname list includes surnames, along with given names and dates of birth and death. An annotated surname list doesn't have to include every individual in your family tree. Most people include only the progenitor for each family name.
Divide Up By Location
If you're doing a lot of research in a particular location, then you may find it useful to divide up your surnames by location. That way you don't have to scan your entire surname list when you find that neat county history. You can also include the annotations in this type of surname list. If your family migrated from one place to another you should list their names under any location where they lived at one time.
Since you'll be adding new surnames as your research progresses, a surname list is easiest to maintain on your computer. Just remember to print out a copy and keep it handy in your research notebook!