Genealogy: Where you confuse the dead & irritate the living....

Surnames: Calaway, Dunn, Evans, Johnson, Lindsey, Rollins, Short & Williams

States: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, S. Carolina, Tennessee, Texas

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Organizing Your Genealogy Files/Records....

For those who have been in genealogy for a while now, did you ever think you'd acquire the amount of paperwork you have? I know I didn't. Or if you are new to genealogy, be prepared to have mountains of paperwork staring at you! :-) Oh I knew there would be some but nothing like what I had a few days ago & taking up any & all available space in my room. heehee If I knew then what I knew now, & that is how much paper is involved in genealogy, I would have bought stock in printer paper & ink cartridges! lol

The big question is, how the heck do you keep it from taking you over....even worse, some of it getting lost? The answer to that is to get it all organized. Yeah, I know you are rolling your eyes at me & thinking "Well, DUH!", you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out! :-) But the question is, just how many of you "do" have all of your genealogy records organized? That's what I thought....nice thought, easier said than done & all that right? Sadly, most of us don't give it that much thought, figuring we'll do something about it down the road, especially when we start out, till it "does" become a problem. I was just as guilty, had it somewhat organized, but the majority was just willy nilly here & there. Though 9o% of the time I could find what I was looking for, even if it might take me a while to find....I knew others wouldn't have a clue as to where to find something.

The other day, I decided to quit making excuses & just do what was long other words, get them sorted, put in ordered & filed. Problem was, what would be the best way to organize it once you had it all separated? If you've done any research, or read any genealogy tips on filing systems, you found there are about as many ways to set up your files as there are genealogists. OK maybe not as many as that, but enough to confuse you as to which would work best for you. I know, cause I've been there.

So what do you do? I finally said the heck with it all & decided I had to start somewhere. First I pulled up my genealogy file on the computer & printed out the records I hadn't done so yet, then gathered up everything I had stored in boxes/files & composed one big pile. Then just took my time, going at my own pace, & started separating the "big" pile into smaller categories. You'll find, as you go along, the categories will decide for themselves with what you have. Once I had gone through the original pile, I went through the individual piles & doing any further sorting that needed to be done. My next step was to take each pile & highlight the name the document was for. (((NOTE: Only mark/highlight copies, never mark an original document!!!))) Finally I alphabetize each sorted pile. It took me 2 or 3 days to go through it all, working on it for a couple of hours each time, till I had everything sorted out into the following:

  • GENEALOGY TOOLS...I keep maps of counties, a list of state abbreviations, samples of handwritings, etc. NOTE: I keep this file at the beginning, as it is something I get into more often than the others
  • BIRTH....certificates, records, announcements
  • CEMETERY....on-line I have found databases of family buried in cemeteries & I keep those here, as well as records/photos of headstones that I have pulled from "Find-a-Grave" website
  • DEATH/OBITS....certificates, records, obituaries
  • DIVORCE.....certificates, records
  • DRAFT CARDS - 1917/18.....copies I have pulled from Ancestry's military database
  • DRAFT CARDS - 1942.....copies I have pulled from Ancestry's military database
  • E-MAILS/NOTES....e-mails containing family stories/memories, notes containing information not pertaining to any of the other categories
  • FAMILY GENEALOGY/ GED files & trees that I have received from other family members, as well as family information pertaining to non-blood related family
  • LAND GRANTS/PROPERTY....deeds, warranties & such
  • LETTERS SENT OUT.....copies of the original letters sent out to others to gather information. NOTE: A note is posted on the original when I get a reply back & it is placed in the appropriate file, depending on what info I was inquiring about. But I keep the original letter here
  • MARRIAGE.....certificates, records, announcements
  • MILITARY....service records, records pulled from Ancestry
  • MISC INFO....any records/information, such as schooling, interests, occupations, etc. that I have on individuals
  • NEWSPAPER ARTICLES.....articles on family, places of interests, etc.
  • PENDING DATA....self explanatory
  • SHIP LOGS....logs/manifest of family members
  • SSDI/STATE.... records pulled from Ancesty. NOTE: These could be placed in the "DEATH/OBIT" file, but I have acquired so many of them, that I wanted them separate
Now the above files are what works best for me with the type of records that I have accumulated, most likely you would need to adjust them to fit your's. Also, the files can easily be added to, combined or re-arranged to fit your own genealogy needs as you go along.

Many find organizing their files up to this point would work for them & not have to go any further. For me though, I think I having each record filed under the name of the person for which the document/record was for will be the way I'll have my system set-up. Therefore, my last step will be to get 3-ring binders & file each record/document under the appropriate name, using plastic sleeves & dividers. At least for now, my files are separated & in alphabetic other words the hard part is over with & I can find any document within seconds.

From going to thinking how much I dreaded even starting such a project, I found by going slowly, doing it in baby steps & working at my own pace, it wasn't nearly as hard or bad as I thought it would be. I made myself a promise at the beginning that I wouldn't let it overwhelm me or get to me....& I kept that promise.

So get out there & get those files organized! :-)

Coming up next.....Census Cards


Rose Mary said...

Wow, you really are organized, Aunt Deb! I can't wait to see it all when we get down there. Maybe it will inspire me to get busy and get mine in some sort of order. I'm telling myself that when we get our new computer desk/shelves done that I will get it organized!

Gini said...

This is great Deb, I have my system set up pretty close to yours. I did the same. I got stuck on misc stuff like info on how to do something, general info, reference material, things like that so I made a hanging file with labels like: forms (blank family group sheets, research forms. Just different info I may need down the road and wanted to find it quick. I have all my info in 3 ring binders behind each name. I know right where to go. If it's for my dad, all of his info is right there behind his name. Love it that way. Thanks for helping us get organized.

Deb said...

Thank you both Mary & Gini for your kind comments....they are always appreciated. :-)

Mary, as I mentioned in my post, I was so NOT looking forward to getting started in getting everything organized. But really, once I began, it just seemed to flow & went very smooth. And boy, does it feel good to have it all sorted & filed finally. :-) heehee

Gini, I like your idea about having the "misc" sorted out. I just might have to incorporate that into my filing system, as it sure would be easier to find something that way. Thanks!

Later, Deb