Sorting Saturday ~ Organizing Genealogy Records

Posted: July 13, 2012 in accuracy, Ancestry, ancestry library, archive
Tags: , , , , ,

file cabinets

file cabinets (Photo credit: redjar)

When I started researching my family’s genealogy more than 10 years ago, I never thought I would have all this documentation to sort through and organize. I have kept everything and I do mean everything! I really need to continue organizing, if truth be told. Granted, my filing cabinet is more organized than my photos are. When I moved from the mainland to Hawaii, I had so much stuff to pack and ship. To save space, I ended up having to put all those photos into boxes and having to take those photos out of old albums.  My photos were in storage for about a year and a half and I have just now begun to sort through all those photographs! Right now I am in the process of organizing and scanning them all into the ShoeBox app I installed on my iPhone. So far, I have created several different “shoe box albums”; this is definitely a work in progress! The bane of my existence is clutter!

Digital Files~

When documents are found or sent to me, I scan them so that I have a digital copy along with a hard copy. Since photos are already being digitized and uploaded to two different locations, I know they won’t be lost to me if something were to ever happen. My photographs are very important to me along with the important papers I have collected over time on my family. Since being hard at work creating digital copies of all my files, Hawaii has 3 different storms coming that are out in Pacific waters. One being a hurricane and another a tropical storm, so it’s crucial that I get these documents and photos organized and into digital format. Just in case! On my laptop, I have created an Ancestry folder, with sub folders included as to what sort of document, who the document belongs to and so on. I found that it is easiest for me to group the documents and images by creating file folder names for couples that I am researching. For example, I have a folder created for my father and paternal grandparents where I include everything that I have on them and put them in their respective folders. So much easier!

Saving emails related to my research is another task that I have accomplished. Not only do I keep a folder inside my email client, but I also have a hard copy of all emails sent to and from me from other family and researchers alike. I probably don’t have to do this but it’s OCD thing with me to save any correspondence that I have sent or received.

Some may want to keep everything research related on their laptop but it’s also a good idea to have a hard copy just in case your laptop crashes or your motherboard goes out. If that happens, consider your work lost forever!

File Folders~

Creating file folders according to surname is an ideal way to keep you organized too. You can buy a filing cabinet, file folders, hanging file folders and labels to tab each folder with the surnames you may be investigating. This is what I have done. It keeps everything in it’s proper place and it’s much easier to find if you ever have the need to refer back to someone in particular. I have folders on Cornett and Sutherland family members because that is who I am researching currently, but I also have Email correspondence folders, folders labeled with snail mail that were received by my family, family letters and documents. Then I also have created folders based on researchers too. When I was researching my Sutherland family from Scotland, I kept the documentation and letters, research packets, etc. So that’s one thumbs up for me! At least my file folders are somewhat organized and in their proper location. The only thing I think I would like to change is adding colored coded labels to help me find things better. Maybe label them all by surname and location.

When you have all your genealogy clutter organized, you will have an awesome filing system that is well organized and systematic.

A Word (Or More) To The Wise:

Keep your files and all the hard work you have done thus far up to date. If you are all finished with the tenuous task of getting every document, letter, email or whatever your document is in an organized state, please don’t ruin all that hard work by tossing a newly found document or a BMD record into just any file for safekeeping! You are already organized so why would you mess up your files and have to repeat the process all over again? Keep it straight; you will have less headaches trying to find what you are searching for. Who wants to spend time trying to locate one document that you thought you placed in the correct folder when all along it’s location is unknown and not in the place it should be. I definitely don’t want to search each individual folder for just one particular document!

  1. D Lee says:

    First off, way to go on being organized and prepared. I agree that I need to remember to stay on top of the organization as I go. I just took a wonderful research trip and returned home with a mountain of documents and photos. Now, to get them absorbed into my organizational scheme.

  2. Nancy says:

    You’re way ahead of me on this! Great job! Makes me want to pull out all my photo albums and start scanning.

    I use notebooks (binders) instead of folders for each family line so it takes a shelf of my genealogy bookcase. The papers inside each one could probably use some pruning, but at least the information is (mostly) in the right place.

    Thanks for a reminder of how important it is to back up and organize all the research, photos, etc. Hope the storms all miss you!

    • kellyvial says:

      Thank you! Believe me, my files needs to be gone through also! I get a little OCD about paperwork being filed where it needs to be. As for the photos, I have a LOT more to scan :/

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