I am a reference librarian, and highly organized in most areas of my house - spices alphabetized, shoes by color and heel height, etc. But, it took me many tries to find a genealogy filing system that worked for me. Basically, I have a notebook for each major surname. On the front cover is the family tree for that surname. The inside starts with family group sheets for that surname, in alpha order. Dividers group like-documents into sections, census sheets being the first, by year. Within each year, they are by state, then county and township, NOT by surname. I've discovered relatives living nearby, by filing this way. Next is "source documents" with multiple names first (like cemetery lists), then individuals in alpha order. I started with multiples at the back, but too often overlooked them, so moved them to the front of the section. The third section has copies of photos and land records, including maps. The fourth is correspondence. The last section is documents for people that MAY be relatives but aren't yet proven.
When a surname notebook gets too large, I pull out census and unproven relatives into separate notebooks. When the "source documents" section gets too big, I divide the multiples and first part of the singles into another notebook, and keep dividing the alphabet as needed. My label machine comes in handy when doing this!
So even though I may have 10 notebooks for one surname, the order stays the same as if I had only 1 notebook: Family Group Sheets, 1. Census, 2. Source Documents, 3. Photos & Land, 4. Correspondence, and 5. Unproven people.
When I get enough documents on a side family of the main surname (like a married daughter's branch), I pull that out into a new surname notebook.
For day-to-day organizing, I have file folders in my desk drawers - left side for my husband's families and right side for my own families, plus folders for countries and states. When I print something I find on the internet, I drop it into the appropriate folder instead of interrupting myself by filing it then. Once a week I set aside time to file these documents in their notebooks. I don't allow myself to research a name until the documents in that folder are in the notebook. Filing is the price I make myself pay for the pleasure of searching.
I keep notebooks on states so that info on doing research in them is in one place. When I travel to a state, I take that notebook with me. In the front of each notebook, I keep a sheet listing info I will look for if I go there, and things I will do, like photograph Grandma Thompson's grave. I also keep info on the libraries and societies in the area, with addresses, phone numbers, and hours of operation. These all make planning and executing a trip so much easier.
When I first started looking for a workable filing system, I read everything I could find on the subject. I made several bad starts, and tried at least 4 different systems until I found one that I could tweak to make it work for me. In the beginning I made tables of contents for each notebook, but this was too much work. Now I rely on the family group sheet sources to tell me if I have a document. And I transcribe important info into my genealogy database.
I enjoy reading about the filing methods of others in your blog, and I would like to hear more about your own system/systems that work for you. I am enjoying your lists. They are interesting and helpful. Thanks.
So there is another nut in the world who alphabetizes her spice rack?!!! I feel much better about myself already.
Thank-you for taking the time to describe your “larger than one notebook” surname work. I agree that it is a simple thing to break out information to additional notebooks. Namely Goering 1, Goering 2, Goering 3. In the case of some surnames, where little has been gathered, they are fitting 3-5 in one notebook, all in alphabetical order of course and the spine label reads “A-Cromwell”.
I agree that review of census records will most certainly give us the chance to learn about the neighbors. Most certainly the average couple getting married weren’t initially total strangers, but perhaps knew each other as neighbors in their youth.
You are wise to clearly label the “not proven” research as such. Otherwise the info is surely to be mistaken as ancestral.
Ol’ Myrt here opts to use notebooks rather than folders so things won’t “fall out”. I also have notebooks for specific locations I am researching -- to refer to and get the “lay of the land” when it comes to timelines in social history and records availability.
A new research partner tells me that he takes his research files with him, but I am reluctant to do this as I have been the victim of lost luggage tactics perpetrated by major airlines, and simply cannot carry it all on my lap in the cabin. The alternative it to be sure that ALL info is transcribed into notes for each person in my genealogy software. I also type a to-do-list on the bottom of those notes. Some genealogy programs will generate a to-do list for you, but I don’t use them, having grown up in the olden days of computers where we only had 10MB (not GB) of hard drive space and such new-fangled options weren’t available.
When traveling, Ol’ Myrt here either brings the laptop or uses http://www.gotomypc.com/ to access home computer files. This is especially helpful since there are those days when we THINK we’re going to do research on one line, and a book falls into our view on a completely different branch of the family tree.
However, I still maintain it is best to keep all documents pertaining to one family group filed immediately after that family group sheet in your notebook, in document date order. Maybe it’s just the way this ol’ mind works, eh?
Happy family tree climbing!
Your friend in genealogy.
DearMYRTLE’s Family History Hour
Family History Expos Genealogy Podcasts
DearMYRTLE's Facebook® Group Message Board
© 2009 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.
This and previous blog entries are fully searchable by going to http://blog.DearMYRTLE.com . Myrt welcomes queries and research challenges, but regrets she is unable to answer each personally.