Monday, March 13, 2006

Filing supporting documents

From: James Deihl,
I am using FTM (Family Tree Maker). Now I am starting to collect a lot of paper documentation and need a good filing system for that. I thought numbering might be a good idea, but it sounds like I should stick to my surname file for paper.

YES, stick to your surname filing system for paper. Here's why:

  • numbering each document something like 'Census 0001' etc. means nothing to the next person.

Merely transcribe the document, and copy/paste that text to notes or sources for each person mentioned in the document that is a member of your family. For instance, in your Family Tree Maker, James, the individual record of each family member listed in that census record should have a copy of the transcription and a link to the scanned image. If you only list this important info under the father as head of household, it won’t be very easy to develop a complete time-line for the children in the family, who more than likely outlived their parents. It’s a snap to remove the duplicated information from your FTM-generated word processing document before you print that family history book.

In the mean time, ol’ Myrt suggests printing a family group sheet for each family unit, then file the supporting documents and photos right after each in the notebook. I like to arrange my family group sheets from the youngest to the oldest in each section of a surname notebook. I also recommend surname notebook dividers as necessary for:

  • DIRECT (Smith) LINE
  • UNKNOWN (Smiths)

If you have a photo of a female as a young child, it is filed with the family group sheet where she is the child in her parent's household. If there is a photo of her as a married woman, it is filed with the family group sheet where she is with her husband and children as a family unit.

When printing out a typical family group sheet there is a reference naming each child's spouse, if the info has been entered into your Family Tree Maker (or any other genealogy program for that matter.) So where Mary SMITH is listed as a child in her father's household, there is mention of her spouse Samuel JONES. It wouldn't hurt to add a hand-written notation: “See JONES family notebook” to lead your reader to info about Mary's adult life. THAT is a logical jump, if someone were to discover your family papers before you print the book.

If documents are filed elsewhere in numerical order, that newbie won’t be as likely to correlate the family group sheet with supporting documentation. Remember how you forgot to cite your sources when you first started doing genealogy? Well, a newbie isn’t going to go looking for those documents, particularly where they have no experience with the types of documents genealogists typically unearth about their elusive ancestors.

If occasionally one must make copies of documents or photos to put in 2 places, so be it. Then each section of a notebook will be easily interpreted and very readable. We don't want to discourage those newbies by making them jump through hoops following cross-references to files for every census, probate, military, marriage, land, tax, bible, vital record, obituary, tombstone and photo relating back to the individuals on a given family group sheet.

Remember, we’re making "genealogy coffee table books" of our genealogy files that will probably extend to several 3-ring binders. Ol’ Myrt had 63 notebooks, but she gave up counting a few years back. Such clarity in filing enables the uninitiated to make sense of our compiled family histories that are not yet summarized in an official printed family history.

Communication is the name of the game.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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