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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Organizing Your Genealogy Files

My genealogy records are not totally organized but I am constantly working on it. It is a work in progress that is for sure. When we moved I moved piles of family records, notebooks and family photos. Piles of copies of old records, printouts from genealogy Web sites, and letters from fellow genealogy researchers are sitting in piles on my desk and in boxes and in file folders in my filing cabinet. Not that they are completely disorganized - if you ask me for something specific, I can maybe find it. But it definitely isn't a filing system that I would recommend as efficient!
Does this sound familiar? Are you as surrounded in papers as I am? Believe it or not, the solution is as simple as finding an organizational system that suits your needs and research habits, and then making it work. I know, it's not exactly as simple as it sounds (or why am I not practicing what I preach?), but it is possible and will ultimately help to keep you and me from spinning our wheels and duplicating research.

Which Filing System is Best?Ask a group of genealogists how they organize their files, and you're likely to get as many different answers as genealogists. There are a number of popular genealogy organization systems, including binders, notebooks, files, etc., but there truly is no individual system which is "best" or "correct." We all think and behave differently, so ultimately the most important consideration in setting up your filing system is that it must fit your personal style. The best organization system is always the one that you will use.

Organizing the Paper as your genealogy project progresses you will find that you have numerous paper documents to file for each individual that you research - birth records, census records, newspaper articles, wills, correspondence with fellow researchers, Web site printouts, etc. The trick is to develop a filing system that will enable to easily lay your fingers on any of these documents at any time.
Commonly used genealogical filing systems include:
By Surname - All papers for an individual surname are filed together.
By Couple or Family - All papers related to a husband and wife or family unit are filed together.
By Family Line - All papers related to a specific family line are filed together. Many genealogists begin by starting with four such ancestral lines - one for each of their grandparents.
By Event - All papers related to a specific event type (i.e. birth, marriage, census, etc.) are filed together.
Beginning with any of the four systems mentioned above, you could then further organize your papers into the following categories:
By Location - Papers are first grouped by one of the four genealogy filing systems listed above, and then further broken down by country, state, county, or town to reflect your ancestor's migration. For example, if you chose the Surname Method, you would first group all DAY ancestors together, and then further break the piles down into the England DAYs, the New England DAYs , MINNESOTA Days, and the so on.
By Record Type - Papers are first grouped by one of the four genealogy filing systems listed above, and then further broken down by record type (i.e. birth records, census records, wills, etc.).

tomorrow Genealogical Filing Systems

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