You've dragged all your
certificates and documentation sources out. You've made photocopies of
everything. You've interviewed at least a few relatives and taken all
kinds of notes. You're facing a stack of paper nearing an inch or two
thick! Now what?
Your research is just beginning.
Believe it or not, you currently have only a small pile of papers.
Imagine, if you will, five years from now what that pile of paper is
going to look like. You will have searched rows and rows of books, rolls
and rolls of microfilm, and stacks and stacks of microfiche and CDs.
It's time to organize what you have so that, when you've acquired
fifteen inches of paper [and you will!], you'll be set up to deal with
The first and foremost thing you
want to do in this particular area is to NEVER let your organization get
behind! There are few things more disheartening than facing a foot-high
stack of unfiled papers, wondering if the birth certificate you
desperately need to refer to is buried somewhere in it. Organize
yourself and stay that way!
This page will give you and idea
of how to do it.
The most common way to establish
a filing system is to use file folders and a file cabinet or place
everything in 3-ring binders. There are advantages and disadvantages to
neatly into a briefcase
- can be
tucked away so your work area stays neater
folders are paper so contents are not well protected if liquids
are spilled on them
contents are not secure and can very easily slide out,
hence get lost [yes, this does happen]
need a file cabinet or plastic milk crates
contents are better protected
contents are tightly secured and will not slide out
transportable in 1 to 1-1/2 inch widths
don't need a file cabinet or milk crates, just a hole-punch
- The 1
to 1-1/2 width binders will soon grow into 3-inch widths
width binders full of paper are bulky, heavy and not easily
carried in brief cases
they're more expensive than file folders
If this confuses you, consider
this: you won't be researching for just a day, a week or a month. You'll
be researching for YEARS! So you want to plan far ahead. Know this: you
WILL be acquiring many pounds of paper through notes, documents and
photocopies. Do you already have a large file cabinet? Do you have room
[a large bookcase, perhaps] for many 3-ring binders?
If it helps, I personally use
3-ring binders. Why? Even though they're heavier, they're also more
transportable because I know I won't lose any of my notes or documents.
In the end, they also hold more than a file folder.
There is no "correct" filing
system. Each researcher has his or her own idea of what works best.
As you are contemplating your
organizational plan, consider this: your mother wasn't born with her
married name. Therefore, if your father is John BROWN and your mom is
Jane DOE, you'll be researching Brown and Doe. Now, think about your
grandparents. If grandpa Isaac BROWN married grandma Betsy ROSS, you'll
also research the surname Ross. You have a second set of grandparents,
too. You'll also be researching the surname of that second
grandmother... and so it goes for each successive generation until one
day you will be researching upwards of 500 surnames.
File folders: plan to use one
file folder for EACH surname OR each family group you'll be researching.
3-ring binders: several names can
fit into one binder. Separate the surnames OR each family group with
A book by William Dollarhide,
Managing a Genealogical Project,
describes several organizational systems.
Plan to file each page of notes, document, photocopy, etc. as you
Recording Your Data
"For the Beginner"