Organizing Your Files

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A simple system for organizing family history files, key filing principles, and links to alternative filing system descriptions.
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[[Image:FileStack retouched.jpg|thumb|right|350x250px|<center>Papers and Documents in a Pile</center>]]
  
<span>There are as many ways to organize your file as there are researchers. Each person develops his own system over time. The purpose of this article is to suggest a simple system that can be adapted to a wide variety of situations as your experience grows.</span>
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A simple system for organizing family history files, key filing principles, and links to alternative filing system descriptions.  
  
== <span></span>'''<span>Value of Organizing Your Files</span>''' ==
+
There are as many ways to organize your file as there are researchers. Each person develops his own system over time. The purpose of this article is to suggest a simple system that can be adapted to a wide variety of situations as your experience grows.
  
<span>Being organized helps you to better collate sources, compare them, evaluate them, identify discrepancies, and make reasonable conclusions. Well-documented family group records are the best source of ideas for research objectives. Up-to-date family group records also help you judge the reliability and fit of newly discovered sources with what you already know. The main value of organized research logs is to show all the sources you have searched, and help you recall your search purposes and strategies. Good logs help you resume research after a pause, and avoid re-using sources already tried. Too many negative searches on a research log show it is time to search in a different way. Being well organized saves you time, and it contributes to better research and results.</span>
+
== Value of Organizing Your Files  ==
  
== <span></span>'''<span>Organizing Principles</span>'''<span></span> ==
+
Being organized helps you to better collate sources, compare them, evaluate them, identify discrepancies, and make reasonable conclusions. Well-documented family group records are the best source of ideas for research objectives. Up-to-date family group records also help you judge the reliability and fit of newly discovered sources with what you already know. The main value of organized research logs is to show all the sources you have searched, and help you recall your search purposes and strategies. Good logs help you resume research after a pause, and avoid re-using sources already tried. Too many negative searches on a research log show it is time to search in a different way. Being well organized saves you time, and it contributes to better research and results.
  
* <span><span><span></span></span></span>'''''<span>[[Document AS YOU GO!|Organize and document AS YOU GO!]]</span>'''''<span>&nbsp;Before you start research have a research log and well-documented family group record in hand. After research do not lay your head on your pillow until you have finished your paper work and filing.</span>
+
== Organizing Principles  ==
* <span><span><span></span></span></span>'''''<span>Hierarchy of research goals.</span>'''''<span>&nbsp;Have an overall goal to share your research findings with others. There under have a goal to research a cluster of families—usually families that settled near each other. There under have a goal to thoroughly document the events in one of those families before starting research on the next family. Have a goal to '''''understand''''' that family, and why they behaved as they did. There under have an objective to document one event at a time in one person’s life in that family. If the first search fails, continue with that objective with different sources, jurisdictions, or repositories. Don’t give up until you find a source to document the selected event or exhaust all the possibilities trying.</span>
+
* <span><span><span></span></span></span>'''''<span>Study families in community context.</span>'''''<span>&nbsp;Get to know the kin and neighbors and the roles they played in your ancestor’s family.</span>'''''<span></span>'''''
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* <span><span><span></span></span></span>'''''<span>Research the easiest events first.</span>'''''<span>&nbsp;What you learn from easier documents will help you find more difficult to locate sources.</span>'''''<span></span>'''''
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* <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>Do NOT reorganize the way described below until you pick up research on a family—no mass reorganization of all files at once.</span>
+
* <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>Do not be discouraged if you filing system is not perfect. We get better with experience.</span>
+
  
== <span></span>'''<span>Easy System: One Family = One File Folder</span>''' ==
+
*'''''[[Document AS YOU GO!|Organize and document AS YOU GO!]]''''' Before you start research have a research log and well-documented family group record in hand. After research do not lay your head on your pillow until you have finished your paper work and filing.
 +
*'''''Hierarchy of research goals.''''' Have an overall goal to share your research findings with others. There under have a goal to research a cluster of families—usually families that settled near each other. There under have a goal to thoroughly document the events in one of those families before starting research on the next family. Have a goal to '''''understand''''' that family, and why they behaved as they did. There under have an objective to document one event at a time in one person’s life in that family. If the first search fails, continue with that objective with different sources, jurisdictions, or repositories. Don’t give up until you find a source to document the selected event or exhaust all the possibilities trying.
 +
*'''''[[Research a Family in Community Context|Study families in community context]].''''' Get to know the kin and neighbors and the roles they played in your ancestor’s family.
 +
*'''''Research the easiest events first.''''' What you learn from easier documents will help you find more difficult to locate sources.
 +
*Do NOT reorganize the way described below until you pick up research on a family—no mass reorganization of all files at once.
 +
*Do not be discouraged if your filing system is not perfect. We get better with experience.
  
<span>This system is based on creating one file folder for each family you research.<span></span></span>
+
== Easy System: One Family = One File Folder  ==
  
'''One Family''' consists of a father, a mother, and their children.
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This system is based on creating one file folder for each family you research.  
  
'''One File Folder''' (a manila file folder) contains:
+
'''One Family''' consists of a father, a mother, and their children.
  
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>family group record (required)</span>
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'''One File Folder''' (a manila file folder) contains:
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>pedigree chart (optional)</span>
+
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>maps of family settlements (optional)</span>
+
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>[[Research Logs|research log]] (required)</span>
+
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>[[Copying Sources|photocopies of source documents]] (required) in order by your document number.</span>
+
  
== <span></span>'''<span>Setting Up an Organized System</span>''' ==
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#family group record (required)
<div class="pullquote"><span></span><br></div>
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#pedigree chart (optional)
{| width="274" height="114" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="6" border="1" align="right"
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#maps of family settlements (optional)
 +
#[[Research Logs|research log]] (required)
 +
#[[Copying Sources|photocopies of source documents]] (required) in order by your document number.
 +
 
 +
== Setting Up an Organized System ==
 +
 
 +
{| border="2" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="6" width="274" align="right"
 
|-
 
|-
| '''Tip:''' Do NOT change your old files to a new note keeping system all at once. Start slowly with just the one family you are researching right now. Wait to organize the file of another family until you start research on that family.<br>
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| bgcolor="#ffff99" valign="middle" align="center" | '''Tip:''' Do NOT change your old files to a new note keeping system all at once. Start slowly with just the one family you are researching right now. Wait to organize the file of another family until you start research on that family.<br>
 
|}
 
|}
  
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>Write the name of the husband (and his birth and death year, if known) and his wife’s name and dates on the '''manila folder tab'''. The same husband’s name and dates should appear on every piece of paper in the folder.</span><span></span>
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#Write the name of the husband (and his birth and death year, if known) and his wife’s name and dates on the '''manila folder tab'''. The same husband’s name and dates should appear on every piece of paper in the folder.  
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>Keep the file '''folders in alphabetical order''' by the name of the head of the household.</span><span></span>
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#Keep the file '''folders in alphabetical order''' by the name of the head of the household.  
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>A metal or plastic '''clasp''' to hold paper in the file is optional.</span><span></span>
+
#A metal or plastic '''clasp''' to hold paper in the file is optional.  
# Compile and print a well-documented '''family group record''' to put in the folder. Ideally there would be at least one [[Cite Your Sources (Source Footnotes)|source footnote]] for every event on the family group. Also, you are encouraged to [[Adding a Custom Event to a PAF Family Group Record|add custom events]] beyond birth, marriage, and death. For example, show events like censuses, migrations, land purchases or sales, and wills on the family group record as well.
+
#Compile and print a well-documented '''family group record''' to put in the folder. Ideally there would be at least one [[Cite Your Sources (Source Footnotes)|source footnote]] for every event on the family group. Also, you are encouraged to [[Adding a Custom Event to a PAF Family Group Record|add custom events]] beyond birth, marriage, and death. For example, show events like censuses, migrations, land purchases or sales, and wills on the family group record as well.  
# Prepare a [[Research Logs|'''research log''']] to put in the folder. List all the sources you searched, and describe your search strategies on this log.
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#Prepare a [[Research Logs|'''research log''']] to put in the folder. List all the sources you searched, and describe your search strategies on this log.
  
== <span></span>'''<span>Keeping the System Organized</span>''' ==
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== '''Keeping the System Organized''' ==
  
<span>In order to be organized, commit to start with the research already organized as you start on the family. And commit to keep it that way as you go. </span>
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In order to be organized, commit to start with the research already organized as you start on the family. And commit to keep it that way as you go.  
  
'''''<span>Prepare for each new search.</span>'''''<span> While looking at the family group record for the family, pick a research objective (one person in the family, and one event in that person’s life) to research. Write that objective on the family [[Research Logs|research log]]. Select a source you hope will document that event and write the [[Cite Your Sources (Source Footnotes)|source footnote]] data on the research log. Get most of the information for the footnote from the catalog of the repository where you are working. Write the footnote data on the research log BEFORE you look at the source. </span>
+
'''''Prepare for each new search.'''''While looking at the family group record for the family, pick a research objective (one person in the family, and one event in that person’s life) to research. Write that objective on the family [[Research Logs|research log]]. Select a source you hope will document that event and write the [[Cite Your Sources (Source Footnotes)|source footnote]] data on the research log. Get most of the information for the footnote from the catalog of the repository where you are working. Write the footnote data on the research log BEFORE you look at the source.  
  
'''''<span>Follow-up on each search.</span>'''''<span> To stay organized, it is important to commit to finish the paperwork and filing BEFORE the next search begins.</span>
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'''''Follow-up on each search.'''''To stay organized, it is important to commit to finish the paperwork and filing BEFORE the next search begins.  
  
=== &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <span><span><span></span></span></span><span></span>'''''<span>if the search is negative</span>'''''<span></span> ===
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=== • if the search is negative ===
  
# <span><span></span>Write '''nil''' or</span>'''<span>&nbsp;Ø&nbsp;</span>'''<span>in the research log’s results field.</span>
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#Write '''nil''' or'''&nbsp;Ø&nbsp;'''in the research log’s results field.  
# <span><span></span>Continue trying to document the '''same event''' as before, but using a different source, different jurisdiction, or different repository.</span><span></span>
+
#Continue trying to document the '''same event''' as before, but using a different source, different jurisdiction, or different repository.
  
=== &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <span><span><span></span></span></span><span></span>'''''<span>if the search is positive</span>''''' ===
+
=== • if the search is positive ===
  
<span><span></span>Do these nine things before starting another search.</span>
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Do these nine tasks before starting another search.  
  
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>[[Copying Sources|Photocopy the source]].</span>
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#[[Copying Sources|Photocopy the source]].  
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>Write [[Cite Your Sources (Source Footnotes)|footnote data]] in the margin on front.</span>
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#Write [[Cite Your Sources (Source Footnotes)|footnote data]] in the margin on front.  
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>Write on back your full document number.</span>
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#Write on back your full document number.  
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>Finish your [[Research_Logs|<span>research log</span>]] by filling-in your document number and summarizing the results.</span>
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#Finish your [[Research Logs|research log]] by filling-in your document number and summarizing the search results.  
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>Transfer each piece of family history data from each new source to your family group record.</span>
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#Transfer each piece of family history data from each new source to your family group record.  
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>Cite ALL sources found for each event.</span>
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#Cite ALL sources found for each event on your family group record.  
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>Use the footnotes comment area to give a preliminary evaluation of the source.</span>
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#Use the footnotes comment area to give a preliminary evaluation of the source.  
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>Print and file the updated family group record.</span>
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#Print and file the updated family group record.  
# <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>File the source photocopy.</span>
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#File the source photocopy.
  
== '''<span>Document Numbers and Filing Order</span>'''<span></span> ==
+
== Document Numbers and Filing Order ==
  
<span>Write a document number that you create on the back of each document photocopy, and put the same number on your research logs. File documents in order by that number within the family’s folder. These will make your research logs a table of contents to your source copies.  
+
Write a document number that you create on the back of each document photocopy, and put the same number on your research logs. File documents in order by that number within the family’s folder. These will make your research logs a table of contents to your source copies.  
</span>
+
  
<span>There are two parts to your document number:</span>
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There are two parts to your document number:  
  
# <span>'''''File Name.''''' The first part of your document number is the name of the file (same husband’s name and dates as on folder tab), ''for example'', William FRAZIER 1826-1881.</span>
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#'''''File Name.''''' The first part of your document number is the name of the file (same husband’s name and dates as on folder tab), ''for example'', William FRAZIER 1826-1881.  
# <span>'''''Next Available Number.'''''<span></span>If you already have 7 documents in the file, the next available number is 8. Append the next available number to finish your complete document number, ''for example''</span>
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#'''''Next Available Number.'''''If you already have 7 documents in the file, the next available number is 8. Append the next available number to finish your complete document number, ''for example''
 
<div><center>
 
<div><center>
{| class="plain"
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{| class="plain FCK__ShowTableBorders"
 
|-
 
|-
| William <br> FRAZIER<br>1826-1881<br> 8<br>
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| valign="middle" align="center" | William <br>FRAZIER<br>1826-1881<br>8<br>
 
|}
 
|}
</center></div>  
+
</center></div>
<span><span></span>Start over with number 1 in each different family’s folder.</span>
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Start over with number 1 in each different family’s folder.  
 
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== '''<span>Practical Matters</span>''' ==
+
 
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'''''Each ancestor is in two families''''' (once as a child, and once as a parent). Log and file sources for events prior to marriage in the father’s folder. Log and file events starting with marriage in the husband’s folder.
+
 
+
'''<span></span>''<span>When a source lists more than one family:</span>'''''<span></span>
+
  
# <span></span><span>Pick the most predominant family on the source document.</span>
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== '''Practical Matters''' ==
# <span>Put the document copy in that family’s file.</span>
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# <span>Compose your document number based on that family.</span>
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# <span>Write your document number on the back of the copy, AND . . .</span>
+
# <span>Log such a source on '''all''' applicable research logs. Some logs will list another family’s numbers. That is good—make each log a list of '''all''' sources that apply to that family regardless of where they are filed.</span>
+
  
'''''2nd marriages, in-laws, and step-children.''''' Log and file sources about these relatives in the file of their closest relative that is on your pedigree.
+
'''''Each ancestor is in two families''''' (once as a child, and once as a parent). Log and file sources for events prior to marriage in the father’s folder. Log and file events starting with marriage in the husband’s folder.  
  
'''''Computer note keeping.''''' Computers are great for genealogists—but they are not the final storage medium. Keep your research notes on computer if you like, but make a paper copy at the end of the day. Your descendants may not know how to boot your computer, but they will be able to read your paper printouts.
+
'''''When a source lists more than one family:'''''  
  
'''''Make paper copies of electronic sources''''' such as Internet sites, email, fax, or telephone interviews.
+
#Pick the most predominant family on the source document.
 +
#Put the document copy in that family’s file.
 +
#Compose your document number based on that family.
 +
#Write your document number on the back of the copy, AND . . .
 +
#Log such a source on '''all''' applicable research logs. Some logs will list another family’s numbers. That is good—make each log a list of '''all''' sources that apply to that family regardless of where they are filed.
  
'''''Do NOT create one huge research log for all families.''''' Such a log is not useful as a table of contents to a particular family’s source copies.
+
'''''2nd marriages, in-laws, and step-children.''''' Log and file sources about these relatives in the file of their closest relative that is on your pedigree.  
  
'''''Individual folders and locality folders.''''' Some researchers like to expand the basic one family = one folder system by also creating a folder for selected individuals, or sometimes all the people in one locality. These are options, but doing this creates questions about which folder gets which sources.
+
'''''Computer note keeping.''''' Computers are great for genealogists—but they are not the final storage medium. Keep your research notes on computer if you like, but make a paper copy at the end of the day. Your descendants may not know how to boot your computer, but they will be able to read your paper printouts.  
  
== '''<span>Links to Other Sites about Organizing</span>''' ==
+
'''''Make paper copies of electronic sources''''' such as Internet sites, email, fax, or telephone interviews.
  
=== '''''<span>FamilySearch </span>''''' ===
+
'''''Do NOT create one huge research log for all families.''''' Such a log is not useful as a table of contents to a particular family’s source copies.
  
* <span><span></span></span><span>[http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/RG/frameset_rg.asp?Dest=G1&Aid=&Gid=&Lid=&Sid=&Did=&Juris1=&Event=&Year=&Gloss=&Sub=&Tab=&Entry=&Guide=ALL_REF_DOC_-_Basic_Paper_Filing.ASP Organizing Your Paper Files].  </span><span><span>How to collect and sort genealogy materials from your home and family. </span></span><span>Ideas on how to store in plastic tubs and use paper files and documents in relation to a computer genealogy management program. </span>
+
'''''Individual folders and locality folders.''''' Some researchers like to expand the basic one family = one folder system by also creating a folder for selected individuals, or sometimes all the people in one locality. These are options, but doing this creates questions about which folder gets which sources.  
* <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>[http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/RG/frameset_rg.asp?Dest=G1&Aid=&Gid=&Lid=&Sid=&Did=&Juris1=&Event=&Year=&Gloss=&Sub=&Tab=&Entry=&Guide=ALL_REF_DOC_-_Organizing_Paper_Files.ASP Organizing Your Paper Files Using Folders].  </span><span>Describes how to create a document storage system that allows quick access to notes you have </span><span>already gathered and preserves your material for the next generation.</span>
+
* <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>[http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/RG/frameset_rg.asp?Dest=G1&Aid=&Gid=&Lid=&Sid=&Did=&Juris1=&Event=&Year=&Gloss=&Sub=&Tab=&Entry=&Guide=ALL_RefDoc_-_Organizing_with_Binders.ASP Organizing Your Paper Files Using Binders (Notebooks)]. </span><span>After you set up a basic filing system to organize your family lines</span><span>, you may want to supplement the basic system with binders for various special needs. </span><span></span>
+
  
=== <span></span>'''''<span>Other Sites</span>''''' ===
+
== Links to Other Sites about Organizing  ==
  
* <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>[http://www.cyndislist.com/organize.htm Cyndi’s List: Organizing Your Research]. Links to dozens of Internet sites about organizing genealogical research files.</span>
+
=== FamilySearch  ===
  
* <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>[http://www.familyrootsorganizer.com/ Family Roots Organizer] related to FamilySearch pages above. Discusses color codes and pedigree charts.</span>
+
*[https://www.familysearch.org/learn/getting_started Organizing Your Paper Files]. A step-by-step video that shows how to collect and sort genealogy materials from your home and family; ideas on how to store and use paper files and documents in relation to a computer genealogy management program.  
* <span>[http://www.ancestry.com/learn/library/category.aspx?category=&type=together&page=1&bydate=1 Ancestry’s ''Get It Together'' Archive]. Articles about getting organized.</span>
+
*[https://www.familysearch.org/learningcenter/lesson/5-minute-genealogy-episode-14-organize-your-records/339 Organize Your Records]. A '5-Minute Genealogy' video on organzing your records. Describes how to create a document storage system that allows quick access to notes you have already gathered and preserves your material for the next generation.  
 +
*[https://www.familysearch.org/learningcenter/home.html Organizing Files ].After you set up a basic filing system to organize your family lines, you may want to supplement the basic system for various special needs.
  
* <span><span><span></span></span></span><span>[http://www.arkansasresearch.com/g-organ.html Organizing Your Family Records] in ''Beginner’s Guide to Family History Research.''Deals with a filing system, family group records, research notes, correspondence, supplies and photography.</span>
+
=== Other Sites  ===
  
== Related Content ==
+
*[http://www.cyndislist.com/organize.htm Cyndi’s List: Organizing Your Research]. Links to dozens of Internet sites about organizing genealogical research files.
 +
*[http://www.familyrootsorganizer.com/ Family Roots Organizer] related to FamilySearch pages above. Discusses color codes and pedigree charts.
 +
*[http://www.ancestry.com/learn/library/category.aspx?category=&type=together&page=1&bydate=1 Ancestry’s ''Get It Together'' Archive]. Articles about getting organized.
 +
*[http://www.qnomad.com/divifile/ DiviFile] empowers you with Faceted Classification, an organization method used by librarians, in organizing your research.<br>
 +
*[http://www.arkansasresearch.com/Guide/Organizing.htm Organizing Your Family Records] in ''Beginner’s Guide to Family History Research.'' Deals with a computer program filing system, family group records, research notes, correspondence, supplies and photography.
 +
*Color Genealogy Filing System found [http://123genealogy.com/organizer/index.htm on Link]. This is Mary Hill's system which is widely used by many genealogists.
  
[[Document AS YOU GO!]]
+
== Related Content  ==
  
[http://www.familysearchwiki.org/u-s-and-canada/united-states-of-america/utah/family-history-library-and-services/family-history-library-resources/Organizing%20Your%20Compouter%20Files%20Class%20HANDOUT.pdf/at_download/file Organizing Your Computer Files Class Handout] (.pdf)
+
*[[Document AS YOU GO!|Document AS YOU GO!]]
 +
*Organizing Your Computer Files Class Handout (.pdf)[domain expired 11/15/2009]
 +
*[[Rookie Mistakes|Rookie Mistakes]]
  
[[Rookie_Mistakes|Rookie Mistakes]]
+
[[Category:Beginners]] [[Category:File_Organization]] [[Category:Organizing]]

Revision as of 19:54, 27 March 2013

Papers and Documents in a Pile

A simple system for organizing family history files, key filing principles, and links to alternative filing system descriptions.

There are as many ways to organize your file as there are researchers. Each person develops his own system over time. The purpose of this article is to suggest a simple system that can be adapted to a wide variety of situations as your experience grows.

Contents

Value of Organizing Your Files

Being organized helps you to better collate sources, compare them, evaluate them, identify discrepancies, and make reasonable conclusions. Well-documented family group records are the best source of ideas for research objectives. Up-to-date family group records also help you judge the reliability and fit of newly discovered sources with what you already know. The main value of organized research logs is to show all the sources you have searched, and help you recall your search purposes and strategies. Good logs help you resume research after a pause, and avoid re-using sources already tried. Too many negative searches on a research log show it is time to search in a different way. Being well organized saves you time, and it contributes to better research and results.

Organizing Principles

  • Organize and document AS YOU GO! Before you start research have a research log and well-documented family group record in hand. After research do not lay your head on your pillow until you have finished your paper work and filing.
  • Hierarchy of research goals. Have an overall goal to share your research findings with others. There under have a goal to research a cluster of families—usually families that settled near each other. There under have a goal to thoroughly document the events in one of those families before starting research on the next family. Have a goal to understand that family, and why they behaved as they did. There under have an objective to document one event at a time in one person’s life in that family. If the first search fails, continue with that objective with different sources, jurisdictions, or repositories. Don’t give up until you find a source to document the selected event or exhaust all the possibilities trying.
  • Study families in community context. Get to know the kin and neighbors and the roles they played in your ancestor’s family.
  • Research the easiest events first. What you learn from easier documents will help you find more difficult to locate sources.
  • Do NOT reorganize the way described below until you pick up research on a family—no mass reorganization of all files at once.
  • Do not be discouraged if your filing system is not perfect. We get better with experience.

Easy System: One Family = One File Folder

This system is based on creating one file folder for each family you research.

One Family consists of a father, a mother, and their children.

One File Folder (a manila file folder) contains:

  1. family group record (required)
  2. pedigree chart (optional)
  3. maps of family settlements (optional)
  4. research log (required)
  5. photocopies of source documents (required) in order by your document number.

Setting Up an Organized System

Tip: Do NOT change your old files to a new note keeping system all at once. Start slowly with just the one family you are researching right now. Wait to organize the file of another family until you start research on that family.
  1. Write the name of the husband (and his birth and death year, if known) and his wife’s name and dates on the manila folder tab. The same husband’s name and dates should appear on every piece of paper in the folder.
  2. Keep the file folders in alphabetical order by the name of the head of the household.
  3. A metal or plastic clasp to hold paper in the file is optional.
  4. Compile and print a well-documented family group record to put in the folder. Ideally there would be at least one source footnote for every event on the family group. Also, you are encouraged to add custom events beyond birth, marriage, and death. For example, show events like censuses, migrations, land purchases or sales, and wills on the family group record as well.
  5. Prepare a research log to put in the folder. List all the sources you searched, and describe your search strategies on this log.

Keeping the System Organized

In order to be organized, commit to start with the research already organized as you start on the family. And commit to keep it that way as you go.

Prepare for each new search.While looking at the family group record for the family, pick a research objective (one person in the family, and one event in that person’s life) to research. Write that objective on the family research log. Select a source you hope will document that event and write the source footnote data on the research log. Get most of the information for the footnote from the catalog of the repository where you are working. Write the footnote data on the research log BEFORE you look at the source.

Follow-up on each search.To stay organized, it is important to commit to finish the paperwork and filing BEFORE the next search begins.

• if the search is negative

  1. Write nil or Ø in the research log’s results field.
  2. Continue trying to document the same event as before, but using a different source, different jurisdiction, or different repository.

• if the search is positive

Do these nine tasks before starting another search.

  1. Photocopy the source.
  2. Write footnote data in the margin on front.
  3. Write on back your full document number.
  4. Finish your research log by filling-in your document number and summarizing the search results.
  5. Transfer each piece of family history data from each new source to your family group record.
  6. Cite ALL sources found for each event on your family group record.
  7. Use the footnotes comment area to give a preliminary evaluation of the source.
  8. Print and file the updated family group record.
  9. File the source photocopy.

Document Numbers and Filing Order

Write a document number that you create on the back of each document photocopy, and put the same number on your research logs. File documents in order by that number within the family’s folder. These will make your research logs a table of contents to your source copies.

There are two parts to your document number:

  1. File Name. The first part of your document number is the name of the file (same husband’s name and dates as on folder tab), for example, William FRAZIER 1826-1881.
  2. Next Available Number.If you already have 7 documents in the file, the next available number is 8. Append the next available number to finish your complete document number, for example
William
FRAZIER
1826-1881
8

Start over with number 1 in each different family’s folder.

Practical Matters

Each ancestor is in two families (once as a child, and once as a parent). Log and file sources for events prior to marriage in the father’s folder. Log and file events starting with marriage in the husband’s folder.

When a source lists more than one family:

  1. Pick the most predominant family on the source document.
  2. Put the document copy in that family’s file.
  3. Compose your document number based on that family.
  4. Write your document number on the back of the copy, AND . . .
  5. Log such a source on all applicable research logs. Some logs will list another family’s numbers. That is good—make each log a list of all sources that apply to that family regardless of where they are filed.

2nd marriages, in-laws, and step-children. Log and file sources about these relatives in the file of their closest relative that is on your pedigree.

Computer note keeping. Computers are great for genealogists—but they are not the final storage medium. Keep your research notes on computer if you like, but make a paper copy at the end of the day. Your descendants may not know how to boot your computer, but they will be able to read your paper printouts.

Make paper copies of electronic sources such as Internet sites, email, fax, or telephone interviews.

Do NOT create one huge research log for all families. Such a log is not useful as a table of contents to a particular family’s source copies.

Individual folders and locality folders. Some researchers like to expand the basic one family = one folder system by also creating a folder for selected individuals, or sometimes all the people in one locality. These are options, but doing this creates questions about which folder gets which sources.

Links to Other Sites about Organizing

FamilySearch

  • Organizing Your Paper Files. A step-by-step video that shows how to collect and sort genealogy materials from your home and family; ideas on how to store and use paper files and documents in relation to a computer genealogy management program.
  • Organize Your Records. A '5-Minute Genealogy' video on organzing your records. Describes how to create a document storage system that allows quick access to notes you have already gathered and preserves your material for the next generation.
  • Organizing Files .After you set up a basic filing system to organize your family lines, you may want to supplement the basic system for various special needs.

Other Sites

  • Cyndi’s List: Organizing Your Research. Links to dozens of Internet sites about organizing genealogical research files.
  • Family Roots Organizer related to FamilySearch pages above. Discusses color codes and pedigree charts.
  • Ancestry’s Get It Together Archive. Articles about getting organized.
  • DiviFile empowers you with Faceted Classification, an organization method used by librarians, in organizing your research.
  • Organizing Your Family Records in Beginner’s Guide to Family History Research. Deals with a computer program filing system, family group records, research notes, correspondence, supplies and photography.
  • Color Genealogy Filing System found on Link. This is Mary Hill's system which is widely used by many genealogists.

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