Spring is here and there's no better time to organize your family history research. All winter the documents have been stacking up and now you've got piles of papers everywhere.
Or perhaps you're not sure what is in those boxes of research that you've been filling for the last couple of years. Have you been thinking that "one of these days" you are going to go through all those stacks and boxes and organize the genealogy that you have collected? If this sounds familiar, now is the day.
As genealogy research is conducted, documents and other papers are collected. A method of organizing and storing the paper records is needed. How to accomplish this is different for each person. Take into account the amount of space available in your home and if the space will allow easy access for quick retrieval of the records. It is important to try and keep the records together, not scattered in different places. Records, especially originals, should be stored at a constant temperature. Do not store in the attic or basement as the temperature in these areas tends to fluctuate.
Look at each item and determine if it is worth keeping. This is probably the hardest part of organizing. Get rid of all those little pieces of paper with notes; transfer to 8 x 11 sheets that don't get lost as easily. Throw out duplicates, seven copies of a family group sheet from ten years ago is not really necessary.
As you are dividing the papers, check for a citation on each document. Citations record the specifics about the document–where it came from and who produced it. Never file a record without this important information recorded on the document.
Binders: Start with a three-ring binder and dividers. The 3-inch extra-wide binders work well. After labeling the dividers, place each document in an archival page protector. This system may be expanded as more papers are collected. When the binder becomes full, separate into additional 3-ring binders labeling the outside of the binder. Binders can be stored upright on bookshelves or stacked in cabinets.
File folders: Unlike binders, file folders will need a cabinet or other container for storage. Cardboard boxes, portable file boxes and a variety of other choices may be found at the office supply stores for this purpose. Whatever you choose, plan for expansion as genealogy files have a way of growing quickly.
Divide and Label
Now that you have decided on how to store your papers, it is time to organize the collected materials by dividing by either name, location, or type of document.
Names: Label the dividers or folders by surname. When the binder or folder becomes too full, separate families into additional 3-ring binders or folders and divide by individuals or married couples.
Places: Divide and label materials according to place names. Start out by separating into large geographic areas, such as states, and then subdivide by county and town as your research expands.
Document types: Separate and label by the types of documents, such as births, marriages, deaths, etc. This type of labeling requires an extra step. Each document is labeled with a number. At the front of the binder or file a list of the numbers and the corresponding document descriptions is kept so documents can be easily located.
You may think of other alternatives to binders and file folders so don't be limited by my suggestions, do what works best for you.
The first step to organizing photos it to label them. Use a soft graphite (lead) pencil made for this specific purpose. Never write on the front of a photograph, write on the back in a corner staying away from the middle.
It is recommended that photographs be stored separate from paper documents using only archival quality products that are acid and lignin free. Never use glue or tape on photographs.Photographs can be stored in a variety of ways depending on size and type. For ideas, check out the products from companies that specialize in archival photograph products like Gaylord and Light Impressions.
Although we may try hard to preserve photographs they almost always deteriorate over time. For this reason I recommend that all photos be scanned for safe keeping.
With spring in the air, take the time to clear the genealogy clutter that has collected in the corners of your home. With everything so organized, you'll be ready to start that new research project you've been putting off.