Sunday, April 19, 2015

Organizing All That Paper

So I'm not entirely down with going all digital. YET. I'd really love to scan every single bit of paper I have and save it to disk, so I have that back-up available to me for emergencies, or just to be able to carry it with me on research trips (useful when I finally get a laptop again).

Fortunately, I'm not drowning in paper, so to speak. I keep it very organized with binders.

I use a color-coding system for binders and scrapbooks. Plain black binders are for genealogy. Some are dedicated to pedigree charts, some are dedicated to general family records and pages copied out of reference books, and some are dedicated to vital records.

Organizing paper from the get-go makes it easier to stay that way. Everything I have that is not a pedigree chart is organized by surname. My vital records, for example, are all alphabetized. And for those ancestors for whom I have multiple vitals, those are then placed in chronological order.

So for a man, I have his records in order of birth, marriage, and death. The wife's birth and death are filed under her maiden name, and her marriage is cross-referenced to the husband.

I use an index to make the system easy for someone to understand. If someone picks up one of my vital records binders, they can see at a glance whose names are in there, the order in which they are arranged, and the cross-referenced marriages as well.

Furthermore, I keep a spreadsheet to track the records I request and receive. Admittedly, though, I do the same with my Nancy Drew book collection. ;)

Other paper documents I have include copies obtained from manuscript collections at NEHGS, Civil War pensions, family-created documents written by great-aunts or great-uncles, and more. While I don't index these, I do alphabetize them. Perhaps it's high time I also indexed them by name, document, and - if applicable - title of book or collection from which it came...

Being organized is a boon when it comes to genealogy, particularly if you would like someone else to easily interpret and utilize what you have collected.

Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan

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