Legacy Update Now Available - 10 February 2006, Version
Organizing Your Paper Files

Organizing Your Papers - MRIN Filing System +

A genealogist recently asked me if we should really keep the paper files since everything can be digitized these days. I responded with a list of reasons why we should still keep the papers. But, the challenge of organizing the paper files still exists.

Previously we have published four different organizational systems. One of our users, JL Beeken, shared her experiences with us using the MRIN Filing system. She wrote,

I finally got organized when I had so much paper and so many digital sources that I couldn't find anything without wading through up to my shoulders. But, to be accurate, it was really a couple of years past that point. . . .

JL has some really good ideas about using the MRIN filing system. Continue reading her article here.


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An interesting article. I find that her "Source Library" works well for a small number of individuals but it seems it would becomb unwieldly when the number of individuals/documents becomes large. At that time, it would seem that creating multiple sub-source libraries would be better. Anyone have any comments?

Since all the documents are listed by MRIN number, it's as simple as scrolling through to the appropriate number. That's very fast. Having multiple libraries, for example, split for 1-1000, 1001-2000, etc would be fine, but it probably wouldn't make looking for a document any faster.

An additional advantage of this system that's come to mind now is that the digitals could be used as the "working" copies for any future reference. The original paper could then be compactly stored away in archival quality storage boxes available in places such as Demco.


In this case there'd be no need for filing cabinets, or multiple binders, and page protectors.

I am also finally getting organized after 46 years of research using the MRIN filing system. My research is seating in file drawers, boxes, notebooks, and etc which has made it impossible to find my source easily. This is a long time project as I have many associated families. I began many years ago putting my documentation in the note section so that if I sent information to another researcher that they knew where I had gotten my information from. But it has been like searching for a needle in a haystack to find where or how I filed the documents.

I had not thought of using Master and Source folder for digital copies as JL Beeken has done but it seems a good idea. Then I could store these on a CD/DVD or flash drive and place in my bank deposit box for safe keeping.

The only thing I would add is that I laminate birth and death certificates so that do not deteriorate. I do the same for newspaper obits and etc.

Donna wrote that she laminates certificates so that they do not deteriorate. Unfortunately, Donna you are hastening the process by laminating any paperwork. The way laminating works is akin to making a toasted cheese sandwich. When you toast a cheese sandwich the cheese melts and soaks into the bread, in part. In laminating, the laminating material bonds into the paper fibres and with the chemicals contained in that laminate, begins the long process of "digesting" the paper. I went to a seminar at our State Archive some years back and the State Archivist showed us examples of just how disastrous laminating can be. Now when I see people at copy shop counters producing certificates or cherished photos for laminating, I shudder.

It's best to look for the special archival pouches to protect any future certificates you may obtain. In the US they can be obtained from Kinko's or Office Depot, I believe.


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