Organizing Your Papers - MRIN Filing System +
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Organizing Your Paper Files

It doesn't take long once you have started your genealogy adventure to collect so much information that it seems hard to handle. Dealing with information overload is handled through systematic organization of materials.

Most researchers have tried numerous systems for organizing. There is not one system that works for everyone. We will feature several systems in this newsletter. If you have a method that works well for you, please let us know.

Visit for the first lesson.


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I don't agree with the method of filing paper records suggested by Legacy in this tutorial. The method describes filing documents according to RIN. This would result in inumerable multiple copies of the same document under various RINs. The simplest, most accurate, least volumous method is to categorize your genealogy "possessions" into the following files: Newspaper, Document, Photograph, Heirloom, Voice/Video Recording, Other. Number each item in each separate category starting with 0001. Record the name of each family member associated with the item number and his/her RIN. You now have a cross reference to Legacy. In Legacy record your category in "Events" (until Legacy creates a unique entry field), a simple entry such as "Photograph on File", or Document on File" is all that is needed. Only one entry per category is necessary. This is your cross reference to your paper file index. The method just described is similar to a library card catalog numbering/filing system. For more detail/questions, email me.

Gary, the documents are not filed by RIN, they are filed by the MRIN. There is no need to produce photocopies of the same document for filing purposes. See for an explanation of this.

Having said that, thank you for your comments and ideas about the system that works well for you.

I read this article awhile back and thought it would not be suitable for how I think! I file my documents in binders by type: photo, birth cert., death cert., marriage cert., etc. Each document gets a number, Marriage 001, etc. Then I reference the document as a Master Source in Legacy and use the documnet number as the Source title. So each persons Individual Report lists all the documents I have for them and I can easily find them when needed.
Thanks for a Super product!

I have found that organizing my files with the Ahnentafel system works exceedingly well for all purposes (except for my personally created databases keeping track of my personal inventory of books, pamphlets, CDs, etc.)and another database file I created for my correspondence records.

I do use a modification plan for photos by filing them by the ahnentafel number of the oldst known person in the photo and cross-referencing the others to that photo in their family group notes.

I also have notebooks for complete census images according to the census years, including any state census' or mortality schedules. I record the relevant data in the family group form and research notes of each individual. This accommodates keeping census pages intact to see neighbors, etc. for analyzis purposes.

I use a Vital documents notebook (actually several notebooks with acid free sheets that show the ahnentafel numbers and names on dividers). Ijn addition I use other clearly identified document notebooks (military, church, etc. )as needed for size of my collections. All of those document notebooks retain the ahnentafel system, but to save unused space, some of those document notebooks might include more than one generation (particularly for the older generations with fewer documents in hand) simply to be frugal on cost and space.

The reasons that I prefer this system are as follows:
1. It uses a numbering system that is universally standard (father = #2, etc.).
2. Every person gets a unique number that simultaneiously identifies everyone's relationship to the direct line. For example, I use 2c2 for the second child of #2 (my father' second child), but some people prefer 2.2 for that individual. For some clarity; the second child of a second spouse to my father would be 2s2c2. This makes filing and finding very reliable and easy.

All of my family group folders and document notebooks show a consistent numbering coordinated with my Legacy database (obviously I assign user numbers instead of RIN to each person).

Of course, the system starts over entirely for each family line (I use blue folders for my paternal line, red for maternal, etc. as shown in my Legacy pedigree color charts that also automatically appear in Legach family group sheets. For several years this system has worked for me and for others with whom I have shared it.

Do I have a separate set of folders for location maps and data? Yes, they are filed alphabetically by states with subfiles for important counties.
Do I have some "Miscellaneous" hanging folders for data that I can not yet document? Yep, but I can usually at least get them organized by suspected generation generation numbers (and my correspondence folders are organized by ahnentafel number for the oldest ancestor with correspondant alphabetical names behind those hanging folders).

I have the same challenge with three dimensional memorbelia or tapes as you do, but I do maintain the ahnentafel numbering ID system in those boxes, etc.

One challenge I find in using MRIN numbers for organization system pattern is that I don't automatically get those numbers in order by generation and also for relationship within each generation. Ahnentafel has no problem handling that.

Realize that this clearly organizes data in ancestral direction, just as we should research. If we keep separate family group sheets for every biological union, the numbering system still holds true. Frankly, anything that I can not comfortably explain by numbers, I explain in the notes for the appropriate ahnentafel numbered person (such as adoptions, mixed marriages with children of his/hers/theirs, etc. Honestly, I also use a system of astricks added to numbers for names with special situations in the notes. Because I can not always recall the individual's name for every Ahnentafel number, I typically use both on folders (all folders have both a family group sheet and a pedigree sheet relevant to that person).

You can easily see that I expect to have file cabinets with hanging folders plus shelves for the notebooks. I have not found any way to avoid that cost and space, but rationalize that it is cheaper than playing golf.

Anyone is welcome to call me between 9 AM - 9 PM for clarity talk (voice mail need very loud, slow, clear reply message as I am nearly deaf, 72, and a bit busy most days. Loran Ralph Braught (812) 535-3618.

I love this system.

I have been filing with the MRIN Number for couple of years now.

It works well with Legacy or any other computer genealogy programs.

I have just starting using Legacy. I appreciate all your generous suggetions.
Thank you all very much,
Keith Arnold

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