Advice for other genealogy hoarders and tips to get organized
August 13, 2012
Hi. My name is Geoff Rasmussen. And I am a genealogy hoarder.
That was hard to write....I finally gave in to my wife and agreed to go through some of my boxes.
Under the table to the right of my desk was an open-lid box that had sat there since we moved into this home nearly eight years ago. When she asked what was in it, I started to tell her, but then realized that I had no answer. But it was there for a reason, I was sure of it!
In the box were items of obvious historical nature - dozens of genealogy conference name tags I had saved, receipts (which of course documented where I was on a certain date - great for my personal timeline, right?), and a collection of Civil War pension files I had obtained in my early years of genealogy research. And I hate to admit it, but am proud to say that several months ago I agreed to shred my last 10 years of telephone and utility bills. As a genealogist I felt these would easily document where I was living, and little about my living conditions. Certainly my future descendants would care. I did scan a couple of them though.
Emptying the box was not as difficult as I thought it would be though because of the nature of my personal genealogy filing system. I would show you a picture of my bookshelves with the dozens of binders but they are now in boxes as we are preparing to move to another state (I finally agreed it's just too hot here in Phoenix. Don't worry, I'll still be with Legacy!). Each of the documents in the box belonged to a different ancestor, and because my filing system allows me to file or retrieve anything in a matter of seconds, it was not long before I had emptied the box. I felt better and so did my wife. I'm actually anxious to go through the next one now.
One thing I have always believed in is that it is difficult to know what you know about your genealogy unless it is organized. While I do have a few stray boxes, I can say most of my genealogy is fairly organized. I can locate nearly any document (or digital image for that matter) in under a minute. Most of my documents have also been digitized and because of my digital filing system I can locate the images pretty quickly too.
If you have a good system that works for you (and for the person who takes over your system someday) then stick with it. If not, below are a few resources.
- FamilyRoots Organizer System by Mary Hill. This explains the color-coding filing system that works well with Legacy Family Tree.
- Organizing for Success by Karen Clifford. This explains the filing system that works with Legacy's MRINs. My personal favorite.
- Organizing and Sharing Digital Images by Geoff Rasmussen.
- Digital Images: Scanning, Digitizing, Editing, and Preserving Your Photos by Geoff Rasmussen.
Articles from our blog
- Organizing Your Paper Files - Color-Coding (goes with the FamilyRoots Organizer System above)
- Organizing Your Paper Files (goes with the Organizing for Success system above)
- Organizing Your Paper Files - Second Lesson (a system used by Legacy user, Mary Brenzel)
- E-Z File System (a system used by Legacy user, Connie Spindel)
Tune in to Friday's webinar
This Friday I will be presenting Researching with Geoff - Live! as a free webinar. Although I don't know the final destination that the impromtu style will take us, I am certain that I will demonstrate how to scan a document, explain where to organize it in my digital filing system, talk about the organization of my master source list, use my To Do List to organize my research, and more. While I am sure my personal system doesn't work for every genealogist, maybe there will be an idea or two that you can take with you. Register at https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/276171942.
So I do the color coding in a file box for my paper documents. But I am thinking of changing to binders for each family. What do you suggest? It seems it would be easier to just grab a binder when I am going to a location to do research. Some people talk like they use both systems. Do you use both systems? I would appreciate your suggestions. I have liked the color coding, but it isn't very convenient to take someplace.
linda in Utah
Posted by: LInda Bringhurst | August 13, 2012 at 11:34 AM
Linda - the binders are more portable, but to be honest, I don't take them anywhere. I usually bring my To Do List / Research Log, a couple of timeline reports, my Families app, and I'm good. I don't personally use the color coding system for organization, although I do have the color coding option turned on in Legacy to quickly visualize which part of the tree I'm working in.
Posted by: Geoff Rasmussen | August 13, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Karen Clifford's is also my favorite. I especially love the first assignment in Karen's classes - Put all your boxes of "stuff" in front of the bathroom door. Needless to say, the students who had small children were to first to sort through those boxes and organize their stuff.
Posted by: Sandy Monza | August 13, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Clooz 3 offers a computerized research and filing system that links with Legacy (importing and exporting people and sources).
If you have existing documents and photos, scan those documents and photos, than attach those scans to the recorded information in Clooz 3. You link the documents (with scans attached) to individuals and sources, and identify where you stored the paper record or photo.
If you are starting a new search, use the Research Log of Clooz 3 to record the search and the source/repository information, along with the results of your search.
Posted by: Denise Moss-Fritch | August 13, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Will this also be a webinar DVD? to purchase or view another time? Conflicting event. Carl
Posted by: Carl H. Bloss | August 14, 2012 at 10:32 AM
Carl - yes, if all goes well Friday's webinar will also be available in the webinar-on-CD collection at http://www.legacyfamilytreestore.com/SearchResults.asp?Cat=4
Posted by: Geoff Rasmussen | August 14, 2012 at 10:33 AM
I, like Geoff, don't take my paper documentation anywhere to do research. If you have an iPad, iPod, Smart phone, Kindle fire or other tablet device, purchase & download the Families App. Sync your Legacy to your mobile device and you have it with you. You can also download an App to save your documents from your computer in in PDF format, and carry them along as well.
With the new technology, and all those Apps, you don't need to carry paper. If you download Evernote, you have an excellent place to make notes on the fly.
Posted by: Carolyn Brown | August 14, 2012 at 10:37 AM
My prob with organizing my genealogy collection is trying to figure out which works best:the alpha system; the numeral system; or the color coding system.
I also like the idea of individual binders, but, then how do you set those up? You have the parents, then their md. kids & their own kids? So, I just usually get overwhelmed with figuring out how to seperate or collate these families! I'll tune in, and see if I can wrap my brain around one or the other.
Posted by: Rita Ann Serpa~Leid | August 14, 2012 at 10:55 AM
As a fellow hoarder getting ready to move back with my father, also a hoarder but of rocks and minerals I hope that I can attend the seminar.
I would be interested in some comments on a project I am beginning, that is the genealogy and history of a church that will celebrate it's 175th anniversary in 2013. I have been collecting information on the various ministers, collecting from Ancestry, etc. I then took it into Legacy but have notes in one note and some pictures. I have put these onto a flashdrive so that I will be able to give them to others on the committee. One problem that I have come across is that I've used numerous google books online and have trouble documenting the source. That's not a legaxy problem but a google problem. I have snipped various reports and notes intp jpeg files but have yet to get a consistent way of identifying them, especially the book that they came out of. When I use the snip tool it doesn't reference the html link or the identity of the book. I will also be scanning various slides that my father has taken of the church and church family.
Is there a way to snip the articles and info into Legacy and get the reference noted?
Posted by: Jeanne Beauvais | August 14, 2012 at 11:07 AM
I am in the process of scanning all my documents and have been putting them in One note it allows as many notebooks and pages as you need. This way I can secure the paper work, and I have the file on my netbook with my family tree program. That way no matter where I go I have all my information with me.
Posted by: Ken Cossaboon | August 14, 2012 at 11:15 AM
Hi Geoff. I personally do not feel that your seminars are Time Consuming nor a WASTE OF TIME. The 1st time I used the search method mentioned in the 1st Webnar, that I took part in- I found the links that I had not found elsewhere. I have links to the U.S. Presidents and I found 2 of them and 1 of the Presidents of the Confederacy who are all related. Thanks for all of your great efforts and I hope along with all your friends a HAPPY ANNIVERSARY. Sincere Best Wishes upon your Move to new DIGS as they say in ENGLAND ( This must have shown up during the Olympic Coverage). Sincerely Yours, Paul Morris Hilton.
Posted by: Paul Morris Hilton | August 14, 2012 at 11:15 AM
This kinda poses the question 'Do I need all this paper anyway?' Like you I have a stack of paper-based data, but most of it is 'just in case' - like records from censi where a surname was mis-spelled and hard to find or a birth date was way out due to a transcription error. But do I ever look back at it? Well, to be honest, no I don't. It's just sitting there making it difficult to sit at my desk so I can feel confident I could prove a fact I've recorded if I had to. That being the case, digitising sounds like the way to go, followed by a marathon shredding session! Pity, as I've already bought a shed-load of ring binders ready for the day I finally get to sort it all out....
I'll listen in on your webinar with great interest.
Rod S, Wiltshire, UK
Posted by: Rod Shipley | August 14, 2012 at 11:26 AM
I use 3" binders for each family arranged chronologically, with each page in a plastic page protector. I mount original snapshots, photos onto plain white bond and slide into plastic sleeves after I have scanned them.. It usually takes several binders for each family line. I also have "Geograhical" binders for plat maps, town histories, cemetery indexes, etc. I am in the process of digitizing all documents and photos. Works well for me because I have HEAVY duty shelves because my binders can be somewhat hefty. My system works and I only have a couple file drawers yet to do.
Posted by: Donna Mullen | August 14, 2012 at 11:45 AM
I had a lot of trouble deciding how to keep my records. Finally I decided to keep binders of only my direct ancestors. I started with my personal family. My parents had 9 children. Most of us have 2 or three children but one brother has 13. Most of us have been married only once but 3 have been married 2 or more times including a sister with four spouses (one twice). Four of us also have step children who I feel must be counted in the family book. With this many combinations, I thought it would give a lot of practice to see how things worked.
I got binders and dividers which had eight divisions. Starting with the first divider, I put my parents then the second divider was their children-each child's name on a second divider- then the third their grandchildren (31) and then their greatgrandchildren (43 So far)the fifth was greatgreatgrandchildren (4). Spouses with other partners and children start at the last divider. Everyone in the family was accounted for. When I started I stopped each binder when it was half filled and started a new binder because I knew I tend to save cards, invitations, letters and emails.
I now have binders set up with 4 ancestor generations and the system seems to work well. I use my Legacy to show which binder each individual person is in.
Posted by: Jo Juan | August 14, 2012 at 11:52 AM
The method I have used for years is to have a portable file for each family. For years we spent the winters in Florida and the summers in Colorado. These four files were easily carried to the car for transportation. When I am working on any one side of the family, I have that family's file nearby for easy reference. Using a portable file one can then use dividers and folders for each portion of the family history, i.e. census data, family photos, history, etc.
Posted by: Ruth Steele Brookfield | August 14, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Evernote works pretty well for that kind of snipping. You get the image of the page you're looking at, plus the URL, plus you can make comments about the relevance (to remind yourself why it was you copied that page!).
Posted by: Lise Embley | August 14, 2012 at 01:57 PM
I am just so overwhelmed with documents and pictures that need to be scanned. I used to be more organized but keep changing the way I file so am getting very frustrated. I don't have a good method to be organized. And how does one scan legal size papers? I have Civil War files that are all legal size and multiple pages. I have the equivalent of a 4 drawer file cabinet of papers that need to be organized then scanned or what would be best? Currently my papers are scattered in multiple boxes and drawers.
Posted by: Brooke Eastburn | August 14, 2012 at 02:06 PM
I have a 4 drawer file Cabinet, that is totally disorganized, plus several notebooks, that are better organized. I sent my files on a trip to a couple of researchers and it was 60# of paper, and that was just my father's surname. And since tht adventure of my files, I've accumulated a lot more, as I have inherited my mother's research on her lines, and with the online census added several census years of associated 'inlaws'. I love library research, because that is how I learned genealogy, but I also love the "on-demand" availability of using internet resources.
Posted by: lynette | August 14, 2012 at 05:57 PM
As the designated "family historian" for my direct line, and for my daughter's father's family also, I've got over 9000 people in my database, and 15 old TV boxes full of papers, plus a 1940s era foot locker full of photos. All in my daughter's bedroom... I tried to figure out once how long it would take JUST to scan... it was something like 1200 hours. And that didn't include matching and merging into files.... I HATE the mess, but I love to search for more. How do I get the OLD stuff cleaned up (both data and paper) and still have time to work on adding to the family branches?
Posted by: Pam Drake | August 14, 2012 at 06:23 PM
In a post of 8/14/12, ir mentions that a Families App can be purchased and downloaded to an IPad. How can I purchase this.
Posted by: Janice Salsbury Black` | August 14, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Janice - info about the mobile apps is at http://www.legacyfamilytreestore.com/SearchResults.asp?Cat=29
Posted by: Geoff Rasmussen | August 14, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Re: Donna Mullen (Aug 14). I am confused as to her system. I understand the parents part but after that I am uncertain as to how it works. It sounds workable if I could understand it better. Thanks.
Posted by: Ramona Nowotny | August 14, 2012 at 06:28 PM
I've been using Legacy program for several years now, it’s a great program. My problem is I started with legal 4 draw filing cabinet, put printed copy of research log (not from Legacy) and family group sheets. Then I started to use notebooks for copies of what ever in sheet proctors. I had a 4 shelve bookcase. By the way I research both parent’s sides, three husbands and their parents as much as possible. Now after retiring I'm in very small apartment and don't have room for notebooks. Now I also have years of my fathers papers both Family History - Genealogy plus loads of other material that I need to go though to pull Old address, memberships, etc from. That's on top of pictures both from my father and grandfather in pix, slide, and neg formats. I recently let my oldest know that my standard size filing cabinet would be taken over by Family History-Genealogy stuff but how should I file things between the 2 cabinets? Color coding would be impossible for me. For example I have 3 different lines of Clark surname. They could tie in some time way back, but that is one line I'm leaving alone just because they are on side parts and the surname is sooo common. I've been using alphabet surname filing in past, but how do I file pix and other documents where I don't have a sure name but they probably are family? Your webinars are a great help so need all the idea I can get.
Posted by: Launa Droescher | August 14, 2012 at 08:10 PM