Organizing Your Paper Files - Second Lesson

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. The first lesson was published in Legacy News in February 2006 and can be read here. If you have a method that works well for you, please let us know.

One of our dedicated Legacy users, Mary Brenzel, offered to share the system she uses. Please direct any questions directly to her:

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First, you may wish to view/print the pictures of my “records” file box showing an overall view and a more close-up view of some of the hanging folder labels.  In addition, I’ve included pictures of 2 sample documents. View them here:

File folders

File folders - close up

Document in sleeve, labeled

Census document in sleeve, labeled

Each document type is sorted by location and type, with a few exceptions.  Because of the ability to place labels on the hanging folders in a variety of positions, I’ve aligned the labels for the same document types.  For example –

MICHIGAN, MACOMB
       CENSUS RECORDS

MICHIGAN, MACOMB
       BIRTH RECORDS

ENGLAND, DEVON
       CENSUS RECORDS

ENGLAND, DEVON
       MARRIAGE RECORDS

ENGLAND, DEVON
       BIRTH RECORDS

In the above example, there are no marriage records for Macomb County, Michigan so there is no label in that location.  This leaves it open for if / when they might be found and added to the files.

Records for countries are stored first, followed by U.S. States.  All of this is alphabetical.  For example, Devon, England is before Lancashire, England which is before Somerset, England.  France would be after England and then Germany.  Connecticut is before Florida; Macomb County, Michigan is before Oakland County, Michigan.

From front to back, my file box is organized like this –

ENGLAND, BATH (with folders for the different document types)
ENGLAND, DEVON
ENGLAND, LANCASHIRE
ENGLAND, MIDDLESEX
ENGLAND, SOMERSET
CONNECTICUT, HARTFORD
FLORIDA, DADE
FLORIDA, LEON
FLORIDA, PALM BEACH
MICHIGAN, MACOMB
MICHIGAN, OAKLAND
MICHIGAN, WAYNE
NEW YORK, ERIE
NEW YORK, NIAGARA
RHODE ISLAND, KENT

All of my documents, whether prints of census pages from Ancestry.com or certified copies of vital records are stored in archival safe and acid free sheet protectors.  I use a label maker to label each document, placing the label on the upper right of the sheet protector.  The sheet protectors are placed in the appropriate file folder with the 3-holes at the top, keeping the labels visible for easy retrieval.

Now for the actual document labels.  I will give you examples for each of the types I currently have organized with the file folder labels first.

ENGLAND, DEVON
BIRTH RECORDS
        ENG DEVON BIR 001
        ENG DEVON BIR 002

ENGLAND, DEVON
BAPTISM RECORDS
       ENG DEVON BAP 001
       ENG DEVON BAP 002

ENGLAND, DEVON
MARRIAGE RECORDS
       ENG DEVON MAR 001
       ENG DEVON MAR 002

ENGLAND, DEVON
DEATH RECORDS
       ENG DEVON DEA 001
       ENG DEVON DEA 002

ENGLAND, DEVON
CENSUS RECORDS
       ENG DEVON CEN 001
       ENG DEVON CEN 002

MICHIGAN, MACOMB
MILITARY RECORDS
       MI MACOMB MIL 001
       MI MACOMB MIL 002

At this time, I have only 1 exception to the above system.  That is the Social Security Death Index.  All of those records are filed together regardless of where the number was issued, where the person last resided or died.  These documents are labeled as SSDI 001, SSDI 002, etc.

Lastly, here’s how I use it in Legacy.  I use the document label as the FILE ID value in the Source Detail when I source the data, except that the country or state is spelled out.  For example, my grandmother was born in Devon, England.  The document for her birth record is ENG DEVON BIR 001 as shown in one of my pictures.  The last attachment shows the source detail screen for her birth in Legacy.  The FILE ID is ENGLAND DEVON BIR 001.

The beauty of this system is that multiple people can have the same document referenced on Source Details for different types of data in Legacy.  I can cite 2 examples.  1)  I have multiple census images with multiple families on the page.  All members of all families on the page would get the same FILE ID assigned on the Source Detail for the Census Event.  2)  My grandparents’ marriage record from the Catholic Church is labeled as NY ERIE MAR 002.  That FILE ID is on their marriage source detail is NEW YORK ERIE MAR 002.  The witnesses to the marriage are members of the family.  A “witness” event is entered for each of the witnesses with the same sourcing information and NY ERIE MAR 002.

Lastly, the documents within the folders do not have to be stored in a particular order.  As you get a new one, once it is recorded in Legacy, it can be filed away at the back of the file folder for that location / document type behind all of the others of its type.

This is all really quite simple.  I hope that you are able to understand it.  Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

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Thanks Mary for sharing your experiences with all of us!


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 http://www.legacyfamilytree.com/filing.asp for the first lesson.


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.