Monday, December 10, 2012

A Good Day to Start Organizing, p. 1

December 10 is Dewey Decimal System Day, a day dear to this retired library media specialist's heart. (The Straight Dope actually has an interesting history of how Dewey came up with his organizational system if you are interested in knowing more.)  So what better day to begin considering ways to organize genealogy, family stories, photos, and mementos you have acquired!

Trust me, there will come a time when you see that you need some way to organize all things related to your genealogy research.  Below is a brief look at how my materials are organized, followed by links to other methods which might speak more to your way of seeing things.

Alphabetical Approach: I like to be able to hold things, comparing, reexamining papers and photos, so I have materials stored and organized alphabetically in file folders.  My first step was to make a family file folder for the surname of each of my four grandparents: Andrews Family, Myren Family, Perkinson Family, and Vaughan Family.  I then made a separate file (surname followed by first and middle name) for both of my parents and each of my four grandparents.  The Andrews Family folder comes first, followed alphabetically by the other files of Andrews surnames.   Because I use the same basic organizational structure with my paper files as well as my scanned documents and photos stored on my laptop, it is relatively easy for me to locate things.

What started as ten paper file folders now numbers many more.  As my research leads me to new surnames, I add a Surname Family File for that branch of my tree.  I continue to use a Surname Family File for information about  several family members found in one source such as a copy of a census page listing three related families as neighbors or a group photo of a family.  I also use the Surname Family File to keep miscellaneous family information that doesn't pertain to just one family member (like directions to a family cemetery) as well as a place to keep single bits of information I find about an ancestor.   As I find more information about an individual, that person ends up with his own file once I have several things related specifically to just him or his immediate family.  

Topical Approach: Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems Podcast has a different organizational structure, one that focuses more on types of documents saved rather than saving by individuals' names.  You can learn more about her approach here including some good tips for organizing family photos on your hard drive.

Chronological Approach: Another blogger, Michelle Goodrum, has a number of posts about organizing an extensive collection of family papers on her blog The Turning of Generations.  Goodrum uses a chronological approach for organizing boxes of documents, photos, etc., belonging to her father.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and you won't have everything perfectly organized in a day either.  As your collection of things grows, you may want to reconsider or tweak how you do things.  I know I have.  Good luck, and Happy Dewey Decimal Day!

1 comment:

  1. I used exactly that folder strategy when I first organised my research. These days I hardly print anything out though, so the folders are gathering dust and my digital backups are spread about the cloud for safety. However you have reminded me that there are still items in the folders I haven't scanned ... must add to "to do"!