Keeping your materials organized is an ongoing process because you are always finding something new. When I come across material that I need or want to keep, I first record and cite the data in my genealogy software, then put the printed material in the "File Pile", next to my laptop. Because I tend to focus on an individual family group for a period, I've found it helpful to keep recently used documents close at hand; you never know when you need to quickly recheck something. Then, every few weeks, I catch up on my filing or scanning. Filing is also a good break when I seem to be running into a brick wall, getting nowhere in my research.
Earlier this year, I sent several afternoons going through my files, looking at what I had, and considering ways to better know what was there. I did a Google search for free genealogy forms and found several that might me a clearer picture of what I had. Bailey's Free Genealogy Forms had a number of download forms including a Research Log titled "Research Record Sheet" that was just what I needed. I downloaded it, printed copies, and am using this form as a Table of Contents for each file folder, as in the sample shown below.
Entry 1 is for the transcription of an ancestor's will, and it is document #9 in the Andrews Family files. I've written an identifier, "Andrews Family - 9" along the 11" side of the document so it is easily read in the folder. No matter when I take that transcription out of the folder, I can always get it back in the correct folder once I've finished using it, thanks to the identifier. As a New Year's resolution, I've going to be copying the info from my Research Record Sheets onto a Google Sheets spreadsheet so it is easy to access when I away from my files. On Google Sheets I'll be adding a note as to whether the info is paper, scanned, or photo.
In addition to my Surname Files, I have a few general files that I consult periodically.
- Blank Census Forms for each census year - handy for seeing the different data recorded for each census enumeration, especially those that only show tally marks
- Check On file - unsourced or questioned data that I want to check further into
- Maps - copies of old state,county, and militia district maps
- Specialized files such as my "Norwegian Searching Tips" gathered from a variety of sources and useful when I'm researching one branch of my family
This has been a quick look at the way my files are organized. Have you found ways that work for you? I'll like to hear about them.