Updated: Dec 30, 2018
My blog is a bit late this week as I just returned from a short cruise vacation…four days of doing nothing but relaxing and reading (and of course eating). If you are like me (and many other genealogists based on the blogs I’ve read) you may have made a resolution for 2018 to become more organized. I wrote last week about my big purge, and it continues. The photo above is a glimpse at my closet. Notice that you can actually see the counter and shelves! I’m too embarrassed to show a before picture. The opposite wall of the closet has a tall bookcase with more of my genealogy library. Hmm…wonder how long it will stay this way.
There are lots of methods of organizing your research. You might want to check out Drew Smith’s book, Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher or just google “organizing genealogy.” Google said there were 2.4 million results! The beauty of Drew’s book is that it isn’t just about filing systems…it’s a way to organize everything, from your workspace, to your goals, to your projects. Between the book and the google results you can get some great ideas but you need to pick the one that works for you. Let me talk a little about my method which I’ve used for many years.
I use an Ahnentafel system. If you’re not familiar with that it is the numbering system used on a pedigree chart…you are number 1, your father is number 2, your mother is number 3, etc. Each male direct ancestor is double the number of the previous generation and his wife is double plus 1. It is easy to figure out what the ancestor number is. The third great grandfather would be 32 (2, 4, 8, 16, 32). You just need to double the preceding generation, fourth great would be 64. This works for anyone in your pedigree. If my father is 6, then the generations back go 6, 12, 24, 48, 96, etc. What I like about this system is that if you come to missing ancestor, the space is always there should you find information in the future. My grandfather Frank Mitchell #12 (aka Fedor Mylytczuk) emigrated from the Ukraine. I have the names of his parents, #24/25 from his marriage license, but I have nothing past that. So for now, there is no #48/49, #50/51 but should I find information, the files will drop right into place.
My file cabinet is set up with hanging files numbered 1a, 1b, 1c which are my three daughters, then each file is set up for a couple: 2/3 Brian Moughty/Donna Mitchell; 4/5 Bernard Moughty/Catherine Daly, etc. You’ll notice that this system is for direct ancestral lines and are probably wondering about collateral lines (especially since I write so often about cluster genealogy and searching everyone in the family). I file the children outside of the direct line with their parents, numbered by their birth order in file folders. So if couple 30/31 had three children, the middle of which is my direct ancestor, I would put information about their other children in paper file folders marked 30/31-1 Clara and 30/31-3 Buna.
Over the years I’ve put a lot of paper in these files. In some cases there is so much paper that I’ve had to add additional hanging folders to accommodate all of it. My children’s folders are especially full with school papers and awards, and I know it’s time to purge these files.
The benefit of this system is that I know where to file; the downside is that typically I’m in a hurry or need to quickly clean off my desk and things get put into a pile. I vow to do better this year. As part of my purging last week, I took all of the papers that needed to be filed and put them in one place. I will spend at least a half hour each day going through these papers, making sure the information is in my database and either scanning the papers or filing them.
Next week I’ll discuss converting these paper files to digital.