THE BENEFITS OF ORGANIZING ELECTRONICALLY
December 26, 2010
A well-planned filing system allows you to find things in a matter of minutes. Mine works well for me. I usually find what I am looking for in less than three or four minutes. Do you have such an organized system? In case your answer is no, I thought you might want to look at my genealogy filing system and learn how I stay current on all my genealogical findings. A useful filing system must be one that we can understand and facilitates recovering information.
In addition, it is necessary to know where I am in my research before I begin to search at an onsite location. Previously, I recorded, analyzed and itemized what I need to find next. This practice is one that keeps me current with what I have on each family and which documents I must find next in the quest for uncovering my family history.
I have a file on my computer named “Genealogy Surnames.” Inside this are many folders showing all the individual surnames I am searching. Under the proper surname folder, I have folders with first names followed by their date of birth (d.o.b.). This is necessary because there are numerous people in each surname named Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, William, and so on. The d.o.b. identifies the correct “Joseph” in a specific decade. Another folder called “Reports Written” contains my research findings that show where I can quickly access the next step in my research. Accessing reports are easy. It might be helpful to store instructions for writing reports under in folders named “Instructions” and “Style Sheet.” If my filing approach is not for you, modify it in a way that better serves you. With this done, you are ready for the next step.
I file each paper copy and picture alphabetically and then numerically in folders using the first three-letters of the surname, capitalized, plus a three-digit number. I do not separate my hard copies into subjects such as births, marriages or deaths because I keep an index at the beginning of the paper files explaining the relationship between the numbers and the document subjects. It looks something like this: KEL001 Birth of Joseph Kellow, KEL002 1840 U.K. census and KEL003 1850 U.S. census. File these alphabetically and then numerically. By just opening the cover of the file, the index filed inside leads me to what I am looking for. Paper files become huge over time so it might be necessary to scan each record or picture into your computer under the correct surname, again using the letters and the numbers. Personally, I never trusted a computer enough to scan and toss.
Now it is time to write. Writing a report on each surname allows you to know and understand the family activities and movements during their lifetime. I file each report under the proper surname on my computer, and then in the folder called “Reports written.”
Begin the report by typing the date, the subject, and where it is in the electronic, such as c:\doc\Kellow/reports/reports written\KEL001. Since I do not take clients, the purpose of my reports are to have for my personal files. Therefore, the style sheet for my reports looks much like this: “Name” Joseph Kellow; “Date” August 8, 2010; “File” KEL004-Jos. My “Objective” might be to find Joseph Kellow’s immigration date. I succinctly describe the “Background Information” I have previously collected. I print this and take it with me to the research location.
At the end of my research period, I document my “Research Findings.” If I find “Additional Information” on the family, I record that as well. There is one more step: After analyzing all the information, I then make an itemized list of items for my “Future Research” trips. By doing so I am always up to date on what I have on the person or family, information I’ve found or didn’t find, and what I must hunt for on my next research outing. At this point, my research on that family is up to date.
Successful research depends on a good filing system, preparation and skillful research, as well as keeping current on your findings.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com.