Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A simple and workable filing system

Joanne Truman posted a note on the Advanced Research mailing list about her genealogy filing system. It is simple and logical, and fairly easy to use. She posted it to rootsweb's Weekly newsletter some time ago where it was published. Her description:

I am new to this list and would like to share my method of organizing proof documents. I submitted it to Rootsweb Review several years ago and received about 100 e-mails thanking me for posting it. Its so simple its disgusting.

First, let me say that I live in hurricane country, so would need to evacuate my most important genealogy materials in the event of a hurricane. Until I figured out this system, all of my proofs were scattered among about 40 3 ring binders and I really didn't know exactly what I had.

Next, I purchased a 15 generation pedigree chart that has the spaces numbered with the Ahnentafel numbering system and filled in what information I had. Then I purchased several 3 ring binders, plastic page protectors, and numbered page dividers from the office supply store. Have since found out that you can get these dividers to go to the higher numbers from legal office supply stores. The ones from Office Depot only go to #100. I also had one friend who purchased stick-on tabs that she hand numbered and stuck on the edge of her page protectors.

If you are a file folder person, you can number file folders to match the pedigree chart. #1 thru whatever. In this case, you can add additional folders for extended families, numbering them 1A, 1B, etc.

The project begins. I am #1 on the chart so I put my own proof documents behind divider #1, my father's behind #2, mother's behind #3, and so on. Following the numbering system and names on the chart, I filed my proofs behind the proper numbered page divider for each person. In the sections where I don't have any proof documents, I put a sticky note with the person's name and chart number so that I can easily tell whose documents are missing.

The only things that go into these notebooks are birth, baptism, marriage and death certificates, census records, deeds, or whatever primary source records I can find to connect one person in my main lines to another. I have used photos of headstones if that is all I had. I also printed a Family Group Sheet for each mainline person so that I can see the children and their spouses.

If you are inclined to join a lineage society, you can immediately tell if you have your proofs by looking in sections #1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, etc. or whatever set of numbers is applicable.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to speak up.

Joanne [Truman] []

Joanne gave me permission to post this in order to help other researchers and to post her email address if someone wants to contact her directly.

This seems to be a very workable system. The key is to have an ahnentafel list handy in order to find the number of your ancestral family, and to have enough file folders and file cabinet space to hold the data. I would also print out a family notes sheet from my genealogy software and put it in the file.

My own view in the age of digital images and computers with unlimited amount of storage, the follow-on to this is to scan all of your papers into files, put the digital files in file folders on your computer organized using this system, and link the folders to your ahnentafel. You could have the computer system open to your ahnentafel, then click on the ancestor and see what files you have for them. Then put it all on a flash drive and carry all of your research around on your key chain. Back it up regularly, of course!

Thank you Joanne for the idea!

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