Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I would take a picture of my genealogy "cave" and post it if the camera had a wide enough field of view. You would see the bookcases, the piles, the boxes on the floor, the file cabinets and the computer desk - an ugly sight! You wouldn't be able to see the stored data and information in the computer folders and programs, however.

I am suffering from Genealogy Infoglut - too much information, in paper or digital form, hiding in plain sight, with no quick and effective means to find it and retrieve it. How in the world do people deal with all of this? Especially after almost 20 years of "collecting dead ancestors" and the papers that document them. I guess many don't try, but I'm sure many of you, my dear readers, have the same problem.

Let me describe my "holdings:"

1) 4 bookcases with notebooks containing the paper portion of my genealogy files.

2) A 5th bookcase with all of the family photo albums.

3) On top of 3 of the bookcases are a box of correspondence and unfiled research papers (mostly deeds and probates not yet in the databases), stacks of genealogy magazines and newsletters, and genealogy books.

4) 3 file cabinets with supplies, manuscripts, family papers and photos.

5) 5 boxes with CVGS papers and notes, notebooks with my presentations and notebooks with magazine articles of interest.

6) The desk has the computer system with several stacks of papers and tools, and the drawers are filled with computer disks, manuals and cables, stamps, coins for copies, and assorted papers and tools from my work life.

7) In the computer are about 25 gb of genealogy data - software, databases, genealogy reports, correspondence, data images (census, newspaper, vitals, etc), web pages, e-books and e-magazines, etc.

You get the idea, and I imagine most of you have the same sort of "stuff" in your genealogy office. It seems like the more stuff I collect, the harder it is to find what I need. And the magazines, periodicals, data images, and saved web pages just keep on coming.

How should I deal with it? I guess I could take a year or two and scan all of the useful pieces of paper into the computer, organized by surname or locality. I could donate all the books, magazines and periodicals to CVGS or SDGS where I could find them if needed (and if they retained them). I could triage all of this stuff into "keep, save or trash" piles. But none of that is "fun" by my standards. At worst, my kids will do the triage after I pass on into the next life.

It got so crowded in my "cave" recently that I stored the Dell box, with the new laptop computer in it, at the end of the desk and my wife never knew it! (It was supposed to be her birthday present, but now it is "our" Christmas present to ourselves. I'm thinking of giving her the wireless network for Christmas now.)

What about you? How do you handle your genealogy infoglut? Please tell me about what works for you -- before one of these genea-piles falls and pins me to the floor with fatal consequences.


Tim Agazio said...


I have a similar problem...not 20 years worth, but its building. I started scanning early so a lot of the smaller documents I've collected are on my hard drive. However, I don't know what to do with the big ones...like civil war pension and probate court records...I could probably spend a week scanning full time and still not put a dent in them. I keep saying I will do it when I get the time...and you know how that goes. I think the right answer is it will end up being my kid's problem. One thing I did was create a website (www.agaziofamilyhistory.org) and am trying to put up as much stuff from my Italian side as I can so someone other then me can enjoy this stuff. I did that a few years ago before I learned about blogs...I'm now working on putting the other surnames into separate blogs to share with others.

James said...

I definitely agree with Tim. Storing stuff electronically means that you can put bulky things away neatly - or better still in filing cabinets. Although in its infancy, my blog has already allowed me to upload a few files worth of material.

Jasia said...

OK, you win Randy. I thought I had a lot of Genea-Infoglut but I'm not in your league that's for sure.

I would suggest you look into getting an estimate on bulk scanning. You sure don't want to try to scan all that paper on a regular flat-bed scanner. Check out your local quick printer. The current line of commercial copiers/printers have bulk scanning capability and they can make short work of what would take you years to accomplish. And they can bulk scan photos as easily as text documents (of course you wouldn't want to chance any old, fragile photos or documents).

I have digital copies of just about all of my genealogy holdings (with the exception of books and journals which I have digital indexes of). I keep paper copies of original documents like birth certificates, personal correspondence, etc. but since I also have them scanned I rarely access them. They are stored in case I ever want them but I don't need to have them "handy".

What ever you decide to do, you'd better get on it quickly. I don't want to read about you in the obits any time soon!