Friday, May 2, 2008

"Organizing Your Files" by Audrey Potterton: CVGS Program on 4/30

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society program on Wednesday, April 30 was "Organizing Your Files" by Audrey Potterton, whose biography and talk summary were given here.

As you can see, Audrey has a lot of experience in doing genealogy research, and has lived through both the "paper era" and the "computer era."Audrey brought some of her research notebooks as examples. She is a believer in taking your pedigree charts and the family group sheet books for the families that you are presently researching to the repository.

She once had 45 notebooks that contained the Family Group Sheets for each family, with the supporting documents with annotated sources. She condensed these notebooks to 4 notebooks with narrative reports (typed in a word processor) with sources noted for all ancestral families, but she kept the documents only for the research in her four grandparent's surnames. She has created CD-ROMs with the narrative reports and supporting data for each family branch for her children and grandchildren.

Audrey had many suggestions for organizing your genealogy files based on her own experience, including:

* Fill out Family Group Sheets for every family that you are researching. Use the landscape FGS form so that the dates are in columns down the page.

* Use 5-generation Pedigree Charts to identify ancestors, and keep them in numerical order (i.e., charts #2 through 17 are pedigree charts for the persons numbered #1 through #16 on the first pedigree chart, and so on).

* On the Pedigree Charts and Family Group Sheets, highlight in non-photo color the names, dates and places that you have proved. That way, you know what you need to prove.

* Cross-reference the people on the Pedigree Charts on the Family Group Sheets so that you can find them quickly in your files.

* Collect your documents by surname. If a document covers more than one surname, make a copy of the document for each surname.

* Label on the back of each document the source citation including the page number, the repository where it was found, and the surnames it applies to.

* Put the records found or searched for on the back of the Family Group Sheets - include positive and negative results.

* Put all documents in the notebook or file folder for each surname along with the Family Group Sheets.

* Take correspondence out of the envelopes, lay them flat, and put contact information on the back of the correspondence pages.

* Make all notes on 8.5 x 11 paper. Don't use small papers that can be easily lost.

* Make lists of the research items that you need, and where you might find them.

* Create indexes for items of interest for specific surnames - especially for deeds, probates, tax lists, etc.

* Make lists of things to read - books, periodicals, how-to articles, etc.

* Find resources in the Family History Library Catalog and note the resource, the film or fiche number, the library call number, etc. Order microfilms and microfiches to read and copy at the FHC.

* When you are researching, use all of your resources to establish what you know and have proved, and work from there to find additional resources.

* The Internet does not have every record available online. For instance, land deeds, probate records, tax lists church records, cemetery surveys, etc. are not well covered in online databases.

* You cannot trust family tree data submitted by other researchers to Internet databases.

* The Family History Library in Salt Lake City will not take paper collections any longer - they will take only bound books, works on CDROM, and family tree databases in GEDCOM format.

There is a lot of wisdom in those observations and opinions, and they generated a lot of questions from the audience. This was a helpful presentation, especially for the many researchers just starting out in their lifetime work. For experienced researchers, it was an encouragement that the massive files can be managed and even pared down judiciously, but you really need to document all of the records found for each family and put them in a narrative format for each family so that your research can be passed to your posterity and other researchers.

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