Thursday, March 24, 2011

Testing DearMYRTLE's Genealogy Paper Organization System

I've taken the liberty to post about my Genealogy Cave before - see A look at the Genea-Cave and Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - show us your Genealogy Space, even with pictures!  The situation is worse now, since I keep finding more useful papers, receiving more magazines, and haven't done any real filing (other than making the piles taller) for a long time.

I decided that I need to organize my paper files and my computer files with a better system, while doing the necessary filing into notebooks and folders.  In the process, I can clean out some of the detritus in my notebooks, such as printouts from the LDS Ancestral File from the early 1990s. 

But what system to use?  I recalled that DearMYRTLE published a series of articles called "Getting Organized" back in 2009, so I went looking for them.  I found five articles for the months of January through May 2009, respectively.  They are still online at:

While they don't exclusively deal with paper file organization, they do address it in some detail.  What I like about Ol' Myrt's system is that:

*  Having a Surname Notebook for each surname (or perhaps a small group of surnames) keeps all of the useful information about an ancestral line together in one place.  I can put a research log, a pedigree chart, family group sheets, BMD records, Bible pages, narrative reports, photographs, document images, newspaper articles, correspondence, research notes, and reference papers (handwritten notes, book chapters, periodical articles, webpage printouts, etc.) all in one location so that I can pick it off the shelf when I want it. 

*  Ol' Myrt recommends keeping all information about a specific family together.  For example, a family section in the Notebook might include the Family Group Sheet with the research notes, the birth, marriage and death records, the Bible pages, the family photographs, newspaper articles, etc. in approximately that order.  All of that would be in one Tab, with the special things like certificates, newspaper articles and photographs in sheet protectors. 

*  I like the idea of having a pedigree chart and a narrative report (e.g., Descendants of the earliest known Ancestor with that surname) in the front of the report, perhaps including the document images and photographs, from a  genealogy software program or a word processing document.  The correspondence, research notes and reference papers would be in the back of the Notebook after the information for the earliest family.

*  Information about collateral lines of the surname (i.e., not the ancestral line) could be filed in a separate Tab, or even in a separate Notebook (or in several notebooks).  I have information for a number of One-Name studies that I keep in separate notebooks.  I am not a slave to an organization system!

*  In a perfect research world, all of the information in the Notebook would be included in the "Genealogy Management program" (software or online family tree) in the Facts and Notes, including source citations and document/photograph images.  I am painfully aware that my research world is very imperfect!

*  DearMYRTLE says in her "Getting Organized" articles that her system will (paraphrased):

"... make the Surname notebook read like a Coffee Table book. Everything that you need is in the book in family order from most recent to oldest known ancestral family for that surname. Having everything together makes it easier to photocopy or scan the material for a family member or researcher. If you ever write a book, you have everything in one notebook. If you die, all of your research on that family is well organized."

Well!  That certainly sounds good.  How hard can this be?  I found a spare notebook, and created a Surname notebook for the Auble family.  I printed out the Family Group Sheets, a pedigree chart and a Descendants report from the first known AUBLE ancestor in my line - six generations (the narrative report was 48 pages, since this is one of my One-Name studies).  I put all of that in the AUBLE Notebook separated by tabs.  Today, I found my Auble research  notebook in the bookcase, weeded out some extraneous papers, and took all of the papers that directly pertain to my six families and put them in the "right places" in the Notebook.  Next, I found the birth, death and marriage certificates and other records I have for my Charles Auble family, and put them behind the Charles Auble FGS.  Lastly, I put the research papers in the back of the Notebook under the Supporting Documents tab.

I haven't printed out the Census and other record images that I have in my computer files, but I will.  I haven't collected all of the photographs yet on the computer, but I will.  There are likely more in the "Big Box of Family Photos" sitting on a file cabinet top under three feet of more stuff, and I need to find them and scan the ones that I don't have digital images of.

I'm aware that, using this process, I created quite a bit more paper to add to the Notebook, but if I want it to read like a Coffee Table book, I need to do that.  

One of the immediate fall outs from this exercise on the Auble family was that I found all of the source material that I need to use to source the assertions in my Genealogy Management program.  I spent an enjoyable hour today (have I mentioned that entering sources is one of my genea-pleasures now?) entering sources from one of the resources that are now in the Auble Surname Book.

I'm not "married" to this filing system yet - and I've modified it a bit for my own use, but I like it quite a bit, and want to "test it" before I fully commit to it.  Thank you, beautiful and wise DearMYRTLE! 

I may discuss the changes I've made to my computer file organization system sometime later.  For now, I need to create some more Surname notebooks so that I can refine the system before I go through hundreds of ancestral surnames.

UPDATED: 7 pm. to edit some text.


Janeen said...

Thank-you, I need to do this. I have some surname notebooks but not organized like they should be.

DearMYRTLE said...

So glad you are finding some value in this "binder" system. It is from this sort of organization that I am better able to visualize the holes in my research. YES, I know it's in there in my genealogy program. YES, I agree that everything should be scanned.

But these binders work so well for sharing the info with our family members AND to see just where we need to do additional research.

Thanks for the shout-out, Randy.

DearMYRTLE said...

My new checklists began in Jan 2011... on my blog, located on the tab at .

BarbJ said...

I use this binder method and like it a lot. I also use color's to further differentiate family lines. For example, my Siegels are in red binders as are any family names that branch from Siegel. The Sampeys in green, Hipples in orange and Manns in blue. I keep it to four colors.