Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Organizing -- Part two

Last time I wrote about the big issue we all have to deal with in genealogy – organizing the mountains of material we gather. Basically, the suggestions were to:
1. Sort everything into categories, broadly at first, then narrowed down as necessary.
2. Label and file family documents (or copies thereof), first by surname, then by location, and then by type of record (these are the basis for the information you enter in your genealogy program)
3. File background information, maps, and lists of resources separately.

This leaves us with some leftovers that still sit there, in danger of being lost in the shuffle if they are ignored. Unfortunately they will not file themselves.

First come those census records, especially now that it is so easy to download copies of actual images through the local library's subscription to Heritage Quest. The printouts can pile up rather quickly, and there are probably too many of them to file with the other documentation.

My own solution has been to separate them as I do all family records, first by major surname (I use different colored binders to indicate this), and then, in one case, by location (very general). So I have a blue census record binder for the Cain line in MD/DE, and another for the rest of the United States, which I simply call "The West." Within the binders I sort by State, then county, then year.

Yet another kind of material to deal with has to do with indexes. Don't we all copy sections of indexes from books, or download them from Internet sources? I have lists of military pensioners, land applicants, marriages, and more. Since they simply refer us to another source, they are not, in themselves, true documentation. They are, however, vital to our research, and need to be saved, and accessible, until we can follow up on them. My files for these take up another couple of binders.

There are also those "I-still-don't-know-what-to-do-with-this"pieces of paper that are picked up here and there that do not fit into any obvious categories. For instance, I have surname references which do not yet sit comfortably in the family tree. But I keep them, in hopes that a connection may someday become evident. (Or maybe they contain proof that the individual is NOT part of my line and I need to keep that reminder.) These I put in a file simply labelled "Surnames." They may include ANY of the names which appear in my family history. ( It is a good idea to review these periodically and see if some new piece of information helps make a connection.)

But there is still another category – one I call "Significant Others." Sometimes the name of a person not known to be part of the family will crop up over and over – in land records, as witness to a will or marriage bond, or listed nearby on more than one census record. These could just be names of close friends, but more often than not, there turns out to be some blood connection. And their repeated occurrence may eventually provide an important clue.

I admit I do go off on tangents. One of my great-grandmothers was married and widowed before she married my great grandfather, and although her spouse died soon after they married, his family was so interesting I have a whole folder just for them.

Another man, believed to be the spouse of one of my ancestor's sisters, has proven so elusive I keep a folder for his rather uncommon surname and all the instances I can find of it.

You get the idea. Every piece of paper worth saving belongs somewhere. If your categories are consistent and you keep up with the paper piles, you can file and retrieve (and refile) everything with ease.

1 comment:

Elaine Iturri said...

Appreciate the material on organizing, one of my biggest problems. Thanks.