February 18th, 2010

Your Genealogy Files: Quick and Easy Tips for Organizing Your Research

Organizing your genealogy files is probably the last thing on your mind right now. Your research is going well and you are beside yourself. Each day of research brings a new revelation. To get it all down before you forget, you automatically grab the piece of paper closest to you and write. Before you know it, those bits of paper become a mountain of notes. Today we have some quick and easy tips to help you organize your genealogy files.

1. Sort it out – Stick with the genealogy research plan you carefully drafted. You will stay focused and organized. If you do not have a plan, now is a good time to create one. With your plan in hand, set up your systems: a manual and an electronic system. You don’t have to add bells and whistles, manila file folders and your computer should do the trick.

2. Use one folder for each document type. The quickest way to organize your files is sort them by type. You could start with some of the following categories:

• Communications – letters, faxes, emails, phone calls, face-to-face meetings

• Place Names – township, county city, state, province, country

• Surnames – different spelling of each name

• Mother’s side or Father’s side of the family -separate according to each parent

• Dates – dates of birth, baptism, marriage, death, burial

3. Keep it simple. Match your electronic files to your manual files. There is no point to naming them differently. It makes it easier to cross-reference your file if you need to find a document in a hurry.

4. Choose your genealogy software. Now you have all your documents systematically filed, using genealogy software is your next best bet. There are dozens of options available. Look for an upcoming series of posts reviewing popular genealogy software. Popular software features include:

- Automated date format

- Automatic age display

- Relationship options

- Relationship calculator

- Family and pedigree views

- Reports and charts

5. Keep track. During your research, you will be making phone calls, writing letters and visiting the records office among other activities. Use a simple tracking system to record everything. Again, it could be manual, good old pen and paper or in a simple excel spreadsheet. This way you will be able to track, who you have to follow-up with and when. In your tracking sheet, record responses you received from your sources; information still outstanding as well as your progress, all at a glance.

6. The paper trail continues. Once you start researching your family tree, the stacks of paper never end. The more research you do, the more trails you find that need further investigating. Exciting, isn’t it. If you have a room in your home to spare, you could use it exclusively for your genealogy research. This is the ultimate in helping you stay organized. If not, you can store your files in a dedicated filing cabinet so your research stays separate from your financial papers.

Have fun exploring your family tree. Follow these tips to stay organized. Avoid getting overwhelmed. Follow our quick and easy tips to organizing your genealogy files. Be consistent and you will not be buried under a tsunami of papers.

Do you have any other tips help stay organized? Leave me a comment below.