Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The "Stuff" Problem

How often have you looked at your genealogical "stuff" and said, "I've just got to get organized!"

I wish I had an answer for you. Organizing your genealogical material is in large part a personal thing--some people like to assign numbers, some people color-code, some people use folders, some use binders.

Me? Well, I need to get organized. So how would it work best for me?

Well, I keep most of my data on the computer, and I make sure to back up every month or so. Yes, I should probably do it every week, but every month is okay. As long as I'm at my computer it's easy to flip back and forth and find things, and it certainly saves on space!

But there is paper: death certificates, obituaries, pictures, etc., and none of it is where I can easily find it. Of course, I could scan it all in to the computer. But maybe I'll just file it.

Ideally, I think I would get 3 four-drawer filing cabinets, one for my dad's side, one for my mom's side, and one miscellaneous. Then I'd get a ton of office supplies: dividers, hanging file frames, hanging files, hanging box files, file labels, page protectors. Then I'd get all my "stuff" and start dividing it into piles--first two big piles, Dad's side and Mom's side. Then I'd start breaking down each side into the various surnames. Then I'd start getting serious with the labels.

I think I would make a section for each surname. Then I'd have a file at the front that had a descendant printout--i.e., starting with the earliest person I had and working forward. Then I'd have a file for each family, with a family group sheet and whatever paper records I might have--birth certificates, death certificates, etc. I'd have a separate folder for photos, which I would try to store in the right kind of envelopes and be sure to label. It's so aggravating to have photos and not know who they're of! Letters--I do have a few letters from my mother's side of the family, and I would put them in sheet protectors and file them with the family group of the person who wrote them, in a folder marked Letters or Correspondence or something.

Of course I'd have to tinker with this and change things as I worked with it. Possibly for more recent relatives, for whom I have more material, I would have to have separate folders for them to keep their things straight. The hanging box files would be for families like that. For 18th century families where I mostly have lists of names and dates, a family like that would go into a regular hanging file folder.

About that miscellaneous file cabinet. I think I would have a drawer for military, with files inside for each war. This would enable me to know immedately and without a lot of digging who fought in which war and (if necessary) on which side.

I think I would have a drawer for maps. I'm currently obsessed with maps. For instance, a lot of my families immigrated to Virginia. But--Virginia's a pretty big state. Henrico Co. isn't all that close to Rockbridge Co. I'd like to have state maps that show counties, labeled with the families associated with each county. I'd like to have--what do you call them? Platte maps? They published them a lot at the end of the 19th century, books that showed where everyone's property was in the county, and where the schools and cemeteries and hospitals were. I'd like to have maps that track each family's movement across the country.

I'm sure there are other miscellaneous things like that, that would be best organized outside of the family files, but I can't think of any more examples right now.

Oh! A to-do file, of course. Various reports that FTM can cough up, like Data Error Reports, place reports, things like that. Definitely a kinship report.

(Ready for a step off into the genealogical swamp? Try this - from a kinship report generated by FTM:

Benjamin Guerrant Agee is:
my 2nd cousin 4x removed
3rd cousin 3x removed
4th cousin 5x removed
5th cousin 3x removd
5th cousin 4x removed
6th cousin 2x removed
6th cousin 3x removed
Husband of my 2nd cousin 3x removed
Husband of my 3rd cousin 3x removed
Husband of my 5th cousin 4x removed
Husband of my 6th cousin 2x removed
Husband of my 6th cousin 3x removed

And if I could place Maria Susannah Agee, I'm sure it would be even more complicated!)