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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    « Four Tried and True Systems for Organizing Genealogy Research | Main | What I Use for What I Do »

    Four Tried and True Systems for Organizing Genealogy Research

    This article was written for my local genealogy society newsletter. You are welcome to use it in your own society online or print publication; please credit

    Genealogists may not see eye to eye on the Perfect Organizational System for data and sources, but they will certainly agree that they would rather spend time finding ancestors than filing papers. The challenge is to create a system that suits the personality and habits of the user and is easy to create and maintain.

    Here are four systems worth investigating –

    Organize Your Paper Files

    Genealogical Research Associates recommends using a straightforward numerical system based on Marriage Record Numbers in conjunction with your genealogy database software program. An illustrated tutorial provides step-by-step instructions for setting up and filing papers.

    Finally, Get Organized

    Dear Myrtle (speaker and podcaster Pat Richley) describes her system of 3-ring notebooks in the first monthly installment of the series “Finally, Get Organized: January 2009 Checklist.” The monthly PDF checklists highlight different aspects of genealogy work, from organizing files to time management. Find the organizing blog posts by typing “checklist” in the “Search This Blog” search box.

    Organizing Your Files

    Folders, binders, and overall concepts are all discussed in a comprehensive article on the FamilySearch Wiki. Beginning with a discussion of the value of organizing your files, through organizing principles, setting up a system, maintaining your files, and using document numbers for filing, this article lays a good foundation for any genealogy filing system.

    How I Organize My Genealogy

    Elyse Doerflinger is a college student and experienced genealogy blogger and speaker. She has recorded a series of YouTube videos featuring step-by-step instructions for setting up a genealogy filing system and staying on top of the paper piles. Browse videos by Elyse90505 for more simple, effective filing tips.

    If you haven’t found The Perfect System yet, don’t despair; keep looking and asking questions. And, as you investigate all the many possibilities, use a simple system that helps you stay in control of your research so you can spend your time finding – instead of filing – your ancestors.

    Ten Tips for Organizing Genealogy Research

    1. Sheet Control – Use standard 8 ½ x 11-inch paper for all notes and printouts.
    2. Stay Single – One surname, one locality per sheet for easy filing.
    3. No Repeats – Avoid errors; write legibly the first time.
    4. Dating Yourself – Always write the current date on your research notes.
    5. Be Color Clever – Distinguish family lines with different colored folders, binders, tabs.
    6. File First – File one research trip or effort before starting the next one.
    7. Ask Directions – Write your own filing instructions; a big help when you take a long break.
    8. Supply Closet – Keep a stash of folders, plastic sleeves, tabs, printer ink.
    9. One File at a Time – Work through paper piles steadily; the mess didn’t happen in one day.
    10. KISS – Keep It Simple, Silly! Use an easy to set up, easy to maintain system.

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    Reader Comments (1)

    Love..Love..Love Karen's filing system! My genealogy papers are finally organized and most of all easily accessed! I have an easier time doing the research because I have this system down and I know where everything is. I took her class at MPC and learned how to use the system in the beginning class. The filing system she sells was worth the money and such great quality. I have so many friends doing this now and they love it too! Thank you - Karen!!

    February 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterM.C. from Monterey, CA

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