How to keep your family history organised: a 4-week plan - week one


17 July 2018
Heart_in_pages_up_close_(30640643420)-02518.jpg How to keep your family history organised: a 4-week plan - week one
Keep your ever-growing family tree under control with our 4-week plan to organising your genealogy research.

Keep your ever-growing family tree under control with our 4-week plan to organising your genealogy research.

You would much rather spend your precious time searching for ancestors, rather than mislaid documents – right? Denise May Levenick shares her tips for keeping your family history records shipshape.

Efficient family historians know that an organised filing scheme for paper and digital materials saves a lot of time. If your present filing scheme is more of a hassle than a help, consider updating your system to make it easier to use and make the most of your valuable research hours.

Week 1: Review your current method

As a 21st-century family historian, you probably work with both paper and digital files. Your research and family documents may be stored in file folders, in binders, on your computer, as loose papers, or as all of the above. Review your current method of organising and filing your research by asking yourself a few essential questions:

1. Do you prefer paper or digital files, or would you like to retain both?

2. Do you have enough space to store physical paper files?

3. Are you able to purchase additional computer hard drive storage space or cloud storage as needed to accommodate backups and a growing digital library?

4. Do you have the necessary computer skills to manage a digital collection and digitising projects?

No single method will be perfect, but one scheme will probably seem like the best fit for your working style, budget, and skills.

Decide which method might be the best choice for you:

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  • Paper – In this scheme, paper rules. Any digital files are printed and filed in a paper system for reference. The digital images may or may not be filed in a correspondingly named computer folder system.
  • Digital – This strategy aims to minimise or eliminate paper files. Paperwork is digitised and artefacts digitised and organised in a digital file management system. Heirloom original documents and photos are preserved in archival storage, but most research paper is eliminated.
  • A combination – Paper and digital files are organised in a kind of mirror system; that is, paper file folders stored in a filing cabinet and computer file folders both follow the same naming structure and pattern. Files may be named by surnames, locations, family groups and so on, but the naming conventions are essentially the same.

Quick tips

Colour-coding made easy

Some researchers like to use blue, green, yellow and red folders for each grandparent’s pedigree line, following the system created by genealogist Mary Hill in her Family Roots Organizer Colour-Coding System.

Top scanning advice

To digitise current research, you may want to invest in a sheet-fed scanner; however, a traditional flatbed scanner is a better choice for heirloom originals or fragile documents and photographs.

WEEK TWO: how to gather your supplies and kit

Love learning new family history skills? Book your tickets for Family Tree Live and come and learn a whole lot more! 

(image copyright David Whelan)

Denise May Levenick’s four-stage plan first appeared in Family Tree magazine, but so that as many people as possible can get their family history organised we’re sharing it with you here.