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A Guide to Organizing Paper Genealogy Files
Booklet Cover
© 1997
Basic System
The way we alter the numbering system, etc.
  1 = You
  2 = Your Father
  3 = Your Mother
  4 = Your paternal Grandfather
  5 = Your paternal Grandmother
  6 = Your maternal Grandfather
  7 = Your maternal Grandmother
  8 = Your paternal Great-grandfather on your Father's side
  9 = Your paternal Great-grandmother on your Father's side
10 = Your paternal Great-grandfather on your Father's Mother's side
11 = Your paternal Great-grandmother on your Father's Mother's side
12 = Your maternal Great-grandfather on your Mother's Father's side
13 = Your maternal Great-grandmother on your Mother's Father's side
14 = Your maternal Great-grandfather on your Mother's Mother's side
15 = Your maternal Great-grandmother on your Mother's Mother's side
Folder       By storing these files with the numbers in descending order, it allows us to assign a number to all offspring as well as placing the oldest people to the front of the file or binder. Actually the eldest passed the surname down the line. We do this by separating the generations with '-' and giving each individual a number in the order of their birth. (i.e. 48-1)
     The files will then be arranged. Further organization can be accomplished by using different color folders or dividers to separate Paternal and Maternal lineages. Of course colored labels on the folders or dividers works equally well.
Folder    Folder
     In the cases where there are multiple marriages we insert a lower case letter after the number, (i.e. 48a, 48b, 48c, etc.)

     To list 'illegitimat'' relationships. We assign a number as if it were any normal marriage. If we wish to make the number stand out, then there are two solutions that are relatively easy to do. The lower case letter denoting multiple marriages/relationships can either be doubled, [ i.e. 48bb ] or by placing single or double quotation marks around it [ i.e. 48 'b' - 49 'b' ].
     If one would happen to be a 'same sex' relationship; I would use the double letter. If a relationship produced offspring, then my choice would be the single quotation marks. By differentiating, we are able to highlight both types of relationships in the same 'Tree'.
     To choose the letter either a, b, c, etc.; The year of occurrence, if known, puts forth the determining order. If unknown, then we go by the year of birth of the first born child to these marriages/relationships.
     I usually use a family group sheet as the primary page for each person, then add pages as necessary with notes, Photographs, and anything else that I may come across pertaining to this individual. Speaking of Photographs, I like to scan pictures and print them on regular paper for this file. Two reasons for this are: One that it is not as bulky and, Two: that it lessens the chance of the original photo becoming damaged when transporting and handling these files.
NOTE : The ficticious family and numbers assigned can be found in the next chapter.
     No, We do not create a folder/divider section for every individual. Any individual without descendants is usually adequately represented on their parent's family group sheet. Our numbering system allows us to assign them a number for database and contents listings, to easily locate any name. To create a folder on all these individuals would be a lot of unnecessary duplication and make handling of all these additional folders cumbersome without positive results.
     Also, as we proceed backwards in time with our research; the information becomes overbearing if we try to follow everyone. For each individual that you do not wish to continue on with research for, stop there. They are probably entered sufficiently (for your purposes) on their parent's family group sheet. Having them in the numbering sequence and on your database or chart, will allow you or someone else to continue the research in the future.
     In situations, such as ours, when a husband and wife are both working together researching their respective family histories; additional colors can be used. To still use the above numbering system, it is easiest to insert a capital letter in front of the number. In our case, we use the first letter of the surname it pertains to. If the surnames happen to start with the same letter, then either the alphabet, or any letter choice you wish may be used.

     When relatives marry, each situation can be unique. This requires determining how to deal with organizing on whatever has occurred whenever we run across it. Every possibility can not always be planned in advance, because I think that just about everyone involved in genealogy has happened across some information that doesn't seem to fit properly in any sequence. My advice is to use whatever works for you, but to be consistent, treat the next one in the same manner, and undoubtedly, it probably will show up sometime.
     In tracing one family tree, we ended up with a situation as illustrated below. Unbeknownst to them until recently when the family tree developed in this manner. My understanding is that around the time of the wedding of 4-2 & 4-2sp, a grandmother or great-grandmother jokingly mentioned the possibility when they realized that his mother's maiden name and her grandmother's maiden name were the same surname.
     According to "Family Tree Maker" ® kinship report, this makes 4-2-1 themselves and their own sixth cousin.
looped Family Tree graph

Generally we don't have numbers get this long, but it still works.
     I have heard mentioned many times that this exists often, and it was not rare for marriages of first cousins to take place in a lot of areas.
     How to handle numberbing a spouse's children from a previous marriage and below is a numbering sequence that showed up on one family line we were tracing :


These were her children by her first marriage.
     On the issue of 'livening up' your presentations I am including a suggestion or two. If any ancestor or person has an interesting background, placing this information with their respective family group sheet, can remove some of the boredom of only having names and dates. A brief descriptive phrase or page can also help be a break. If an ancestor was a Pony Express rider, then a short explanation of what the Pony Express was would also be a nice insertion.
     The reason I mention the above items was that I suppose I consider the main reasons for paper files is 'Show & Tell'. I in no way intend to distract from the importance of preserving all of this information as insurance against any type of 'disaster' or passing on to posterity their 'Family History'.
     For my own purposes I use a family group sheet as the main page for each individual and subsequent pages as necessary for any other information I have for this individual. On this family group sheet I list any documentation. Usually I print a self-adhesive label with the necessary items on it and attach to the page.
Family Group Sheet

     I personally like using 3-ring binders of the clear overlay type. This allows for personalizing the binder, as if maybe a 'Coat-of-Arms' on the front and the spline labeled with whatever surname or data is kept there. I like using a different font and color for each surname to make each one distinct. This helps with the 'Ego Trip' during those times of 'Show & Tell'. Which , of course, is the real main reason for maintaining and organizing Paper Genealogy Files anyway.

     I also use plastic page protectors that are open only on the top. This permits removing the page without disturbing the rest. It also allows multitudes of other people to handle and look through, while you 'Show & Tell', without damaging the contents. Dividers can also be inserted in page protectors to allow the tab to protrude properly. Inserting dividers into page protectors is done by notching the page protector just enough for the tab. Extra wide binders (not thicker) can usually be found at an office supply store. Most department stores only carry a line suitable for schoolwork.      Again for my preference : I prefer using 1½ inch or 2 inch binders for ease of handling.

     Extra wide dividers, for using with page protectors are also available. They seem to be hard to locate, but with the passage of time may become more readily available.
     While working on this revision, I was informed that one company is making sheet protectors of polypropylene with tabs. It is being produced in five-tab and eight-tab. At the present, I understand that is not yet available in stores; but is available by ordering. This will make using sheet protectors much easier to seperate into sections.


© 1997 - 2015     Wayne Hinton
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