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A Guide to Organizing Paper Genealogy Files
Storing records and sources
The same type of folder / divider system
works as well also to store documentation
and resources for our information.
The headings on the tabs will depend on what type of
documents that are being stored. We use 3-ring
binders with page protectors to store this
type of information. It can always be expanded by
using multiple binders.
The many varieties of items used in documenting sources, creates a need to handle each type of item in a different way.
Citing sources is very important and this is usually done by the individual researcher themselves. Most generally this is on paper that doesn't necessarily need special handling, but does require filing somewhere. These 'Source' information sheets can be placed in a 'Source File' or added to the family group sheet. Creating a 'Source File' will allow information collected and cited from one location that affects various people in your family line, to be placed on one (or more) pages. A self-adhesive label works well when attached to the family group sheet pointing to the proper location(s) in the 'Source File'.
Original documents and photographs should be handled cautiously and in a manner so as not to destroy them. I am of the opinion that it is wise to copy the original, then store it in an appropriate cover in a safe place. A 'fire-proof' box or safe would be an example. A bank safety box could be a very wise choice.
When a larger than normal document is what is being worked with, it would be best to have the copy reduced to a more appropriate size. For most of us this would be 8½ x 11 inch paper. This size, being the normal, can be placed in file folders, binders, page protectors, or whatever storage method is being used without trying to fold or squeeze. Photographs can be copied the same way. Most photographs are subject to deterioration in many ways, such as improper handling, sunlight, humidity, and other environmental effects.
The choice of whether to have the copies made professionally or by scanning them yourself is up to the individual researcher. If your personal preference or necessity requires, 'Black and White' is usually sufficient. Naturally 'Color copies are more eye appealing.
PLEASE take extreme care with originals !!
They CAN NOT be replaced.
At the present I use one binder for 'Census Records' and the dividers are labeled by the pertinent states. In each state section I store the records in alphabetical order by surname and in numerical order by year. i.e.
A surname- 1850 Tennessee
B surname-1850 Tennessee
B surname-1860 Tennessee
The binders are labeled in this manner :
Baptismal Certificates - by name on certificate
Baptismal Records - for any type of record that is not a 'certificate'
Birth Certificates - by name on certificate
Birth Records - for birth index info, birth announcements, etc.
Death Certificates - by name on certificate Death Records - any record that is not a 'certificate' or 'obituary'
Census Records - Photocopies of Census pages or Index to Census pages
Diplomas - any type of 'diploma'
Obituaries - usually photocopied from newspapers
These documents are usually stored in alphabetical order. Of course, any order that suits you will work. When any section contains many documents, the insertion of alphabetized dividers is a real handy addition. In the situation where I feel it is necessary, such as a woman with one or more married names along with her maiden name; I insert the document in the section of the name that is on it, and in the other locations, I insert a page with a note on it. (i.e. see Maiden Name-Birth Certificate). If making multiple copies is not a problem, then a photocopy can be placed in each appropriate location.
Combining some of these would also be of no consequence, especially when there are not many a of a particular type of item. Sometimes, conserving space becomes very necessary.
Photographs of tombstones is a good way to cite a source. As the information on tombstones vary greatly, it can be a future reference point, especially when a nickname or only an initial was engraved on the stone.
I have found, that to enhance the 'Show & Tell' complex, a photo of the cemetery entrance and the tombstone scanned onto one page makes a great presentation.
An old adage I have heard many many times is that a picture is worth a thousand words. I do not have any idea where this originated. I find it to be true.
© 1997 - 2015 Wayne Hinton
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