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A Guide to Organizing Paper Genealogy Files
Booklet Cover
© 1997
For easily transporting reference information
      As we continued our research, our paper files became crowded and cumbersome. This was not a problem for 'Show & Tell', but became burdensome while doing on-site research, especially at some research facilities, libraries, and archives. Memory also did not serve us as well as we would have hoped. Marie continued to mention that we needed some type of easier way to refresh our memory while doing this type of research. After much discussion and false starts we finally came up with a variation of the following system. As time progressed this also became a 'Show & Tell' item.
     The modifications were made for this purpose. Even though not necessary we included a smaller 1 inch thick 5½" x 8½" clear overlay 3-ring binder. This binder was also decorated with a front of our own design. On the splines (we use two binders) we labeled them Marie's Lineage and Wayne's Lineage; simple but effective. For pages I used unruled 5½" x 8½" Index Cards.

     In the binder first I placed as many pages as necessary with a simple family tree chart containing only the names of the people in our direct family line.
Family Tree

     On the following pages I only printed the portions of the tree that contained a name. These pages I numbered Tree 1, Tree 2, Tree 3, etc.
     Next I made a 'CONTENTS' page. Actually I started it at the beginning but did not do much with it until the rest of the book was well on its way. The Contents page consisted of the lineage number followed by the person's name. When I needed additional pages for an individual, I simply added a letter. (i.e. 8A, 8B, 8C) For a couple of the people I needed a 'notes' for clarification notations or possibly additional research that was needed. Adding a page can also be useful to keep assumptions separate from verified data. I am sure we all have to proceed on a 'gut feeling' sometimes. To notate thoughts or opinions of possibilities without intermixing them with known information helps keep us 'straight'. My own method is to create a page headed by the number followed by 'GUESS' (i.e. # 48 GUESS)
     The numbered pages were a variation on a family group sheet, one of the later modifications was the insertion of scanned pictures. This modification naturally was for 'Show & Tell' use really. This can happen frequently at some research facilities, especially those that are not 'stuffy'. I have found that many researchers like to talk about what they have accomplished. Also many seem to be genuinely interested in others research. Most of the time it is not the actual information, so much as your style of presentation, methods of research, computer programs, type of storage containers, and anything thing else you do that may be unique or useful to them. I think this type of communication is Great.
Sample Page

DOE, John Allen                     48
     (son of James Lee Doe & Jane Smith){ 96 & 97 }
     aka = "Johnny"
     Born : May 27, 1814
     Died : June 20, 1875
     Occupation : Dry Goods Merchant
     Married : Elizabeth "Beth" Hammer { 49 }
               June 1, 1835
          Known Issue :
     1. (M) Adam Abner Doe 1836-1840
     2. (F) Becky E. Doe 1838-1911
          spouse : Thomas M. Needle
     3. (M) Caleb Joe Doe 1839-1899
          spouse : Sarah Jane Punch
     4. (F) Twin Delila Mary Doe 1841-1920
     5. (F) Twin Mary Delila Doe 1841-1917

     1850 Census of Tennessee-McNairy Co.
     1860 Census of Tennessee-McNairy Co.
     1870 Census of Kentucky-Graves Co.
     1880 Census of Illinois-Perry Co.
     1995 Photo of Tombstone

     On these pages I try to list as much pertinent information as I can without crowding the page too much. Near the bottom I list the documentation and research resources, as a guide when doing on-site research.
     Next we need an 'INDEX'. The number of pages needed depends on how voluminous the list may be. I include every individual named anywhere in the foregoing pages along with the page number they are located on. Where women are the individuals, We usually list them in the index under all names they have been throughout their life. The index is made on a 2-column spreadsheet as the pages are developed, and finally sorted alphabetically. To group letter or multiple letter groups on any given index page is determined by the number of individuals listed. Be careful to also list any spelling variations that you may run across while doing the original research; as this can be mighty useful when in the field continuing 'Digging Up Your Roots.
Sample Index Page
using the sample page depicted previously

Doe, Adam Abner48
Doe, Becky E.48
Doe, Caleb Joe12, 24, 25, 48, 49
Doe, Delila Mary48
Doe, Elizabeth "Beth" (nee Hammer)24, 48, 49, 98, 99
Doe, James Lee48, 96, 97
Doe, Jane (nee Smith)48, 96, 97,
Doe, John Allen24, 48, 49, 96, 97
Doe, Mary Delila48
Doe, Sarah Jane (nee Punch)12, 24, 25, 50, 51
Hammer, Elizabeth "Beth"24, 48, 49, 98, 99
Needle, Becky E. (nee Doe)48
Needle, Thomas M.48
Punch, Sarah Jane12, 24, 25, 50, 51
Smith, Jane48, 96, 97,

     To the back behind the Index, I placed several pages of descriptive information, such as an encyclopedia excerpt about a particular Revolutionary War battle that one ancestor was in. Another page about a County History, where some ancestors were involved in the development of the area. This can also be helpful in determining other possibilities when we reach a 'stumbling block'. Time periods, localities, relocations and other reasons that cause information to 'run out' can sometimes be overcame by knowing our country's history at that era and geographical area.
     The pages in this 5½" x 8½" Guide were printed on one side only to facilitate the ease of making notations and references while doing on-site research, etc.


© 1997 - 2015     Wayne Hinton
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