If you read Sorting It All Out and Filing FTW!, you know the basic idea of how to set up and get started with a filing system for your genealogical records. The biggest obstacle to overcome is getting started with the process, the second biggest obstacle is setting up a system to help you keep it up. Here are five tips to help make things as simple as possible:
1. Start Today. The most difficult thing you can do is get started. Before you start your mind is zooming
with doubts (can I do it? how do I do it?), frustrations (this is impossible!), or denial (it’s not so bad… I don’t really need to find _________.). It’s time to put all of that noise out of your head. Don’t think. Just do. That is why we start big and work towards small. The more mechanical and systematic you can make it, the fewer excuses you will come up with, the less intimidating it will be, and the less time it will
2. Let your Pedigree Be Your Guide. If you are having trouble figuring out where something goes or how you want to organize your files, look to your forms. Your pedigree will show you all your family members in an organized format, it is a visualization of how you want your filing to be. Bonus: once you get everything sorted out, your pedigree can function as a map to find what you are looking for. You can use other family history forms the same way!
3. Figure Out How To Handle Difficult Documents and Stick With It. Sometimes a document might list more than one family, more than one individual, or have some other complication that makes it difficult to file. When it comes time to empty out your other folder and file these away, figure out how you want to do it and stick with it.
One of the easiest things to do is to make a copy and put it in with both names or families, but this can prove difficult if you a) don’t have a copier b) have been doing it a while and it is making for extra paper bulk. Other ways you can handle it are to make a note in the second area saying “refer to “_______________” under this file, this folder, this box.
Note: you will also have to make a similar judgment call when it comes to marriage. When does an individual stop being a part of one family group and become a part of another. I handle this by making the change at the date of marriage. Whatever you decide to do, decide early and be consistent.
4. Make Indexes. Once you get all of your papers filed and organized, you might consider making indexes so that you can refer to them in the future if you can’t remember how you filed something or if you need to find something quickly. As mentioned in No. 3, if you use your charts to help you organize your documents, an index might be as simple as including those in the front of each section of your files.
5. Keep It Going. All this would be for nothing if we had no intention to keep our stuff organized in the future. It isn’t as difficult as you might think. The most helpful tip I can give you here is to pick a day, weekly, monthly, quarterly, whatever you have time for, and spend a little bit of time re-sorting things. Find a place, whether you start an extra pocket folder in the front of each of the boxes for documents “To Be Filed.” Or just use your “Other Box” as a transitional holding place between your filing days.
Have a specific, pre-determined place to put unfiled papers, with the express intention of filing them on a specific day. That way you won’t fall into the same old cycles, even if you aren’t immediately putting each paper in its specific place.
Follow these easy tips, and set realistic expectations for yourself. Spend a little bit of time regularly keeping up with what you’ve done, and you will be living the dream, you’ll be an Organized Genealogist!
What tips do you have to help with organization and filing? Lay ‘em on us in the comments!