Monday, March 28, 2011

Organizing Genealogy and Family History Documents, Records, Papers, Etc.


Hanging File Folder Tote

4 Different Colors of Hanging Folders

Manila File Folders

File Folder Labels

Black Writing Pen

Hilighters to Match Colored Hanging File Folders



Have a pedigree chart handy, either on paper or a computer near by.

Color Coded Pedigree

Green - Your Paternal Grandfather's Line
Red - Your Paternal Grandmother's Line

PURPLE - Your Maternal Grandfather's Line
Yellow - Your Maternal Grandmother's Line

This is a red file. According to the color coded pedigree above this would be Your Paternal Grandmother's Line. The tabs are based on surnames within that line. I like to place mine alphabetically, but you do what's best for you.

The manila folders holds individual families within the surname. These files would go into the "Vallance" folder and be arranged from youngest to oldest. Vallance, John  b. 1833 was married first to Wright, Almeda. Note the "M1".

Vallance, John  b. 1833 was married second to Burns, Julia  b. 1853. Note the M2. Include as much of the birth date as you know. This is especially important when a folder holds multiple men with the same first name.

Here is an example of a complete birth date written out. This file holds information on Wiggins, John  b. 29 Jan 1741. Married to Guy, Elizabeth,  b. unknown. In this file you will find paper work relating to this family. You might wonder where information on Guy, Elizabeth is found as a child. She is found in a red folder with surname label GUY. As a child, up until she marries, her information is found in the manila folder bearing her father's name, her mother written below his. Women are always found with father or husband.

You see here that the red folder, labeled Wiggins, holds many files. All men in this hanging file have the last name Wiggins and are direct descendants. 




1. Sometimes you have papers that relate to a line and not any one particular individual in that line. You may just need to add another manila folder with a description and put it behind the named files. You may need to create another hanging folder, the appropriate color, and label the tab with the surname and contents --- like "Wiggins - Unknown". In a file such as this you may choose to have several manila folders for different unknown Wiggins families or individuals.

2. Don't let your folders and files get cluttered. Periodically you may need to go through and get rid of the clutter.

3. It's helpful to create a master list and/or log in each surname hanging folder. A quick reference as to where you've searched and where you would like to search, along with findings. 

4. You may also choose to keep some kind of contact list or folder for each surname. A list of cousins or helpful people, addresses, email and/or phone numbers. 


christiedecor said...

Alecia! I am impressed! Thanks for showing a great system for organizing genealogy records. You are inspiring!

Ramona Kissell said...

This was a VERY timely post for me, Alecia! I DO have lots of unorganized family papers lying around, and - up 'til now - no IDEA how to organize them!! I'll put this idea to work right away. THANKS!!

Diana Joy said...

I just found your site and the list of references on the right side have my little heart going pitter patter.. Thank you. I'm very new to searching for ancestors.

Alecia-Merłowicz-Morris said...

Diana, Glad you found something useful!:)

Dana Leeds said...

Very useful! I'm trying to figure out how to organize my papers & these are great ideas!

Joanne said...

I have sorta followed this file system myself and it works very well. One thing I would suggest though: use vinyl file folders. If you are in your files alot like I am, they won't disintegrate as fast. I ordered mine through Office Depot. I also use these type files for my finance and home files.

Alecia-Merłowicz-Morris said...

This system translates well to binders, email, google docs, etc. I appreciate the positive comments, thank you!

Unknown said...

Alecia - thank you so much! I just began genealogy research and could not get my head around how to organize. I appreciate you taking the time to share!!