Over the holidays you might have had thrust into your arms a box of old documents, photos and other items about your ancestors given to you “because you are the family historian.” I received several documents related to my father-in-law’s WWII service. As genealogists we must collect “stuff,” but often this stuff is not neat and tidy and must be preserved. It is a rare genealogist who doesn’t accept that box and then wonder what to do with it!
Early in my genealogy career I recognized 1.) that there were many different kinds of items that needed to be saved, 2.) I needed to devise a system that worked for me and 3.) whatever I filed had to be very easy to retrieve. The part of that sentence that is most important is the phrase “worked for me.” I am basically a lazy filer—my method had to embody the word “simple.” No puzzlement over where the item was filed.
Here is a summary of what I devised based on my priority of keeping it simple.
Filing of “stuff”:
Loose papers, photos, maps, census info etc. are all filed in 3-ring binders coded to the first letter of my parent’s birth name. So I have one series of books called the Bode books in 7 volumes (maternal) and a series of books called the Jacobson books in 3 volumes (paternal). Each 3-ring binder is filled with archival slip sheets into which I insert my source. See photo of death certificate of my gggrandfather to the left. Notice the label in lower left hand corner of the slip sheet. Each slip sheet is numbered sequentially with the family letter preceding it. The label says “vital B 52,” where “vital” is the type of source; B indicates it is a Bode related item and 52 is the slip sheet number–the number of this item is B52. The first slip sheet in the Bode Book is B1, followed by B2, etc. I file in order of date of receipt, i.e. the source that is “first in” has a lower slip sheet number than one that came in later. I do not categorize the item by anything other than parental lineage. A map can be next to a photo which can be next to a letter, next to….you get the drift.
Source has a “smart” name
Once the item has received a slip sheet and a number, I enter the information from that source into the database and in the Master Source List. I include the slip sheet number as part of the name.
- Example 1: MR Jacobson Bode [J127] would be the marriage record (MR) between Bode and Jacobson (my parents). It is located in the Jacobson binders, slip sheet no. 127.
- Example 2: 1855 IL Stephenson Bode Jan [B34] would be the name of the source that is an 1855 Illinois state census in Stephenson county for Jan Bode.
When I am looking at a citation or the source list, I can see the “smart” name and the slip sheet number. I can then pull the binder, find the proper slip sheet and find the document in, at most, 30 seconds. In the photo at left you see the row of white binders above the computer. Each binder holds about 50 items. (And, yes, that’s the bed for the cat!)
It’s quite simple….. 1.) source comes in. 2.) I identify the next slip sheet and it’s number where the source will reside–after the last received source. 3.) I extract information/evidence and enter into my database. 4.) I give the source a “smart” name with slip sheet number attached to it and finally, 5.) file the source into the previously identified slip sheet. Done.
If you have questions, just ask. If you have a method that works for you–tell me know about your filing priorities and how your system responds to those priorities.
What I have done since the last posting: spent time with my father-in-law and his children and their families for the “Bash of the Century.” Toured the Alamo and walked the Riverwalk in San Antonio–really lovely. Spent Christmas in Colorado and skied on Christmas Day with my family. Listened to Judy Russell’s APG webinar on copyright for a second time and to the Marketing webinar. Went to the Seattle Public Library and talked with the genealogist about the ethnic themed SGS Bulletin. And, I got a year older. 🙂