Get Your Research Organized
12/7/2010
8 tips for getting and staying organized, from the author of Organizing Your Family History Search.

1. Buy a bigger house. If that's not possible, establish a room, nook or cranny you can call your own, and try to keep all your genealogy stuff in that area.
 
2. Keep your work area cluttered with 20 percent of the items (office supplies, genealogy files, books) that you use 80 percent of the time. It's a waste of time and energy to put away that guidebook you consult frequently for addresses, then retrieve it every time you need it.
 
3. Use letter-sized file folders. They're less expensive than legal size. And a letter-size file cabinet is less expensive, too, and takes up less room in your house.
 
4. Find a filing system that suits your needs. It should be easy to use and easy to maintain. You can file documents by surname; by surname and locality; by surname and types of records ("Jones— Deeds"); or by couples or family groups.
Take research notes according to your filing system. For example, if you file by surname and type of record, then label notes "Jones—Deeds," so you can easily file your notes in the corresponding file when you get home.

5. When you make a research trip, leave your files at home. Prepare a three-ring binder with your pedigree charts and family group sheets to take as your research notebook.
 
6. After a research trip to the library, reward yourself with something special once you get your notes recorded on your charts and then filed. Give yourself an extra-special treat for citing the sources of information on your charts.
 
7.  Register for a free web-based e-mail account you use just for genealogy. This will separate your genealogy stuff from your financial and other messages, and give you a permanent contact address to use when you post to message boards or sign up for genealogy newsletters.
 
8. Organize your computer hard drive and e-mail in-box the same way as your paper files. But think twice before converting your files or family history research completely from paper copies to electronic versions. Although the quality of a CD-ROM has supposedly improved enough to last forever under proper storage conditions, will your descendants 100 or more years from now have a computer that can read them? Good, quality paper, on the other hand, can last 500 years, and all that's needed to read it is sun or candlelight. Go ahead and use your computer, but make periodic printouts for posterity.
 
Get in-depth advice for organizing your genealogy books, papers, computer files, web browser bookmarks, photographs, e-mail messages, heirlooms and other "stuff" from our Organize Your Genealogy Life CD, available now from ShopFamilyTree.com.
 
You can get how-to-organize demos in our Organization Made Easy: 5 Simple Ways to Get Your Genealogy in Order on-demand webinar, also in ShopFamilyTree.com.