Friday, March 18, 2011

I've GOT to get organized

  And I have 375 new file folders to make a start.
  As you can probably tell, I'm a folder devotee as opposed to a binder devotee. The choice goes back a long way.
  When I first started doing research, long before computers, everything was hand written. I designed my own family group sheets to allow a closer link between facts and sources. I mimeographed them because I needed a lot of them.

  I also printed my own sheets for a List of Sources Search (LSS). One sheet at first, then several sheets divided by source type.
  All my sources were numbered and the number entered on the LSS.
  In the beginning, one folder held all the sources. But not for long. It just grew.
  When that happened I created folders for each ancestral name on my pedigree charts. In those folders the sources are filed numerically.

  When computers came along the LSS was migrated to an Access database. What an improvement that was. Access automatically assigns the source number (now 7,100+). I stole the source type categories from the LDS library catalog. With Access I can sort by type, by name or by place or a combination of those. Usually I work with a name sort.
  Searches in sources that did not produce results also are entered in the LSS. No sense doing that search a second time. I must admit it's very hard for me to keep track of unsuccessful online searches. They go so fast.
  Generally, if I want to know if I've searched the 1850 census of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, for Samuel Martin, Access only takes a few seconds to answer that question. I can also pull the numbered source from its file folder -- if the sources are all in order and in the folder where they're supposed to be.

  Sometimes that doesn't happen.
  Some years ago I started to color code the folders within each ancestral name.

The first few completed name folders.

  • Blue folders are for sources that have been entered into my RootsMagic. Each source has the LSS database assigned number in red ink in the upper right hand corner and the ancestral name in the upper left hand corner. Since RootsMagic started asking for the date I accessed the source, I've been trying to remember to write it down at the bottom some place. Of course I have thousands of sources without that bit of information. When I have successfully entered a source in RootsMagic, I put a check mark next to the number. The source then goes into the Blue folder or folders in numerical order. On a couple of my families, where I have a lot of sources, I have blue folders for places in which the family lived, like "Illinois -- Vermilion County." I like to try new organizational ideas, but the jury is still out on this one.  
  • Green folders are for sources that have been entered into the LSS but not into RootsMagic . . . yet. Two problems here:  The first problem is I love research and I love finding new sources. Entering them into RootsMagic I don't love quite as much. So the new sources can come in much faster than they funnel into RootsMagic. I've just got to stop doing research for a while. I'm embarrassed to say I have thousands of sources that may or may not have been entered into RootsMagic. The little check mark is missing and without checking, I really don't know. I also inherited my mother's research notes. That has exacerbated the problem. So part of this organizational effort is to determine if the source has been entered and, if not, DO IT!
  • Manila folders are for sources that have not been entered into the LSS or RootsMagic.
  • Purple folders are for sources that I've decided don't relate to my family. They will be entered into the LSS so I don't do that research a second time. If I decide there is a strong chance the information will eventually fit into my family, I'll enter it in an ancestral surname database in RootsMagic like I have for the Martin family. The great thing about RootsMagic is that you can drag and drop people from one database to another and the sources go with them. If I do enter information from a source into the surname database, I'll put the source with others in the blue folders. It will be a good idea for me to review these sources in the purple folders occasionally. You never can tell when one might fit.
  The blue, green, manila and purple folders are filed alphabetically by ancestral name.

  I have a couple other colors I use:
  • Red folders are place files for maps, historical background  -- anything that can't be assigned to a particular family -- "Illinois -- Vermilion County", "Pennsylvania -- Dauphin County" -- for example. These are filed separately in alphabetical order.
  • Yellow folders. These are for places to do research. Driving directions. Where to eat. Sources to look at -- if and when. These also can be online research places. URLs. How-to information. These are supposed to be properly labeled and filed separately in alphabetical order. You notice I said supposed to.   
  I've created a spreadsheet on Google docs and I am tracking my progress -- entering the ancestral name, the date I got the sources sorted into the correct colored file folders, and how many sources have not been entered into the LSS and RootsMagic. Mostly, I've had to enter "Many."
  I'm trying to do at least one ancestral family a day. Perhaps in three months I will at least have the folders properly organized. Then entering the sources into the LSS and RootsMagic will begin.
  I'm also in the middle of an organizational and scanning effort on our family photos. We have thousands! But that's a post for another day.
  I welcome your suggestions and comments. 

  Wish me luck! 


  1. Jim-
    Thanks for sharing your methods! I am also working on scanning my family photos. I started with "stealing" a large box of photos from my grandmother. I took it at least 9 months ago and still haven't gotten all the way through. It is time consuming, but I think worth it. Good luck with your organization!

  2. Yes, Heather, the scanning is very slow going, particularly when you have a large group photo and you want to take head-and-shoulders crops of individuals. Have you blogged on your naming and sorting techniques? Mine keeps changing as I find exceptions to the rules.

  3. Well, I spoke a little about it here:

    I'm thinking I should speak about it again, as I am sure blogging about it would help me to clarify my ideas and process.