I have started the journey towards organizing my research. Since most of my paper research is boxed up still I am starting with my digital files first. I’ve done some research by reading what others have to say but I think I will just have to go with what works well for me. So, here is my initial plan for organizing my digital research.
DEVELOP A FILE SYSTEM
The first step of any organization is determining how you will set up your files. Just like a non-digital file cabinet uses hanging folders, manila folders, tabs, and labels I have partitioned a 50GB section of my hard drive to act as a filing cabinet. My initial folders will be the hanging folders, the folders inside of that will be my manila folders and of course there are the labels and tabs. I am trying to keep things simple and neat.
I am starting with just 3 initial folders, one for my research, one for research done on my wife’s line and one for just my little family. Is this being too simple? Only time will tell. In the past I have tried extravagant filing schemes and they have all failed. Why? Because they were way too complicated and too much work to keep up.
I have also added two files here. The document key master will be explained in a bit. The Family Tree Checklist is a file that will contain a list of individuals and what records I have on them. This will assist me in not doing double work. As I go through each individual, I add them to this list and check off what documents are needed and what I have. They aren’t put here until I have sorted through their info and added them to my new database!
So, I have my filing cabinet and a few hanging folders, now what do I put in them? Once again I am trying my best to keep it simple. The only folder that will be unique at this moment is the one called “Our Family”. This folder is for my wife and I, my three children, daughter-in-law and my grandson. There are no folders for DEATH RECORDS, SSDI FILES, OBITUARIES, etc… because none of these has occurred in my family yet, thankfully!
Of course, folders will be added as needed. Some things I am in no hurry for!
When it comes to the “meat” of my research, the folder structure will be a little bit deeper. The goal is to keep it simple. (Are you noticing the theme yet?) My plan is that there will be a few sub-folders in certain categories but only if needed. The file referred to above as “Document Key” will be the most important file of all in my new system!
Let’s take a look at one folder for an example. In the “BIRTH RECORDS” folder I will have certain sub-folders but they will not go any deeper than that. To the left you will see an example of how they will look.
It’s actually pretty self explanatory. Birth Certificates in the BIRTH CERTIFICATES folder, etc… The folders for certain indexes are because these files are from collections on Ancestry, Family Search and other online sites.
Obviously, if all I have is the birth record from the California Birth Index, 1905-1995 found on Ancestry.com, then that will be the only place needed for that file. In some instances I don’t have a birth certificate but I have an heirloom birth certificate and this is also valuable for birth info.
The Miscellaneous folder is for things that fall outside of the normal indexes or certificates. One example would be a copy of a Birth Registration for myself. Why there was a separate birth registration for me, I have no idea but it is an additional document.
Overall, it should make it a lot easier to find a record, especially if you know the location of the event.
This is pretty much the extent of my planned filing structure. It’s simple and to the point. The next thing to do will be to figure out how to name the files that are placed inside. This is where the “Document Key” comes in.
But you will have to wait until tomorrow to find out about that!
Until then, have a great day,