In my filing cabinet, I have a hanging folder for each family I am researching. I have a regular school-type 3 prong folder for each family. I buy these in bulk at “back to school” time when I can usually get them for about 10 cents each. There are 4 colors of folders – a different color for each of my grandparents and their ancestors. The folders are arranged in my filing cabinet alphabetically by color (a different section in the cabinet for each color). When I start a new folder, I begin by putting 5 top loading sheet protectors in the prongs. I use these sheet protectors for copies and print outs of records that I find. The very first page is always the group sheet for that family. My goal is for my folder to be like a chronological booklet of evidence for that family. Some folders eventually have more sheet protectors added, but not all of them. I like the sheet protectors because it’s easy to rearrange the order of the printouts and I don’t break the prongs with overuse.
In the front pocket of the folder, I keep group sheets for each child (if I’ve researched them) and my typed notes for the family. These notes are written as a timeline and every single piece of information that I can find on the family is included in these notes along with footnotes of sources. I recently decided to also add thumbnail images of all of my sources so that I can tell at a glance if I have a copy of the original or a transcription from a book, etc. It also reminds me if I need to scan a document. I am a very visual person, so seeing the thumbnail helps me remember where I am in my research. I also include thumbnails of photos I have for the family to help me remember that their lives were more than a list of dates and places.
In the back pocket of the folder, I keep print outs of census images, correspondence and index listing from books I have been looking at. I do not include the census print outs in the sheet protectors simply because there are usually quite a few print outs for a family. I crop the digital census images to include just the information of my family and include it as an image in my typed notes.
Copies of documents for my direct line are kept with the parents’ folder until the time of their marriage. My notes for each person include all sources of information from birth through death, but I know that the copy of the source is in the parents’ folder if it occurred before their marriage. This works well for me because the thumbnail images in the typed notes remind me that I have a document in another folder that I can easily access and it cuts down on the amount of paper in my filing cabinet.