Have you ever decided to put all new research on hold until you get what you have organized? How many hours do I have to spend trying to figure out what I have and what I want to do next before I decide that it would not be wise to add more piles of goodies to my stacks? I think I’m there.

I’ve finished my last year of teaching and now I will be working full time with my husband on our business. So I’ve been doing all kinds of organizing in the house – stuff I’ve wanted to do for years, but haven’t taken the time to do – and my office is looking great. But when I realized that I had a free day after working all week-end, I decided to have a day at the library. I thought I’d take the morning to gather my materials before taking off so I’d know exactly what I wanted to look for. It did not take me long to see that my files LOOK organized – nice neat piles and lovely binders and folders – but if I wanted to find my most recent print outs from my last trip to the library, I was lost.

So I’m taking a day (as if I could get this done in a day!) to organize one ancestor – John M. Smith. I’ve got to stop making new group sheets for potential family members and instead, find all the ones I’ve already filled out and written little notes on and get all of the information into 1 “master” group sheet! No more post-it notes stuck to the group sheets – I’ve got to make that information more permanent on the sheet. I have 2 different computers now so I think I’m going to use OneDrive so that when I need to add information, I’ll know exactly where the file is and I’ll be able to access it from either computer or my iPad.  I’ve done a lot of work using Dropbox in the past, but now that is being “taken over” with business stuff and I’d really like to keep it separate, so I’ll be working to migrate stuff to OneDrive while trying to weed out duplicate files at the same time.

I’ve also got to organize print outs and transcriptions. Have I transcribed that deed already? Who knows! Well, it’s all digital, but are the files together? Of course not! I’m going to put all print outs into chronological order by county and make sure it’s all labeled correctlly before I add another print out to my stash. It’s not hard to tell that I’m looking at a tax list, and I have have the year written at the bottom, but no county! I’m sure that at the time I thought I’d label them as soon as I got home.  Never again!

So as I’m organizing these files, I’m thinking about what exactly I’d like to have with me at the library.  I certainly can’ take everything! I would like to grab one binder and go at a moment’s notice. It must be a binder because of the way my brain is wired.  Out of sight – out of mind! I have every single record I’ve ever collected saved in a digital format, but I can’t flip through a flash drive the way that I can flip through a binder. I can’t write notes and questions in the margins or on the back of a digital file – but I can on a paper version in a binder.  The binder method is a must, but what will be in the binder?

  • I absolutely love my notes for an individual – they are quite lengthy! They are written like a timeline with cropped images whenever possible along with my transcriptions or thoughts. Questions that I want to research are in red. So I don’t need actual document printouts, but I’ll definitely have my notes. (Someday, these notes will be re-written as more of a narrative than timeline.)
  • I have a horrible problem remembering family relationships other than my direct line.  So I’ll want group sheets for the main person, his/her parents and in-laws, each child and the grandchildren, if possible. (I have quite a rash of cousins marrying cousins, but I can never seem to remember exactly how they are related.)
  • The research log that I’ve created for that individual. This is an Excel document that has each question I want to research along with a list of websites, books or films that might help me answer that question. Results are recorded as well.
  • A sections for FANs – information I’ve collected on associates and neighbors including any biographies orgroup sheets I’ve put together.
  • Some system for remembering what I’ve collected for potential connections and locations.  I don’t know that I want to keep every print out of a potential tax record or deed, but I need to have some way to keep track of what I’ve collected so I don’t re-collect it.

And now – back to it!!