“For many genealogical researhers the task of organizing years of records from file cabinets to computer based programs is an overwhelming task. The age of computers and digitization is upon us and the years of file folders and big cabinets are gone. So instead of doing research many of us are busy making a huge transition from the old to the new. The problem is the new changes each day and keeping up can be a little tricky. For those of you who are just beginning may I suggest that you begin with a plan in mind. Organize from day one. It will make your life so much easier and your work much more appealing to your tech savvy decendants.
There is no right way to organize your records. The important thing is to organize them in a way in which you and those coming after you will be able to quickly set down and evaluate what you have already accomplished and then pick up the research where you ended. Whether you use the computer, 3 ring binders or file folders for those important can’t dispose of documents matters not. The important thing is that you are organized and have a systematic system easy to understand by others.There are several items to consider when setting up your system 1. Do you have an archival copy either in the form of a 3 ring binder, a CD, or published as a book. 2.. Do you have your original documents filed by name, by locality, or alphabetically 3. Do you have an index to your original documents. I use my research log as my index. 4. Do you have a systematic working copy which you will take to the Library with you which needs to include a research log, possibly a family group sheet, a pedigree chart, a notebook system for your notes with a defined way in which you will make your documentation which is easy for you to use. 5 Do you file your families by Surname or a group of surnames using a system or the surname, given name then by locality, or just the surname and locality 6. Do you have an easy to understand easy to read system by which your notes can be read and understood. 7. Did you make a transcription of your original documents if so do they refer to the location of the original document in your filing system? 8. Do you have your correspondence organized in a manner that can be understood by others? I keep a correspondence log, abstract the pertinant data, and special stories, even digitizing the really important letters. 9. Is your system set up that if you leave a surname for awhile can you quickly return to it with very little evaluation?
Keep a working Notebook or File. It is important to try and keep everything uniform and in some kind of systematic order. It is too easy and tempting to write down information on little scraps of paper and then forget to add it to your documentation at home. Use a documentation notebook or some other form of filing system when working at the Library. These little steps can make a world of difference later in your research. Always keep good research logs. Use forms to help keep information together and Keep paper the same size or if its small attach it to a bigger piece of paper. Take the time to properly file the information when you get home. After a research trip don’t move on until you have taken the time to evaluate and file the information you gleaned from the previous trip Remember: You will have to spend almost as much time if not more at home imputing the information you find and properly organizing it as you will at a Library.
Computerized Documentation should follow rules you can use and understand. My mom’s way of organizing her records is not my way and so it is important to figure out your own system. One you are comfortable with. It can be as complicated or simple as you would like to make it. In my word processor program I have set up files for different functions. I use Word Perfect although any word program will work. In my program I have the following files. 1. File titled Genealogy in which are sub files under various surnames in which I keep my documentation, time lines, histories. 2. File titled Correspondence Logs= Surname Index to correspondence data 3. File titled Correspondence Data in which are sub files under various surnames for the data extracted from letters and email. This may also refer to a PAF File on a Floppy disc with data on it. 4. File titled Research Logs = Surname Index to my documentation files and work completed. I file complete Transcriptions under my documentation referring to the place where the original is kept. In my PAF documentation I put an abstract of that same information.
Remember: It may take awhile to transfer all of your information to the computer but you will find it much easier to work with in the future. Do a little bit each day and the task won’t seem so hard. This is also a good way to take a second look at your information and you will find new areas to research in. Finally create X-Files in your database. This is an excellent place to keep all those people in the area who you can’t connect to yourself. It also makes it Easy to refer to when corresponding with others and you can easily transfer to your own data base when you make the connecting link.
When doing research in a particular area you always find names that don’t quite fit into your pedigree but they must be related. After all they have the same last name and live in the same locality. Don’t just ignore them. Create a file just for them as well following the same rules you set up for your family; create a X-file by surname, glean the important information and add it to the documentation of your data base. This way you will always have the information for future use.
Organization can be the key to a successful genealogical database and make it much easier for you to do your research. Remember the rules are up to you. You need to be able to use and understand it. So get organized, and happy hunting.”