Sunday, August 14, 2011

SNGF: True Confessions About Genea-Assets

Pipsqueak helps me sort papers and folders

I think that I was reading Randy Seaver’s mind this weekend.

Randy's assignment was:

1)  Think about this:  Is all of your genealogical material, which you've gathered over the years, well organized?  Do you have papers, certificates, photographs and other ephemera squirreled away somewhere in your genealogy cave center?  Do you have forgotten digital files, including documents, photographs and notes hiding in your computer file folders?  It's Saturday night, do you know where ALL of your family history information is?

2)  Give yourself a grade (from A to F) on how well you've done with your filing of tangible and digital genealogical assets (two grades, one for each).  Brag about your organizational prowess if you deserve it - you can be a good example to the rest of us.  Bemoan your situation if your files are like mine.

3)  Look through your tangible or digital genea-assets and find something you've "lost," forgotten or overlooked that might add to your knowledge about one or more families.  Tell us what you found, how will it help you, and will you commit to analyze it, source it, and use it?

Why do I think I was reading Randy’s mind?

Saturday I was going to do some research. I went up to my home office, aka “Genealogy Central,” to start work. The item I needed was under a pile. That pile included some genealogy folders. And on top of the box next to desk were more genealogy folders. I realized that some of these items should go into the folders in the box.

So I took all of the stuff downstairs to the family room, where there is plenty of space to spread out, to sort and file.

Three hours later, the materials were all sorted and filed.

This is why I am giving myself a “B” for organization of hard-copy assets and not a “C”. I must have somehow sensed that Randy’s task this weekend had something to do with organization.

A couple of weeks ago, I did some preliminary organization by consolidating some binders and hanging files into portable file boxes (each box contains materials for a particular line where I have done a lot of research: Brinlee, Moore, etc.):

The materials for most of the rest of the family lines I am researching are kept in binders:

Families for which I have only done preliminary research are kept in hanging files, along with materials on genealogical societies, genealogy publications, and so forth.

So there is a system and I can pretty much find what I need at this point. Still, there are a few odd file boxes and binders that are not organized by family: the items I obtained from my research trip to Greenville, SC still have a separate box (there are materials on three different family lines in that box), there is a file box containing documents that were too large to fit in binders or the shorter file boxes that I use, and I still have a binder full of “miscellaneous” genealogy notes.

For digital files, I would also give myself a “B”. Most of the sub-folders in my Genealogy folder are organized by family name, with sub-sub folders divided into individual generations, and sub-sub-sub folders for digital copies of vital records, newspaper articles, write-ups, correspondence, etc. The remaining folders are subject-based and have a number at the beginning of the file name so that they precede the family names: 1Forms, 2Research trips, 3To Do Lists, 4Resources, and so forth.

The main problem with my digital files is that I have digital files on two different computers (there was a third I used for a while, but I believe I have transferred all of those files to my MacBook Pro). I can access the files on my desktop computer through the Time Machine, but there is a lot of duplication and enough differences in organization between the desktop files and the laptop files that it can be confusing. Transcription projects, collections of newspaper articles, etc. can sometimes be hard to find. And I still need to put my photographs from both computers onto the Time Machine.  So maybe that's a B-.

Bookmarks should also be included in digital organization. Not great - two different browsers + 3 computers = Chaos. This probably brings my digital grade down to a C+. However, I have been working on consolidating everything into a Genealogy Toolbox and have also been using Diigo.

One thing I found while reorganizing was a set of articles from doing a search on “Koehl” on GenealogyBank; the Koehls in these articles were not people I recognized as belonging to my husband’s Koehl family, but could be related, so I filed them under the “Leads” section of the Koehl family binder. The source information has already been written on them.

What has been my big advantage in organizing my files?

I’ve only been doing genealogy for six years.

If I can accumulate this much stuff in six years, what will my files look like in 20 years?


  1. Greta, I love your post, and feel your angst. Bur, the answer to your question... I hope it's even more fruit- Ful.

  2. Congrats on organizing your genea-assets. And I am certain that Pipsqueak did his part....he is precious!

  3. Love your portable file boxes! Great post!

  4. Greta, Great post and I was surprised how very familiar your "office" is to mine, what with the binders,hanging files, digital files -- all demanding an organized mind and heart. The one thing that adds to my mix of chaos is the great volume of reading material that accumulates nearly daily --- books, magazines, articles, emails, web notes --- all seem to try to overwhelm any organization efforts.

    So with you and Randy as my guides, evaluating and grading is my goal.

  5. I had to laugh when I saw the Sterilte bins. I have the same bins! Clearly we hit the same sale at Target. I spent all of last Friday and Saturday organizing my stuff. While it's not perfect it's better than it was. I love the photo of Pipsqueak "helping." My cat Tiger loves to "help" too. He sits on the scanner and inadvertently hits the button and scans stuff with his butt.

  6. Greta, Our organizing is pretty similar and I would grade myself fairly similarly to you. Well, maybe a little lower because of the papers that keep accumulating on my desk.

    I've been doing this for 15+ years and I keep wondering if I will ever get completely organized. It's an ongoing battle.

  7. Denise - But does that mean that the better research gets, the worse organization will be?

    Janice - Pipsqueak is very proud of being such an ... energy-conserving helper!

    Dorene - I regard those boxes as my "quick getaway" boxes!

    Joan - I have a confession to make: I didn't show all the reading material! It's there, though.

    Cynthia - Yeah, I love those Sterilite boxes, too; they used to have one called Storex that was even better - holds legal-sized docs and is sturdier. And, as long as Tiger doesn't butt-dial your phone or your e-reader, I guess he's doing okay!

    Michelle - I feel your pain. It only takes one week for the piles to start accumulating around here.

  8. It takes a whole week for the piles to accumulate? Seems like a couple of days around here! lol

    I have never heard of legal size storage containers. Where do I get one?

  9. Michelle - Well, it takes a week for a pile big enough to irritate me to accumulate!

    Unfortunately, we also got the Storex at Target, but I haven't seen any there for ages. And at Staples and Office Depot, the boxes I've seen mostly have not been as sturdy as Storex or Sterilite. It's like the problems we encountered finding good, strong trunks when my daughter went off to college - why do companies stop producing these useful items?

  10. I can relate to Pipsqueak's organization system. My cats prefer it also! LOL They love to lounge around on my desk. :p

  11. AFW - What would we do without our helpers?

  12. You're being too hard on yourself. I'd give you an "A" for organization of the hard copy assets. I wish my materials were even close to being as well organized as yours.