Saturday, November 08, 2008

Reorganizing the Files

I decided that my former filing system was no longer working for me. I originally had folders that were mostly sorted by surname, with occasional folders for individual families or geographic locations as subdivisions of the surname. I also had some folders that were strictly sorted geographically, but these were few and far between.

The problem is that records within geographic regions often contain multiple families of interest to me. I tend to research a family and all of their associates. After talking with another genealogist, I'm going to try to slowly reorganize my old records mostly by geographic area with record type underneath.

I think that I'll still end up with a few surname files and correspondence files because I've already run across a few things that don't necessarily fit will in a geographic arrangement scheme. I will also end up with some files that address methodology that are more generalized.

Now I have a question for my readers: Do you have a filing system that works for you? Is your filing system "broken" as mine was? I'd love to have comments that talk about what has worked and what hasn't!


Anonymous said...

If you're using Windows Vista or Mac as your operating system, you have an alternative to folders - tags. The Mac offers what they call Smart Folders which are generated automatically based on tags or search criteria. I can add multiple tags to a document and with Smart Folders it is automatically stored in several different folders - without duplicating the file. Vista does something similar, but I don't know exactly how it works.

I wrote an article about this sometime back at Hope this helps.

Lori Thornton said...

I guess I should be more specific! I'm talking about print file folders in 4 drawer filing cabinets!

Terry Thornton said...


When you finish yours I hope you'll have a go at my files too. My major problem is I have print files scattered over several rooms (some even in the attic) and in several differing formats (file folders, loose leaf binders, and just stacks of loose papers) but the bulk of my files are in digital format from 3x5 floppy discs to CDs that won't read on my current computer but read nicely on my older computer upstairs --- and digital files scattered all over within the mega storage capacity of my hard drive. Mainly the index to all of this is in my head! LOL! So I wish you luck with setting up a new system.


Holly Timm said...

The basis of my hard copy filing system is by surname, color coded by family branch. My mother's family is in teal hanging folders, my father's in maroon, and my husband's in purple, and my son's Kentucky roots in red. I also have some green folders for special projects like the people who lived in my sister's house which was built in the 1790's and yellow are resource and other miscellaneous files. When any file gets too thick, I subdivide it pulling out any families within the surname that I have a lot of paper on and putting them behind the main surname file. I also have geographic files for families which are mostly in a group in front of the surname files, still coded by color. Thus "Leavenworth KS" where my mother's Willson's and Sinks lived is in a teal folder in front of the teal surname folders. Lest you think this is a single file drawer, I have two five foot long four drawer high lateral file cabinets and five file boxes!!

Lisa said...

Hi Lori -

Good question. I'm still working on reorganizing my paperwork (a project I began this past summer) but mostly for me it is a matter of keeping up with the filing system I use and not getting behind keeping things in order.

I use a system similar to Holly's: keeping a file for each surname, then I divide each individual generation in chronological order, keeping documents pertaining specifically to that generation together. When a child marries, their documents move on to the file for their married surname.

I also do use several geographic files, but only for general information pertaining to those areas, nothing specific to the family.

Thus far this system has worked for me, but I don't think I've accumulated as much research material as you have.

Keep up the good work! I hope to hear how you work out your system in the end.

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