Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 7, Number 1 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 January 14, 2015
In this article we discuss organizing our genelaogy files. Whether you have files on your dining room table or files on your computer, we all need to take the time to step back and assess where we are in our genealogy search. Organizing your files will help to determine where to focus your efforst this year.
James L. Douthat
HOUSE CLEANING TIME!!!!
There are a couple of times a year when most men tremble and it is when the wife announces that today we are going to clean the house from top to bottom. It all happens so quickly that we just can’t run and hide or shrink small enough to be out of sight. There is only one thing to do - get in there and help out and do as you are told. I don’t advise messing up so badly that she tells you to quit either as you will never hear the end of it. There is no such thing as forgiveness when it come to housecleaning.
It is the same with your genealogical research, it has to be done and with deep cuts and casting away. I know what you are saying, “I’ve spent a great deal of time, effort and money to collect all of these facts!!!” “I can’t just throw them out!!!”. Oh, yes you can. I know for a fact that you can keep far too much clutter in your library, dining room table or den or wherever you keep you materials. Just step back and be honest. Are there piles on the floor that have been there for at least the last six years? Are there stacks of vital records on every chair in the dining room? I know that you gave up using that room for it’s intended purpose at least ten years ago when the last child left home. You have now dubbed this room the genealogy headquarters for your family.
Begin the day early, drink the last cup of coffee at the kitchen table. It is very frustrating to have coffee stains on the birth records you purchased from the state for great aunt Hoozetts. Think through what you are doing and where you want to be in your research in six months. You probably will have to make several piles, depending on the style of research you are involved with at the time. All of us at one time or another went into a library on a “trolling” trip. This is when you go from one book to another and just copy anything and everything that we “...just know it is going to fit our family...”. This is probably the first stack you start. How many of them actually have fit into your chart? How many of them might fit into your chart? How many of them will never fit into your chart? We have now divided our first stack into three smaller piles. One is a keeper, one is a maybe and the third is a loser.
Now we move to the second pile. This is the great big “maybe” pile where you put all of those records that might someday fit, if only we could get hold of a couple of missing links. What is the given name of Great-Great-Grandpa’s first wife? We know she was called Mary and so were hundreds of thousands of women at the same time. This is one of our great unsolved missing links. It will bear some closer examination and maybe we will get a real break down the line and find out she was one of the neighbors living next door before they married.
This second pile of “maybes” can be subdivided again into several groups. Each of the divisions will be determined by you as you are the only one that knows what you have and where you want to go with this process. Do you want to make a straight line chart with just your direct line of ancestors or do you want to learn everything about everyone that in any way connected with your family? This latter might even include the in-laws and “out-laws” of each family. This is a massive undertaking, but one well worth the effort.
The best pile in your collection are those original court records that you have gone to courthouses and state offices to collect and copy. You might find that down the road this was the wrong “John Smith”, but we have something that others would love to have in the charts. This pile is a no brainer as far as a keeper.
Now comes the largest pile of all. These are the records that fit your scheme and are definitely part of your family. However, in collection of this materials, we have gotten duplicates of many of the records and they overlap to the point of filling more boxes that you need. You have to spend a little time and retain the best records with the most information and either get rid of the lesser versions or pack them away from the dining table.
When you finish “housecleaning” you should have a nice clean pile of facts that fit very well into your chart and are now filed away in a very orderly fashion that can be retrieved in short order as needed. It will also help to give you direction as to where you want to focus your genealogy efforts this year.
Once the files are organized, you heirs will say “Thank You”. What you do for them is well worth the effort. Many of them will not ever take the time to study the family as close as you, but they are still interested. The results are more important to some of them than the search along the way. We do all of this for everyone and not just us!!!!!!
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