Category Archives: organization

Spring Cleaning: Binder Components

As I am working through George Long’s digital folder and corresponding binder, I like to include a couple of documents with the binder so I can see at a glance what is going on without opening more than the front cover. I use the white binders with clear covers so you can slip in papers in the front, back, and on the spine. For the spine, I title the binder: last name, first name of main couple, birth and death years, and a list of their children, noting which child will have their own binder. George Long’s current binder spine is on the left.

For the back, I like to include a simple cascading pedigree chart, printed from my desktop software, that shows George’s place in the grand scheme of things. At a glance I can see what generation I’m working on.

For the front, I print a family group sheet from my software that shows me at a glance, everything I know about the family group.

Inside the binder, usually in a plastic sleeve, I have a word document that is simply a timeline of the documents that are held within. This document has a couple of purposes. First, it acts like a table of contents. I can see quickly what documents I have for a given ancestor. Second, since they are in chronological order, they create a quick timeline for the ancestor’s life. I can see where there might be gaps and where more research could be done.

As new information is gathered, these documents are updated, reprinted, and replaced in the binders. I don’t do this for every single little change, but after four or five major additions to the information added to the binder, I’ll reprint these documents so that everything is up-to-date.

Years of doing research but not organizing along the way, has been a mistake. Getting the binders organized and up-to-date will allow my research time going forward to be more efficient. For a fantastic webinar on keeping yourself organized as you go, check out Cyndi Ingle’s presentation at Legacy Family Tree Webinars. (A subscription is required, but consider clicking this affiliate link to get a subscription. It’s the best inexpensive but high-quality education money can buy!)

Spring Cleaning: George Long Digital Folder

Genealogy is a work in progress. You know that, right? It is never finished, can always be refined, one more thing can be researched, and so on…forever.

I did make a little progress in organizing my George Long binder. But as I was doing that, I discovered that I really needed to work on his digital folder so that it would match up with the binder, and then I could work on both at the same time as I work through documents.

My document process is (not necessarily in this direct order, but all of these things are done with each document):

  1. Look at the document. Decide to whom it belongs.
  2. Make sure the document is scanned if it wasn’t already digital.
  3. Affix a citation to the image. If it is already printed I sometimes make a label to stick to the printed document. If it is possible, I use my word processor (Mac Pages) or Snag-It to digitally affix a citation to the image. I then reprint if necessary. But by whatever means, I get a citation on that document.
  4. I make sure the citation is in my master footnotes list. (See “Touch it Once Citations“)
  5. Put the digital item in the correct folder.
  6. In my genealogy software (Reunion) I input the data if it hasn’t been already. I link the digital image to the source in the software.
  7. I put the document in a plastic sleeve and put it in the correct location in my physical binder.

As I was working on George Long, I kept getting hung up when I needed to put the document in the digital folder. So, I took the time to get George’s folders titled and organized properly.

My Long Family Digital Folders

The digital filing is not complete, by any stretch. You can see some “Brandeberry” files that I need to put in the correct location. This was a second marriage for daughter Martha and I just need to decide how I create second marriage folders. Right now, I can think of two solutions. One, create a sub-folder within the folder titled “LONG (ch8) Martha & Jacob Hentges” that is titled “LONG Martha & BRANDEBERRY – second marriage.” Or two, create a folder “LONG (ch8) MARTHA & John Brandeberry” and leave it in the same level of folder. What I don’t recall and will need to investigate is did that second marriage produce any children? Are there any documents I need to store for John Brandeberry? If I don’t have much of anything or if they had no children, I may not make a digital folder. I may just put the documents in the Jacob Hentges folder. (I would still enter the data for this second marriage in my genealogy software, of course.)

These the kinds of decisions you have to make when you are getting your files organized. How do I do it? You have to decide what is going to work for you and stick to it. I will get back to organizing the paper files now that I have this organization system ready to go. I learned that I can’t think of it as two separate projects/systems. They really are each part of the larger system.

Spring Cleaning: George Long Binder

I’ve been slowly, ever so slowly, making some progress on my Spring Cleaning projects. I’ve made a small amount of progress scanning while also watching some Netflix (Hannibal, in case you’re wondering). And I’ve started working on one of my project ancestors, George Long and his family group. He came to the U.S. from Ireland (where? “North Ireland”), got married, had a couple of kids, and then was killed in a machinery accident in 1855 at a mill in Gilboa, Putnam County, Ohio. I’d really like to know where in Ireland he is from. Well, I’m not going to figure it out with the state of affairs that is his binder, digital folder, his entry in my Reunion file, and so on… it’s a mess, to say the least.

The George Long binder has loose pages I haven’t fully processed, sticky notes with to do items, no separate tabbed sections for all of the children… it’s a mess, as I said. So, my next project is to just get this binder organized physically. Then we will delve into the digital side of this project. As a forewarning… none of the digital records are organized either!

Spring Cleaning: Matching Binders to Digital Files

I have a whole system that I use to organize my genealogy. It is a hybrid paper/binder and digital system. This may not work for some. Some of you I know think it is ridiculous to keep paper files these days. but I just like to sit down with my binder and “read” about my ancestors as if their binders were their book. My binders also act as a visual timeline that just works best for the way I visualize and think about research.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The important thing is to do what works best for YOU.

Anyhow, after all of this scanning and sorting and going through my hard drive, I know I have some family digital files that I have not made match my binder system. I started doing this a while ago (several years now) and have just worked on it as I worked on a family project. But I think it might be time to be more methodical about it. (Here’s the blog post about that system.)

The digital corresponding system to my binders.

So, this will take many months to do, but I am going to go through each one of my paper binders and make sure its corresponding materials match in my hard drive. Wish me luck!

Spring Cleaning: Digital Files

I don’t know about you, but my hard drive is something of a mess. I tend to take research trips, scan and photograph a lot of documents, and then never process those documents I scanned. I am not the only one am I? I mean, I have things I took pictures of from back in 2007 when I went on a trip to New Hampshire with my grandma. If I do the math correctly, that was about 14 years ago! I bet I will not know or remember what I was thinking or why I took a photo of that document or the page in book, let alone if I took a photo of the book’s title page!

I need to clean all of that up. Additionally, my hard drive just needs a clean out and organization session (or two or ten).

This needs some major TLC!

So, for the next week or so, when I have a moment, I am going to go through a folder on my hard drive that needs some TLC…and I’ll keep doing that until I get it done.

Spring Cleaning: Digital Stuff

After getting settled in after moving, and getting my paper piles in some form of organization, I have a few piles that require scanning. I usually like to put on some music or watch some light-hearted YouTube Videos or something on Netflix, and fire up the scanner.

I use a ScanSnap to scan things that can be sheet fed. It really makes life a lot easier. Depending on what I’m scanning, I may store the file in Evernote, on my hard drive, or attached to my genealogy software. I have folders for newsletters and handouts from lectures that still come in hardcopy. I print some things so I can take notes in the margins. I’ll rescan those and store them so I don’t have so much paper. (It might be weird but it works for me.)

I have the 1300i model.

When it comes to getting organized, my most common answer to any question I get is most often “This is what works for me, but you have to do what will work for you.” And sometimes that takes a bit of trial and error. Later I might decide that I don’t need to keep some things on paper that I’ve been keeping, or I might decide to change how I organized my hard drive files, etc. I’ve changed how I do things several times over the years. As computers and the internet evolves, so has my organization system.

So, my goal for the next week or so is to get my scanning caught up. Any good Netflix ideas?

Spring Cleaning: Paper Stuff

If you follow me much, you know that during 2020 we decided to move out of Texas (and none too soon by the sounds of it) and back to Colorado, the state we love. We started out just moving into a rental while we got our house in Texas ready to sell. Then, just after the holidays, we bought a new home here and just last weekend finished the moving in and cleaning the rental, and all of that fun stuff. We are exhausted but happy to be in the new place and get settled again.

Now that my office is mostly unpacked, I found a huge stack of papers that just accumulated during the 6 months while living in a rental. We didn’t unpack everything while there so some things just couldn’t get filed properly. So, one of my jobs this week is to go through those papers and get them sorted, filed, or recycled. I will have a pile of things to scan as well and I will just put on some music and scan away until those are finished.

I also have a filing cabinet full of things that can probably be scanned and recycled or just recycled. There are some things that just don’t need to live in paper form if you file them in an organized way on your computer or in the cloud.

A Good Start in My Recycling Bin!

The biggest hurdle with getting organized is making the decisions. We, as humans, don’t like to make decisions. We like to know yes/no, right/wrong, good/bad, up/down, and so on. If we know what the “buckets” are, we know where to put the stuff. However, we get hung up on choosing the “buckets.” So, I have to decide what to keep, what to scan (and how to file it), and what to recycle.

I’m hoping to keep up with Cyndi Ingle‘s “Filing Fridays” on The Genealogy Squad group on Facebook, now that I’m in a permanent location!

Five Goals You Should Set for 2020: Part 1, Get Organized

It’s 2020! Every new year I get a bit excited about the possibilities. It is like a blank page or a new canvas. The possibilities are endless and amazing. But if you are a disorganized mess, you might miss out on those opportunities simply because you are buried in your disorganization (whatever that looks like in your life). I’d hate for that to happen to you! It took me a while to get a hold of it and it is still an ongoing process. I get busy, things pile up, and before you know it, I need a day just to get back in control.

This blog series will touch on the five categories I generally set or review for myself each year: organization, education, business/professional, research, and writing. First, let’s talk about organization.

I’ve written extensively on getting organized recently, so I won’t go into detail here. But books-948411_1280getting your genealogy organized can be a big time-saver in the long run. I encourage you to look at any system for organization and just take the leap and get it done. This is not something you sit down and do one day, usually. There’s a process: pick a system (this involves a little trial and error) then DO the system (get everything “synced” to the new system).

Beyond what I’ve written about, there are a lot of resources for getting organized when it comes to your genealogy. Thomas MacEntee hosted a Genealogy Do-Over a few years back (there’s still an active Facebook Group). Dear Myrtle did a “Finally Get Organized” series on her blog. Most recently, the Genealogy Guys have been posting on their blog 31 days to getting organized, starting with Day 1.

Here are some more resources:

There are plenty more out there. This is just a short list of resources. The main point is, do some research, think about your personal genealogy, and decide on a system that will work for you. Then get started. I’m a big fan of just working on a large task in small bites. Set a timer and do 15, 30, or 60 minutes per day, whatever your schedule or patience will allow. But get started!

Getting Organized: Processing Documents

My desk still looks like this!

In this series, I’ve demonstrated all aspects of my genealogical organization system, my binders, my digital organization, handling citations, and other aspects of my system. This post will talk about the overall process or steps that I make sure I follow when I find a new document. Whether it is a document you download, a screenshot, a paper copy that I end up scanning, I make sure it undergoes the following steps (they don’t have to be done in a particular order):

  1. Find a document.
  2. Write the citation. I write it first in my master list of citations.
  3. Paste the citation into your genealogy software of choice and attach the image.
  4. Paste the citation onto the image either by using an image editor or by putting it into a word processor and adding a text box.
  5. Name the digital file in a way that allows your file to organize chronologically (or whichever system you prefer).
  6. Print the document and put it in the binder in the appropriate location.

I try to do this as I go, though to be honest, when I’m working quickly during a research session, I often make a folder titled “to do.” Then I dump the many documents into that folder to process later. When I do that, at the very least, I do write the citation while I have the needed information in front of me, then I do the rest of the process at a later time. Sometimes these folders get quite full. When that happens, I schedule a time to focus on nothing but getting caught up.

I want to stress that even though I’ve shared my system, it is up to you to find a system that works for you. The system that works for you is the one that makes sense to your choice of software, one that you can follow, one that makes sense to YOU and how you work.

Best of luck to you with your organizing quests!

Getting Organized: Citations

In my last post, I discussed briefly “separation safeguards” as described in genealogy Standard 8, which states that “genealogists prevent mechanical or digital separation of citations from the” materials, whether it be in the form of footnotes or citations on the front of a photocopied document.1 I have settled on two methods of safeguarding my documents and records from citation separation.

One method is to put the image into a word processing document and adding a text box at the top or bottom that includes your citation.


I use Mac Pages, but the system is the same for Word or your preferred software. Simply copy/paste or insert the image into the document, and add text wherever you wish. I usually put the citation below the image as shown above.

Sometimes I get an image that for some reason seems easier to annotate directly on the image rather than inserting it into a word processing document. Typically I find I do this when I have PDF or .jpg files with larger images. I will open the image in my image viewer which in my case is Mac Preview, but this can be done in Adobe Reader with PDF files. From there, you can add a text box over the image to add the citation. Of course, you will want to put the citation in a space that doesn’t change the meaning of the document.

Citation Annotation

This can be done using your image viewer of choice, including Photoshop or Adobe Reader. There are no right or wrong answers here with regards to the process. The only wrong way to do it is to not do anything at all to guard against citation separation.

When it comes to crafting citations, I employ the “Touch It Once” method. I described it in detail in this earlier post, and I highly recommend forming a system for yourself of writing your citations once so that when it comes time to write an article or report to a family member, they are already created and ready for use. This step is all part of my overall process.

Next time I will be discussing my overall process that I use to go from found document to binder. You will need to come up with your own process to stay organized, or you will eventually find a lot of piles on your desk or in your computer of documents you need to organize, and basically back where we started. Don’t get behind again! Tips next time…

1. See standard number 8, “Separation Safeguards” in Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 2nd ed. (Nashville:, 2019).