Tag Archives: organization

Box Adventures: Organizing Physical Items (Part 3): The Order Arrived!

I got most of my order from Gaylord. Everything but the three-ring clamshell box has arrived! It is on backorder but should ship next week.

In the meantime, the scanning has resumed since classes are over for my daughter and her work (lifeguarding) has not opened up yet. We came across some funeral registries where none of the front matter had been filled out (like whose funeral it was). Though there were some clues (like obituary clippings) and a tiny date written in the corner. These funeral visitor lists are chock full of surnames I recognize as family members or family friends.

Visitors to Carrie (Limmer) Miller’s funeral, 1955

If you were looking for an ancestor’s “FAN Club” (Friends, Associates, Neighbors), this is a fantastic list! (For more on the FAN Club, visit this post from Elizabeth Shown Mills.) I have had a fun time remembering the names and my childhood memories of some of these folks. Researching some of these folks might hold some clues as to the Miller lineage. (I’m stuck at John and Mary Miller! Talk about common names…)

Happy researching and organizing and scanning!

Box Adventures: Organizing Physical Items (Part 1)

Once my scanning assistant is done scanning, these photos, clippings, and other items have just been going back in the box or envelope for now. I don’t have on hand the items I need to store these treasures in archival sleeves, albums, or boxes. I do have a few archival boxes but they are the kind for documents, not really set up for small photos. So, a shopping “trip” was in order.

A friend and colleague has been working on the same kind of project (hi, Yvette!) and her photos of her archival albums got me to shopping. Gaylord Archival is a fantastic resource for archival materials: binders, albums, photo sleeves, folders, boxes, and so much more! I ordered some archival photo sleeves in two sizes, a binder box, and some folders for booklets.

This is part one of this series because, I’m only reporting that this week all I managed to do was get that order in. And they are located in New York. At the time of my order, the state was on lockdown for the COVID pandemic. When this posts, they may be open and shipping. We shall see. I will have to report back when the items arrive and more progress has been made. In the meantime, we get a little scanning done in between finals and AP tests!

Stay safe out there and happy archiving!

Box Adventures: Titling Photos

Copy of Box Adventures_ Titling photos-2

If you have read this Box series since the beginning, you know the size and scope of the photos I received ten years ago. It was a huge box with rather random photos and papers included. My daughter has been doing the scanning. We’ve been doing the titling together. Luckily, when I picked up the photos ten years ago, I managed to ask my grandma or aunt who certain people were and made notes. So they aren’t all completely unidentified.

If you undertake a project like this, you will likely develop your own system and methods. Do what works best for you and makes the most sense with your filing system. Ours goes like this:

  • My daughter, Ellie, scans an image. She asks me who about the image if there are no notes. If there are notes, she can figure out the title.
  • She titles the images along the lines of “surname-firstname-event or number-year” so that it might be “Dimick-Leland-1” or “Kindervater-Ernestine-Wedding-1895.” If we don’t know one of the elements (such as the year) then we just leave it off. These might change after I do some of the research, but for now, they are titled in a way that lets me know what is in the file.
  • She uploads the images to a shared Google Drive folder.
  • Later, I download the scanned images to my hard drive to the folders where I keep all of my family history photos.

The Google Drive looks like this:

Box-GoogleDrive

The eagle-eyed among you might notice a difference in file types. We had settings set up for .tif (my preferred file for photos). However, when we moved to a new scanner, we didn’t get the file type set for some of the photos and didn’t notice until she had done many. We decided not to redo all of those .jpg files for now. Someday we might go back to it. But for now, the images are digitized as well as in an archival box and that’s good enough for me.

Those digitized photos will sit in the Google Drive for a while. I have not decided if I will leave them there. My hard drive gets backed up to a cloud backup server, so I don’t feel the need to duplicate them in another location. However, I will leave them there until I get my filing done on my hard drive…just in case.

Mainly, when tackling a large project like this, figuring out a system and sticking to it is the most important. Then it’s just a matter of hiring a teenager to do the repetitive tasks. If you don’t have a teenager you can hire, especially in these times of social distancing, the task of scanning and titling your photos is not difficult.

Put on a movie or audio book or music and get scanning!

Writing: Be Organized with Your Words

Be Organized With Your Words-2I like to write in “bits.” By ‘bits’ I mean short thoughts, a couple of paragraphs on one idea, or a page at a time. My ‘bits’ can be found everywhere: notebooks, margins, on my phone in the notes app, in emails or texts to myself, slips of paper on my desk, sticky notes sticking to all kinds of things, in Evernote, and in other places. This is not very organized! Unfortunately, many writers that I’ve talked to are like this. When an idea hits you, you have to take a moment to write it down wherever you can.

How do you manage all of those ‘bits’? Here are some ideas I’ve developed over the years:

  • Keep a notebook on your desk. I have a notebook that I use as a holder for my writing ideas of whatever kind. I prefer paper most of the time. I find it easier to jot my ideas down rather than finding my phone, opening an app, being clutzy with the typing and dealing with autocorrect, and so on.
  • Evernote. I already use it a lot for research notes. This one is easy for the mobile aspect of note-keeping. I may not always have my notebook, but I’m rarely without my phone. Now, instead of texting myself or emailing myself or using the notes app, I try to put thoughts into my Evernote app in a folder called “writing ideas” if it is a general idea, or in a particular folder if it has something to do with something I’m already working on. And if you aren’t an Evernote user, use your software/app of choice.
  • Use timelines and tables. When working on certain research projects, especially trying to determine if I’m working with one man or two (or more), timelines and tables can be helpful in organizing the evidence I’ve found and then make a reasonable determination.
  • Use note cards. Yep. I said it. Use that old-school item, the 3×5 notecard. I use them when I’m working on how to organize my evidence items. They help me decide when to introduce a new evidence item, concept, or individual when working on a larger writing project such as a case study.

When you accumulate a lot of ‘bits’ you need to do something with them to keep them organized. Some of the above might work for you, or you may find another system that speaks to your way of doing things. However you do it, your system should help you keep your ‘bits’ in a logical order, contained (to avoid tangents), and on topic or theme.

I find that over time, that I can take those ‘bits’ and put them into a larger writing piece. And nothing is better than getting a larger writing piece put together!

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

IMG_3897
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: The Digital Side

I’ve been going on and on about my binder organization methods for several weeks now. What about my digital organization? There are a couple of aspects that I will cover over a few posts, primarily: files on my computer and scanning/digitizing tips. This week, I’ll address how I organize my digital files so they match my binders (more or less).

I must admit that I did not come up with this idea on my own. We all stand on the shoulders of those who have figured things out before us. Every time you attend a lecture, an institute, a webinar, you learn something new, even if you thought you knew everything there was to know about a topic. At the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy‘s (SLIG) first “Tech Day,” I attended a class by Cyndi Ingle (that famous lady from Cyndi’s List! and who is one of the moderators for the Facebook Group “The Genealogy Squad“) and learned a method that would allow my digital files to mirror what I had already created in my binders.

My binders are in chronological order. I don’t know why I hadn’t come up with a method on my own yet, but I hadn’t. I took Cyndi’s class “Coordinating the Cloud” which was about many technical topics, but the biggest takeaway for me was a file-naming system that I adopted for my digital files. (THANK YOU, CYNDI!) Basically, you can name your digital files in such a way that it will match your binders. Now, this might be a big “duh,” but for me, it was “a-ha!” I just hadn’t realized it yet. There are those moments when something should be so obvious but it isn’t for some reason. This was one of those moments.

So the file naming system goes like this:

YEAR-SURNAME FIRSTNAME – code or description of the document.jpg (or whatever file type it is)

For example:

  • 1850-HIGDON Joseph – census.jpg
  • 1853-HIGDON Joseph & RENFRO Malinda – MR.jpg   (marriage record)

And in my finder it looks like this:

DigitalBinders

Because of the way computers organize files, numbers come before letters. So by putting the year first, those files come before the children, just like my binders. You can choose some style things. I typically like to have the surname in all caps, it is just easier for my eye to land on it, however, in this example, you can see my inconsistency. It happens. Someday when I really want to procrastinate I’ll work on fixing these things.

If you have documents in the same year, you can put a month number (and a day if you wish) after the year and it will sort appropriately: 1851-06-15-HIGDON-Census.jpg. I currently use a, b, c, but may change my mind later if I get a lot of documents in the same year.

If you remember, my binders are organized by each couple and their children except the child I’m descended through. You can see in the image above that the child I’m descended through has a note in the folder name indicating where I will find that child’s information. The rest of the children have their own sub-folder and they are ordered by birth order using the notation “(ch#)” in the file name.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed some files with “wcit” in the filename. That is a duplicate of the image, usually, that has been copied into a word processing file (in my case I use Mac Pages, but you can use whichever software you desire). To that image, I’ve added a text box with the citation to the page to provide “separation safeguards” which prevent separation of an image from its source (citation) information.1 I want to save both the original and the citation-treated images in my digital folder.

This is a work in progress. I didn’t sit down and fix all of my digital files as soon as I learned this naming convention. (Who has the time?) I fix it as I work on various projects in my family. One of the things about getting organized is that it doesn’t happen overnight or in one session of organizing. Make a commitment to work on it 15 minutes a day, or an hour a week, or whatever timeframe works in your schedule.

But most of all, get started! And keep learning!


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

Getting Organized: More on the Binders

I know last week I said we would talk about the digital side of my organization system, but I got a lot of questions and comments from the last post asking for more specifics about the binders. I thought I’d dig a little bit more into that this time.

I mentioned that each binder in MY system is focused on a couple and their children, EXCEPT that through which I’m descended through.

The binder organization is broken down like this:

Binder Map

Each document is in chronological order, forming a visual timeline of their lives. In the back are divided sections for each of their children, except for the one who is my ancestor. They will have their own binder. Rinse and Repeat.

If you think of your pedigree chart, each couple is their own binder. The binder follows the pedigree chart. In the visualization below, each matching colored box represents one binder:

Binder pedigree

Now, as you move back in time, you may find you have fewer documents. For the couples that I do not have that much on (yet), I might put several generations in one binder until it gets too full and needs to be separated due to space issues. For those that I have done a ton of work on, I will get a 2″ or 3″ binder for their documents. Whatever size, I always make sure to get the kind with the clear slip-in fronts, backs, and spines. Then I clearly label what is in each binder.

If for some reason, I do a lot of research on one of the children for a couple that is NOT my direct ancestor, they may get their own binder. In their parents’ binder, I will still include a divided section for them with a sticky note or piece of paper inserted telling me where their information can be located. I will mirror this information on the binder spine.

When discussing the binders, I often get asked about archival quality binders, paper, what do I do with my original documents, etc. MY system is not a system where I keep any original documents. Most of the time, I am obtaining photocopies of documents whether it be from a repository or downloaded from the internet. I am not preserving documents that cannot be obtained again. I have very few of those in my possession. What I do have, I have in archival boxes. Smaller items are in an archival folder my fire safe (I only have a small one) and larger items are in their archival folders but stored flat in a plastic box that will protect them from water damage. Now, if we have a massive fire or a major flooding event, I’m not delusional. I know that these methods may fail. If the worst does happen, I do have most of my materials digitized (even those that are irreplaceable) and backed-up on the cloud. (Like all good genealogists I know, a few projects are still waiting to be done.)

I hope this helps explain the binders and the system in more detail. Next week we will move on to the digitized aspect of MY system. I promise.

Getting Organized: My Binders

I promised photos in the last post, of my actual binders so you could see what I was referring to. I want to again reiterate that MY system may not work for you. You may think completely differently about organizing and how to locate your ancestors’ information in an efficient manner. You may not do paper at all. That is entirely ok. (I will not be offended if you skip these posts until I start talking about my digital files!)

Here is a view of the binder spines:

IMG_3939

The front of each binder has a family group sheet so I can see at a glance which family that binder holds:

IMG_3942

In each binder, I include a timeline of the documents that will be found inside. You can easily update this when you find a new document. (I personally will add them in by pen until I get several and then I will reprint it.):

IMG_3940

I have the children of this couple in the back of the binder, in chronological order, EXCEPT my direct line ancestor (the child I descend from). I create my own dividers with card stock and use sticky labels that you can write on:

IMG_3941

You might see colored sticky notes and other things sticking out if you examined my binders in detail. Those are generally items that are WIPs (works in progress). Those might be things I didn’t have time to write the citations for but I wanted to get it in the binder rather than put it in a stack. They might be items that need more research and the note indicates what that research might be. Primarily, they are there to get my attention next time I have time to work on them.

That’s basically it. Every document is “processed” (which we will go over that in another post), printed, put into the document timeline, put into a sleeve and put in its place in chronological order in the binder.

Next time we will go over the digital side of this. I mentioned before that I do both, paper and digital. I know it might be duplication of my effort, but it is what works for me. Again, DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. I can’t say that enough.

Getting Organized: Choose a System

First and foremost, you need to decide on YOUR system. Figure out what is going to work best for you. Do you think about your ancestors’ documents:

  • chronologically
  • by surname
  • by document type
  • by family group
  • alphabetically
  • by location
  • by event

There are many ways you can organize your papers. All that really matters is that it makes sense to you, that it is organized, that it preserves your documents, and you can find what you need in a reasonable amount of time.

I think of my ancestors in terms of the timeline of their life. I organize my files (both paper and digitally) chronologically by couple. I’m going to address my paper files first, we’ll look at my digital system in a later post. As I’ve expressed before, I’m a very tactile person. I like to read, organize, and think about my research on paper. It just makes more sense to me. So, I organize my research in binders. Each binder contains:

  • a family group sheet for the couple and their children
  • all of the documents for that couple’s life
  • separate section for each of the children (except for the one child I’m descended through), their documents in chronological order
  • a document timeline (like a table of contents that gets updated after I add new documents) – see image below

doctimeline

A question I usually get is: what about the husband or wife, where do their documents go? In my system, they go with their husband/wife, and not with their parents. I put an indicator page where they should go with a note to “see X binder.”

A few logistics: I typically use 1″ binders. However, there are some families I’ve done an absolute ton of work on that I have 2″ or 3″ binders for. There are some families that I have not done that much on yet; several generations of those families might be in one binder. I also use those white binders with plastic covers that allow you to slip paper down into. So, the front of the binder has the family group sheet, and I utilize the binder spine to label the binder for which couple (birth and death dates) and their children. I also note on the spine something like “except William Long, see Binder X” or something like that to tell me at a glance which binder I need.

The next post will have more photos of my actual binders and discuss some other organizational logistics as it relates to paper.

Thanks for reading!