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April 13, 2012

A Big Genealogy Re-Organization Starts Today!

Today's the start of an exciting project. Because my husband received so much antique furniture, china and collectibles from his grandmother Kak's home, we need more room. We already have a house full of furniture and our own antique collections. An addition is out of the question so I'm giving up my 16x20 office.

I'm downsizing from that big room that I've used for the past 15 years to our much smaller 12x15 loft room. That's not a sad decision, it's an opportunity to make big changes and purge and organize my paper files! That's always been a hard thing for me to do. I'm a paper saver. Yes. I love paper files. I've digitized about 50%, but I always want my paper backups.

Downsizing is Tricky

Some of my current filing cabinets
But not only is the loft smaller, it has slanted ceilings and only 3 walls. Because one wall is railing where the loft overlooks our cathedral living room. So I don't have room for the tall credenza and two tall bookcases that I currently use.

Because the loft is chopped up with a dormer at one end and a small powder room at the other, I don't have a lot of wall space. And there is only one full height wall. So no room for my two lateral 3' long filing cabinets, and my rolling antique dentist unit that I use for office materials, or my pine harvest table that currently holds my hanging files or.... well you get the picture!

I am going to have to weed down to 3/4 of my current desk (hubs has to figure out how to make an l-shaped desk out of a u-shaped one), my credenza and one lateral filing cabinet. Oh yeah and one bookcase.

So all my files have to fit into the credenza or one filing cabinet. A challenge to be sure! I am going to have to purge like crazy. The one bonus is that I can put my second lateral filing cabinet in the basement for overflow. Phew. 

Hanging File folders on harvest table and one bookcase
Today's the day I begin sorting and organizing and purging. I'm anxious about it but a big part of me is looking forward to it. It's spring. It's a new beginning. And the pot of gold at the end is an entertainment/family room full of Kak's bequests mixed in with our own furniture that we've been cramming into whatever space we could find elsewhere in the house.

Figuring Out a Working System

I've got a bit of an idea for a working system to start the process. I figure I'll sort first into business vs genealogy vs personal. Three basic "piles". Business vs personal is easy - anything older than 7 years gets shredded. The rest gets organized into categories, labelled if needed and only the current year stays in my files. Older years go into a large envelope, labelled by year and taken to basement storage.

This will be a flexible system, and I'll change it as needed. 

Sorting Genealogy Papers

Genealogy is the hard one for me!  I'll start by sorting papers by the following criteria and then decide what goes to the loft and what has to go to the basement:

1. my personal genealogy
2. client work
3. research for family history books I'm writing or planning/hoping to write

That means I finally have to steel myself to toss the photocopies of French documents I used to write my first Van Slyke history book. That's a pile of papers at least 3 feet high. Maybe higher.

That means I have to throw out the copies I've keep of documents about various family lines that aren't mine. You know, the ones you keep "in case". In case some other genealogist ever asks you about that family. In case you one day find out you are related. I'm taking the plunge, after 25 years with me I don't think I need them taking up space in my home anymore. That's going to be tough to do.

But perhaps I'll finally be able to proudly proclaim that I have indeed organized my genealogy!


Pat Richley-Erickson said...

Ol' Myrt will be doing much the same during a marathon week this summer with my daughter's assistance. I plan to get rid of all surname binders by scanning everything. I am keeping papers only for current research projects.

Of course I'll save the few ORIGINAL, original documents and artifacts.

Thinking of you. Those lateral file cabinets look great.

Annette Crafton Corbell said...

I've been digitizing my genealogy for the past year. It's so empowering. Now everything is with me every where I go. It's all sorted in directories on my computer under surname, then by type of document.

Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

You picked the perfect time of year for this task, I must say. I always get some sort of cleaning/organizing bug this time of year and again in the fall. I do the office end of a small business and my genealogy in a room the size you are moving to and have for 15 years. At this moment the floor space is taken up with too many boxes and I started yesterday doing what you are doing, downsizing. It is hard to do, but Springtime is the ideal time to start!

Claudia's Genealogy Blog said...

I have been researching since 2008 and only have a two drawer file cabinet, desk and a four shelf book case, plus two external hard drives.

I don't know if I am doing good or bad.


Janet Iles said...

Good luck in this major project. I look forward to hearing about and seeing your end result.

Karen Krugman said...

I too have some lines that are not mine but that I have been researching because "I can" and maybe "someday someone will...". What I ended up doing with those was scanning them into a photo file I set up just for them. So when that "I can" or "maybe someday someone" moment comes I know exactly where they are. Congrats on the project & good luck! Hoping you keep us posted on your progress!

Michelle Goodrum said...

Looking forward to hearing about your progress. It looks like a huge project. It's a liberating but somewhat stressful process to go through.

Celia said...

I've had to move every 2-5 years and almost always into small basement suites, so I've never had the luxury of room to store papers. One 2-drawer filing cabinet, one bookcase, one corner desk with an extension with 2 small drawers for filing, and that's it. Big hard drives, all backed up regularly. You may find some true treasures in going through your papers! Enjoy the process, Lorine - changes in the wind, for sure!!

Annette Crafton Corbell said...

One thing I did find while digitizing my research is that I had a ton I had never entered into FamilyTreeMaker. My research is much better documented now.

Jill Ball said...

Good luck,Lorine.
How fortunate you are to have some of Kak's treasures to enjoy.

Cheri Hopkins aka You Go Genealogy Girl #2 said...

Our home is like yours, full of antiques and personal collections and it IS hard to decide how to downsize any collections we have. Like you, I feel those paper copies are so hard to let go of, they just have a tangible "feel" that digitized records do not have. I need someone to pry those papers out of my hand even though they are also digitized. Do keep us informed and maybe some of us will then go ahead and take the plunge to organize and downsize our genealogy holdings! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I think that if I had started researching in 2009 instead of 1979, my approach would be so much different. Every document I saved to paper, would have been saved electronically. I have a four drwer file drawer of papers, that I have to scan and save electronically. Bought a new easier scanner last week, so I need to get started.

Anonymous said...

Ever consider giving the files you are purging to a library or historical society. You have gathered and some one else may be able to use that gathered info.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Giving files to a library or historical society is an excellent idea if the data pertains to the repository you're considering donating them to.

In my case, the data I'm tossing is mostly for Quebec (I live a long way from there) and for New York. Again - quite distant from me.

My local library wouldn't touch these files and we don't have a historical society nearby. Even if I found one, they would not want data from another province or country

I'm afraid it just has to be tossed. But none of it is unique, it's not original materials so it can be found by other researchers

Anonymous said...

I live in Allen County Indiana where we have a great library. Our genealogy department will make copies of your work, keep a copy to use in our library and give you back a bound copy and the originals. That way you can safely get rid of all the loose papers and have your work in book form. As we know our genealogy is never done. I believe they take it even from out of our county. You can contact the library at 260-421 -1200 or email ask the librarian at this to email the Genealogy Center directly.