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April 27, 2010

Spring Cleaning Your Genealogy

Well, it's April and a perfect time for Spring Cleaning. Spring cleaning your genealogy that is! If you are like me, your genealogy files are in a mess.

I have filing cabinets chock full of file folders which are chock full of papers.

I have dozens of clear plastic tubs full of assorted genealogy papers.

I have a desk that defies the laws of gravity with its towers of papers.

In short I have a mess that I have the best intentions every year to clean up.

But this year it's going to be different. Here is my plan. And yes, I've already started on it!

1. Purge my file folders first. Go through each folder and ruthlessly toss papers I truly do not need anymore

2. Reorganize the papers that I have in the now purged file folders. Make sure I have sorted the remaining papers into groups other than "Assorted" or "Miscellaneous". I want each family to have folders for census, vital stats, land records and so on. So I will sort by such titles as PEER FAMILY - CENSUS; PEER FAMILY - LAND RECORDS etc. Everyone has their own organization method. The key is to choose yours and then be consistent.

3. Using my beloved labeller, print off all new file folder labels. Large print, easy to read.

4. Now attack the tubs of loose papers. That's a huge job but it needs to be done. Sort, organize, toss, and file.

5. Next attack my gravity defying stacks of paper on my desk. Same deal - sort, organize, toss and file. Create more file folders if needed.

6. At this point your office should be looking a whole lot neater! Next is a monumental task but extremely important and one I am very very bad at. Go through each file folder and ENTER DATA into your genealogy program! Check every single piece of paper, every document. Have you entered it? If not, do so. Now, this minute.

This is not a one day or even one month job. My spring cleaning of my genealogy is going to take me a few months but I'm determined to do it. No more file folders labelled "Miscellaneous". No more opening a file folder labelled "New York Families" and finding my Ontario Vollick line in there. No more hunting for hours for that one land record I know I have - but can't remember where I put it.

I've already started. Last month I purged. It was so hard to do, I always have the certainty that I will toss out paper that next week I'll find I need. But I did it. I purged and I reorganized my folders and I re-labelled everything.

Saving the worst for last, I now have to go through all my odds 'n ends of paper which cover every square inch of available furniture in my office, and are in tubs stacked 3 high. Maybe I'll have it done by Christmas!


Joanne said...

The comfort I received from reading your post? - I'm not the only one! I, too, am tackling this daunting task and get discouraged at times at the "mess" I create while "cleaning". I have to remind myself that it's a process but the end result will be worth our efforts! Thanks for the encouragement and inspiration!


cheryl stuart said...

as I read your blog I was laughing to myself and cheering that I wasn't theonly one...then I read Joanne's comments and realized that it must be part of being a searcher of family problem is that my family history stuff is also mixed up with my scrapbooking things...and I swear this is where my ADHD really gets in the way...but I like your ideas...I've actually bought rubbermaid containers with lids and am gradually emptying one at a time and finding a home for your ideas...and good luck...keep us posted

Nancy said...

I haven't been researching long enough to have as many papers as you do, but I have more than enough and I think I should take your challenge. Ah, but then there's the time problem. If I'm sorting, how can I also be searching and blogging and ...?! Thanks for the encouragement. I'll try....

Shelley said...

I know the feeling, but it's more the electronic copies that are a problem for me. It's just so easy to click download...

Lainey said...

For the most part, all my records are digital. My spring cleaning will be to verify that I have copies of all my documents. Should I then purge the paper ones or tag them in some way to match up with digital ones and archive them? Since most of my documents are copies from court houses and other records, I don't see that they are too valuable since they are replaceable. Is this a valid assumption on my part?

pkathy said...

You have inspired me to do the same. I ordered a wand scanner and am going to scan those papers in the stacks waiting for me to use the flatbed scanner that takes so long. My hard drive might fill up, but my desktop and floor around it will be clean. My folders of "leads" that need to be refiled in other folders are going to be history!! Thanks for the inspiration!

Genealogy Blogger said...

@Lainey, my own thought on purging the paper copies after you digitize them is NO.

First, you don't know if the digitized copies will be accessible in the future. Technology changes may make them obsolete and unreadable.

Second, the courthouse or library where the original records are held, could burn down. The records could be lost in a flood. Anything could happen to destroy the originals.

I personally would not be comfortable taking the chance. I think you should tag the paper copies and archive them safely.

Genealogy Blogger said...

@pkathy - what a good idea to buy a hand held scanner! I may have to do that myself

Genealogy Blogger said...

@JOanne and Cheryl - I'm glad you enjoyed my post! I get discouraged too but I think the solution is to tackle the job in small chunks. Finishing one chunk of the bigger job leaves you feeling like you can do it!

HappyDae said...

7. Organize and Scan Your Photographs
Organizing photographs is a job that takes some time but is always very productive. As you organize and attach captions to photographs from decades past, you get to see how members of your family dressed and lived. This particular spring cleaning exercise is considerably more interesting when you think of it more as an opportunity to time travel than just a clean-up task.
Miriam Midkiff does a monthly online ScanFest -- usually the last Sunday of the month. It is open to the public and you can learn some good tips while taking the tedium out of this task. "Many hands make light work." On her blog, AnceStories, she also lists seven basics about scanning, which you can access at AnceStories.

Happy Dae·
ShoeString Genealogy

Rachel said...

I started mine today. I tend to not use my desk since I bought my laptop so I drag the papers around my apartment. Then I put them on an ever growing pile on top of my desk and file cabinet. I bought some plastic tubs specially built for the hanging file folders and I'm currently scanning all the paper documents onto my computer by family. Once they are on the computer I back them up to portable I have. That way I have digital copies as well as the paper. So I can put the papers in storage and not have them build up.