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Organize or re-organize your genealogy

William J. Schuler steamboat pilot license obtained from NARA in St. Louis, MO.
William J. Schuler steamboat pilot license obtained from NARA in St. Louis, MO.
scanned by Selma Blackmon

How to organize or re-organize your genealogy is an ongoing project. Your research projects will guide the organizational choice. Example, if traveling, the family historian will choose devices that are mobile with data entry and research features.

Handle each paper only once! The family historian must make a decision: add to software database, file, scan or scrap. If continually moving papers from one pile to another, it is time to stop and return to the project later.

Organizational tips:

Using myself as an example, I started collecting papers and photographs. With my goal to preserve family history, I am working with the color code system for papers and Roots Magic software program for data entry. My color coding system includes blue for paternal line, green for paternal-maternal line, red for maternal line, and yellow for maternal-paternal line. The color coding system may be divided by surname, locations, or record type. Since expanding and attempting to research collateral lines, I am re-organizing the folders by record type. A separate section will be designated for birth, marriage, and death records then surname. The original surname folders will remain with family explicit papers such as news clippings, school information, and photographs. My example, the 1914 steamboat pilot license for William John Schuler (1871-1964) will remain in William Schuler’s folder.

The color code surnames worked well when I followed the direct line and knew the families. With broadening the search for others with the same surname or location, a separate folder by record type or location is needed. My example, vital records for the entire surname Dunham in LaSalle County, Illinois, offers documents with unrelated or unknown relationships. A separate folder for birth, marriage, or death records will eliminate duplicate searches later.

Contact me with your genealogical question, Selma Blackmon.

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