Fun with Genealogy Files Part 2

I recently told you I had taken the first step in an enormous and overwhelming home office reorganization project.

My goal is to have all my genealogy files organized before the end of 2015. As I mentioned in Fun with Genealogy Files Part 1, space is of the essence. Smaller spaces work best when as the saying goes, there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

And, surprisingly, I have already reaped results from Step One! That definitely inspired me to take another step toward my lofty goal.

Remember my first step? I created place holders (hanging files and manila file folders) for each of my direct line ancestors. This established a specific place toward which all loose papers could be directed.

Better, but far from done.

Better, but far from perfect.

But the goal isn’t to just shuffle those loose papers around. I need to establish long term storage for every family tree-related document that is worth saving.

Toward that end I’ll make liberal use of cloud storage. Both my hard copy files and my cloud storage have to house my genealogy records in such a way that I can retrieve any item in mere minutes. And immediately know the next step to take when researching each ancestor.

So, I would need to decide which documents are worth saving. And for whom. And then figure out how to save them.

I started by revisiting my Genealogy at a Glance spreadsheet.

Genealogy at a Glance spreadsheet sorted alphabetically by maiden name

GaaG spreadsheet sorted by maiden name

As you may recall at the end of Step One, I felt Step Two was obvious: I needed virtual place holders for each of my direct line ancestors that matched my hard file place holders.

No problem I thought, I already have those folders started.

Oh no, it's another project!

Oh no, it’s another project!

But when I opened my Family Tree folder in Dropbox, my shoulders sagged. I was faced with a mess created years ago while merging old and new computers. That included naming folders with crazy suffixes to avoid inadvertently deleting important files. To make matters worse, I had also created folders that shouldn’t exist.

Folders that shouldn’t exist? Allow me to explain.

If you’ve been involved in family history research for any length of time, you know one clue equals at least ten pieces of paper. Resource notes, letters, documents, hints, clues, dead ends, false starts, records and more accumulate in mere seconds. Some will need to be reviewed at a later date. Sometimes the later date brings a different thought process, and soon there are multiple files that all basically serve the same purpose.

But ultimately every piece of paper boils down to a specific leaf on the branches of your family tree, right? When I think about my genealogical next steps, they nearly always stem from a particular ancestor.

Which meant that “Correspondence” file pictured above housed many unrelated items. Items like a form requesting copies of a probate file, a congratulations-on-the-new-baby-please-send-vitals letter to a cousin, a follow-up letter regarding photos loaned to an uncle. Their only similarity is that they all relate to someone in my family tree.

So… the probate file request, the new baby vitals, and the photo-related letter should each be filed with the person to whom the form relates. The person is the reason I’ll think of those items. “When did I request the probate file for Jacob Mueller? What address did I put on the letter to cousin Sue? What photos did I lend to Uncle Tim?

At this point in the process I have to ignore files that don’t bear a direct line ancestor’s surname. It’s hard to do because I really want to clean up the mess I created!

FIRST I needed to create virtual place holders for each of my direct line ancestors to match my hard file place holders. I started with the alphabetical list of maiden names on my Genealogy at a Glance Spreadsheet.

One by one I created a folder for every name on my spreadsheet. It went faster than you might think and the finished product looks so pretty!

Such pretty folders!

Such pretty folders!

Okay, okay – I know only the top row looks pretty. 🙂 But real progress is being made, I’m another step closer to my goal, and I know what I have to do next.

I’ll share that next step in an upcoming edition of Fun with Genealogy Files!

4 thoughts on “Fun with Genealogy Files Part 2

    • I agree wholeheartedly Paula – it’s no fun at all! That’s why I’m desperately trying to make it more interesting. And focusing on the end result. And sharing the comedy of the current situation with my readers. Thank you for your well-wishes. I need them! 🙂


    • I’ve used that method myself! Mutter mutter curse. Mutter curse curse. LOL

      28 years of genealogical accumulation finally got to me. At the moment, I’m scanning documents that have been hidden in folders and piles for years. Clues I should have pursued. Hints I missed the first, second, maybe even third go-rounds. UGH!

      But seeing them this time as I scan really inspires me to continue this project so I can research smarter going forward.

      Well…that’s my hope! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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