I have given much thought recently to the amount of research I am wanting to complete, the ancestors I am wanting to either find or rule out in some brick wall situations, and the plans I want to develop as my family plans for a major trip through Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, and North Carolina which are all areas in which ancestors and records are just waiting for me to come and find them.
My currrent organization system consists of binders between 1 and 2 inches for each family and file folders where items are placed by surname until correctly filed in the binder. I do not place items in my binders until they have been properly cited. These binders, all black Avery at the store, are then colored with either yellow computer paper or blue paper in the sleeves so that I can quickly distinguish my maternal side from my paternal side when they are sitting on the bookshelf.
Each binder is labeld in large black letters on the outside front and outside back as well as the side so that I can easily see it from any angle when I am working in multiple locations in my home. For example, one binder reads "Lemuel Tucker and Martha Ann Cozart." When the family binder is open, I have it divided into sections so that it reads more as a biographical folder. The sections in order are: Contents/Family Group, Personal Chronology, Vital Records, Census, Military/School, Land/Judicial, Everyday Life, Maps, Research Log Notes/Source Summary Sheets, Other, and then each of the other children that are not my direct descendants.
I really like my binders. I like that I can contain each family unit together, which helps me in my thinking and in keeping my mind organized. When it comes to my direct line, I have taken the advice I received from the book "Organizing Your Family History Search: Efficient & Effective Ways to Gather and Protect Your Genealogical Research" by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (Betterway Books, 1999). In it Sharon discusses a few different ways to organize your research and I took some from here, and there, and over yonder...you get the idea. But one point she made that I have well remembered is that information about your ancestors that occurred before they married should be kept with their parents, which is what I am doing. Once a direct ancestor marries another of my director ancestors, for example, when my great-grandparents Conrad Eckardt and Julia Schnacke married, records created once they married is in their joint family binder.
Of course there are exceptions to any rule. I have a personal chronology or timeline completed for each of them in the early sections of the binder, but I include ALL their life events, not just events once they got married. Although I have both a Xeroxed copy of the actual census page from Ancestry or another database and a typed transaction so all info is readable, I also have a summary sheet that lists information from all censuses. Family group sheets are in each binder and that of course includes information from not only their entire life, but generations above and below as well.
This is becoming a rather long blog entry. I will continue this over the next few days as I explain my system. Hopefully I will give ideas to others, and encourage others to give ideas back in return.
Next entry: Futher discussion of my family binders, forms used, and some photos to use for further explanation
Third entry: My research notebooks that I take to repositories