Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Organizing My World- Part III

So much time has passed since my last entry regarding my organization system that I almost did not write this, but I wanted to finish what I started.

The last entry, dated June 20, focused on my family binders that contain original or copies of documents and as a result remain in my home permanently. Therefore, I must have a system I use when I do research at the repository.

I use a variety of tools when planning a research trip and I find that my steps are the basically the same whether I am going to my favorite local repository (Willard Library) or a location farther away.

I have a series of these mini binders (as does my mother) that contain quite a bit of information on all of the lines in my family. I actually have 4 binders in different colors (Silver, Burgandy, Marine Blue, and a Khaki Brown) that can be eventually based on the 4 lines, but for now I only use 2 of them.

I have purchased them as well as the forms used inside through 2 different companies: Ye Olde Genealogical Shoppe and Genealogy Shoppe. These 6 ring binders are only 5 1/2" by 7 1/2 " in size and  can contain a large amount of information, depending upon how you choose to use them. 
This is an example of the front page of  family group sheet. The back of the from serves as a checklist covering census years, vital records, military, school, homes of residence, church, land, funeral, grave markers, tax lists, and so on. In addition, there is room for me to write additional notes.

There are also other forms designed to fit inside these binders including pedigree, military, census, land, and probate. While it takes some time to enter all the information in the beginning, the reward of having easy access to all my research within a small binder that fits in my purse cannot be beaten. It also is handy when meeting new cousins.

When I go to my local repository for serious research, I take my research binder for that side of the family (colored lavendar when sitting on the shelf). Inside I have what I call a Detailed Records Checklist that I developed a few years ago listing every kind of record I could think of onto one set of forms. I have one for each member of the family. You could do the same using any number of forms, including  Loretto "Lou" Dennis Szucs top 300 Genealogy Sources which cover Internet, Home, County, Federal, State, and Misc. topics.

I also take my research goals for that visit. If I do not do that, then I find that I quickly get off topic and wander all over the place, and find myself a bit frustrated when I get home that evening, or when I look up at the clock and realize that 2 hours have passed and nothing has been completed on my list. I do keep a research log per family unit, matching my philosophy of the binders. I played around with them for awhile, but after coming home and finding that I had made copies of the same documents 3 times, I knew I had to stick to them. I do not number my documents, but instead make a note on my research log when I make copies of documents and also note which file they will be placed in for future reference.

My research binder also holds a list of all the various spellings of surnames, notebook paper, county formation guides for the states that play a role in that side of the family inside sheet protectors, research materials that are helpful from Ancestry's Red Book and/or the Family History Library, and various forms useful to me that I have obtained from several sources.

In adition I carry a pouch with post-its, paper clips, portable stapler and refills, highlighters, magnifying glass, and a small flashlight. I have been surprised at the times I have needed a flashlight to be able to read stacks in a dark corner, or when the electricity has gone out. I also carry a camera and take my laptop to places where the computer is allowed.

I used to find information, get excited, make copies, throw it into a file folder and bring it home to sit on a desk or empty space somewhere in my home until I felt like doing something with the paper pile. Now I am getting smarter, and citing my sources as quickly as I can in all the locations it belongs, and filing the papers where they belong when I get home.

After all, how can I enjoy my genealogy if I cannot refer to the information for further study and enjoyment when the time comes?

That's my process. It's not perfect, and I know I didn't include everything here, but I wanted to flesh out the process the best I could. When I started this I didn't know that so many of my blogger friends would also be writing about organization processes this summer, but I think its a good thing for all of us in order to learn from one another.

May you find a process that works for you.


Greta Koehl said...

I'm taking notes on things to bring....

Michelle Goodrum said...

Thank you for a very helpful series.