TIP #5

When I began my research, or contemplated beginning my research I had a small stack of papers perhaps 1/2 inch thick "maybe" total count of 40 pieces of paper. Today however, as I sit here in this room and look around I find that I now have:

Two filing cabinets

A full bookcase

A total of 23 notebooks

Three separate containers of index cards

About 28 CD's of data (self made)

A box full of papers in the closet(I choose not to recall those until I feel like going through them)

Several different spiral notebooks and steno notebooks (full of "notes" and "theories")

A manila envelope full of photos from the mid-late 1800's

Almost forgot, a couple of video tapes of cemeteries I have visited.

Where on earth does this stuff come from?? How did it grow so fast?? I can't answer either of those questions, but I would like to try to help you sort what you do have into an easily manageable arrangement. Or at least it works for me. My notebooks are divided into various areas:

Three are for the different family lines I follow and contain the individual family sheets. These are my maternal lines; my paternal lines; my husband's line. Several are allotted for data or histories that I might have on particular surnames that is rather extensive.

Still more are for particular counties or states that I do extensive research in, and records pertaining to those places. For example: All Vermont Records. Another is for census records divided by states. One is for all my accumulated cemetery listings, also divided by states.

The Filing Cabinets--

Cabinet ONE contains a folder for each surname I am researching. These folders include items such as letters, emails, references, anything with that surname on it that doesn't go into Cabinet TWO.

Cabinet TWO contains a folder for each of the following items. These items are place in here with the names of the family line that they pertain to somewhere on the paper.

Bible Pages

Birth Records


Churches (with sub folders of each church I have extensive histories/records from

Death/Funeral Records

Immigration Records

Land Records/Tax Listings


Marriages (licenses,record pages,marriage apps)

Military Records

News Clippings

Obits (with sub folders of each of my three separate lines)

Pension Files (these are not just military records, but the actual full files sent for)

Photos (this is mainly photocopies)

Probate Records(sub folders of various areas of court procedures as needed)

Ship Lists


Items that I hold on a family surname that doesn't fit precisely into one of these above folders in Cabinet Two...go in the surname folder in Cabinet One.

CD Collection

These are mostly of info obtained through emails, etc. They are also an accumulation of various records (census,land,maps,etc).They are as follows:

One for each state or county that I research heavily in.

One for each of the three lines I research

One for info I gather such as tips or interesting instructional items. O

ne each for State Records; Military Records; Whole Books; Vital Records; Census Records.

One for Gedcoms

Although this might seem senseless, it keeps them off my computer and frees up space and also protects them in the event of a crash. While these systems of record keeping may not work for everyone, they are really quite easy once you get them all set up. You no longer have to sift through the family files looking for a particular piece of data..You figure out what you are searching for such as a Will and go to that folder, it will be there.

A couple more items that do help out.

Index Cards--These list the most basic data about each PROMINENT person you research. This includes: vitals,spouse,# of children, what data you possess on them; these are used for quick retrieval in seeing what you need and what you lack.


This is an accumulation of about 10-12 index cards. They are titled with the following:


death records



mortality index


land records

On these are listed only the names of persons that I wish to find that particular data on.Of course I also list a date if it is needed.

These 10-12 cards are carried to the library with the minimum of space needed, they remind me of just what I am looking for. They are compact without needing to carry notebooks or whatever else.