For those of you that are following along with this organization process, you should have:

1. Chosen your method of storage

2. Created your Main Surname Hanging Folders

3. Created your Category Hanging Folders


So as not to make this chore too monumental, we will be seriously working only with the surnames beginning with the letters A-F.

Before beginning this project, everyone must come face to face with a fact or two.

You can lie to your boss; You can lie to the tax man; but you cannot lie to yourself regarding the disorganized condition of your genealogy work area. You might not want to admit it, but I know you probably have papers lying on the desk, crammed into your file cabinet/box at odd angles, perhaps some papers here and there on the table. There might even be a few stacks on the floor or on the file cabinet. (Those are the ones you are currently "working on" and don't want to put away.)

Some of your data is most likely in various areas of a file or folder. Not necessarily in any order, but there all the same. This shows that you at least "want" to be organized.

First, you are going to collect all of those papers that are lying around anywhere except in a folder. This includes those that are stuck in the front of the file cabinet outside of a folder. Just make a big ole pile of them. We aren't interested in organization at this point. Oh yeah, pick a day or evening when you have absolutely NOTHING else to do. Nobody is going to make any demands/requests of you. It is simply you and the mess for as long as you care to work on it. You may if you choose continue to work on your genealogy, but it will be easier and go faster if you just concentrate on your organization.

Your e-mail will still be there when you are finished.

Bear in mind that you are only working with the A-F folders at this point.

After you have gathered all the loose papers and data laying around then set them aside for the moment.

Beginning with your first hanging folder in the surname section, whether it is "A" or any other letter between A & F; whichever is your FIRST one; you know your research better then anyone else. (Or you should). Look at that surname; let's say it is BERNARD.

You will want to look at the very earliest family unit that you have under that surname. You all know what I am referring to; the Main branch of the family. Let's say that:

Thomas BERNARD (wife's name unknown) had seven children named: THOMAS, FREDERICK, SUSAN, ROBERT, ELIZABETH, JAMES & WILLIAM

If you are using the method of manila folders, gather enough to cover the number of children in that family, including one for the father also. You aren't writing anything on them at this point, just getting them together.

You may also create divisions of this family by using paper clips and pieces of paper for labeling if you choose.

As you know this family the best, use your own judgment as to how many other persons you have in that family. By this I don't mean create a manila folder for every single last little child born of this surname. I mean, create a manila folder labeled William for all data pertaining to that man's children. This can continue to be divided by the different "heads of the family" as they had their own children; or you can simply divide them under the "original" children. (Placing all the children/grandchildren, etc under the original children). If this family is a prominent one in your research, you may wish to create a second hanging folder labeled "The Second Generation" and continue as you did with the initial family. Or perhaps as it comes down further in the lineage, you have only your direct ancestor. Make a manila folder for him and his children. I am certain that you get the general idea. You must make this geared to your style of researching and look-up sense for it to be workable for you.

You will want to follow this procedure for every hanging or main surname folder you have in your cabinet for the letters of A-F.

Don't label the manila/children folders as of yet as you may not need all of them.


Go back to your pile (no I didn't forget about it). In addition to this pile, take the current contents of the surname folder you are starting with and pile them next to the first pile.

This next procedure is going to call for you to be:


2. Narrow minded

3. Sensible

4. Very Judgmental

Pick up the first piece of paper in your pile. READ IT. Read it carefully using common sense and reasoning.

Ask yourself:

What surname does this information apply to?

Remember, if it is more then one surname, it goes into the Category Folders.

What person in that surname does this apply to?

Use either one of the main children or their father for your separations.

Is this information pertinent to my current research or is it just garbage?

If you have already past that point in time and this item doesn't work, then it is garbage.

Is it a repeat of something else I have already?

How many copies of it do you really need?

Is it riddled with errors?

If this particular item, is error filled, first of all be suspicious of the remaining data. If there are items in it that you know are correct, then keep it, but paperclip a small note on the top letting you know of the errors; or pointing out the items you know are fact.

Is it something that belongs more in a Category Folder then a Surname Folder?

If it belongs in the Category Folder, put it there; don't clutter your surname folder with this. These items would include census pages, multiple form records such as birth, marriages or deaths; unless they just pertain to one family surname. These items can also include some thing like a Will; although it applies to only one person, it may be the ONLY data you have on a person/surname- in that instance don't waste a folder but store it in the categories under that designation. These also INCLUDE THE OBITUARIES and PHOTOS.


Once you look at a paper and make a decision on it you have some decisions to make on placement.

If it pertains to anything other then surnames A-F; PLACE IT TO THE SIDE FOR NEXT WEEK.

For the pieces of paper pertaining to A-F; you may either-

just stick it into the appropriate A-F folder (until you get there) or set aside any paper not pertaining to the folder you are currently working on. The advantage to going ahead and sticking it into the appropriate A-F folders is that when you move to those letters, some of the sorting out is already done.

As you are also going through the data from your current "first" surname folder, you will no doubt find data pertaining to that surname. Make certain you are clear in the sorting process though and make sure that the item should go in that folder and not perhaps in the Category folders.

If you find items that would work better under a simple category folder then set them to the side in an area designated for the Category folders you will create.

Once you have all the paper files/data for the first folder that you possess; at that time sort them out based on just who in that family they pertain to. After you have done this, look at these people and create the manila folders labeled as needed for those persons. Remember, these are people from the "original" family or heads of households. For example; you may choose to include several generations in the folder for the "main" child that they descend from OR if some are more prominent, give them their own manila folder. If you should find that there are "main" children that you have no paper data or very little on, then don't create a manila folder for them at this time. You can just stick what little you have in their father's folder (they are his children). If you find that you have paper data that pertains to the family as a unit (genealogy reports, etc); stick that in the front of the surname folder OUTSIDE of any of the manila folders.

Remember, the only items in your surname folders should be items that are paper, not on CD, pertaining only to that surname.


You will follow this same procedure for each surname within the A-F section. Take your time as it is worth it to get organized. While going through this process, I promise you will:

1. Find data you either didn't know you had or forgot about

2. Find papers that make you scratch your head and say "What on earth is this"

3. Take a different look at something you previously felt was important

4. If done properly, you will perhaps find errors in the data that you have since proven/disproved

5. Throw items away


Do NOT try to rush this process

I realize it is time consuming and might sound confusing, but it isn't once you begin doing it.

We are not running a race, just trying to get organized.

If you find that you have large quantities of "trash" papers to throw away, consider cutting them into four sections and stapling them together in little pads to use the backs for scratch paper.

If you are able to get through the surname folders for A-F during this week- look at the pile you made of items belonging in the category folders.

Create what Category folders you need and place those papers in them. Don't worry about any particular order at this point, just get them in there.

Next week we will be working with surname folders beginning with the letters G-L