As I mentioned before, this will be a slow methodical procedure. With the exception of getting your data off of your computer for safe keeping, this will be mainly a week of making decisions as to the most workable divisions of storage for you. Work on this week's section as you read it. Please, don't just read the whole page and then try to do it. I have broken it down into sections for easier processing.
This week, we will mainly be putting together whatever form of storage you have decided upon using and getting it all started.
First you will want to make the decision as to the format you are going to be saving your data. Whether it is floppy disks, zip disks or CD's.
Label these accordingly based on your own personal needs.
Look at your various surnames-- everyone has "main" surnames. These would include first your mother and father's surnames. Thereafter, the size of your individual surname files will most likely be determined by just how much data you have been able to find. You may have several lineages that you collection of data is just massive, however, they are removed several generations, give them their own disk/CD. Whatever you have decide which of them will have their own CD or other storage method and which ones will be combined with others.
If you are using CD's as your choice-- several surnames can be included on each one. Folders can be created to separate them. It is best in eliminating confusion if the surnames you lump together have some type of "connections". By this I mean, if you return to last week's entry, you will find that I have my "major data lineages" separate; the CARTER ONLY storage has simply Carter's and the surnames that married Carter's. The CARTER side CD has all the smaller data collection surnames that were on the Carter "side". Basically what I am saying is that even if you have a zillion smaller files of various surnames; don't combine the ones on your maternal side on the same CD as those on your paternal side. Conversely, don't combine the ones on your spouses side with the ones on your side.
Floppy Disks-- Although I no longer have a floppy disk reader; in some ways, they were my favorite form of storage. They are most inexpensive to purchase (100 for $7.99) and they are completely re-usable. In being inexpensive, you can afford to use a separate one for each and every family surname that you have; thus making your filing system somewhat easier. However, they do take up more room. (I always used a large shoebox to hold all of mine). The only drawback in floppy disks is that they only store 1 Megabyte of data. This seems like a lot until you start using them.
Zip Disks-- These are a little more expensive (2 for $14.00-$19.00) depending on where you shop. However, each one has the storage capacity for 100 floppy disks (or 100 Megabytes). That is a lot of data and otherwise they function in the same way as floppy disks. If you are budgeted, I would get only 2, (they come that way) and either use one for your whole side of the family and the other for your spouses; or if you are not doing your spouses, use one for your maternal side and the other for the paternal side. I use to split mine up by using one for all my data and the other one for Maps and Photographs.
WHATEVER FORMAT YOU DECIDE TO USE IS IMMATERIAL
AS LONG AS YOU USE SOMETHING
The above statement is very, very important !!!
I cannot stress the following strongly enough. If your computer crashes or simply gets old and dies--
YOU LOOSE EVERYTHING!!
Everything you have worked on, traveled to get and is possibly irreplaceable.
Find some way in the choices above to remove your data from your computer. I would also make a copy onto one of them of your Genealogy Program, keeping it updated regularly.
When you have figured out what format you will be using and you have decided just how things will be sorted out; begin with:
1. Go through all of your mail folders that you are storing e-mails in. Place those e-mails on the appropriate CD/disk and save it. After saving it to "wherever", and BEFORE deleting it from your mailbox folder-- Check where you saved it to in order to make certain that it was saved properly. The whole process is pointless if you are sending your data to "parts unknown".
2. Go to the section of your computer that you may have been sending things to or saving them in. Most persons have one of these located on their desktop. It is most commonly called "My Documents" or some other folder. Wherever it is, just go there. Following the same procedure as above, go through each item and find out which CD/disk it should be filed on and then save it there. Again, make certain it got there properly before deleting it.
3. Some persons go to the extremes with scanning a copy of any "hard copies" of documents that they have onto a CD/disk. Personally I feel this is a waste of time. But it is a personal choice. If you have the time and supplies and desire to do it; well so be it. It is not necessary as long as you have your paper filing system. It might come in handy for having in traveling to insert into a laptop as you are in a library researching; however, this can be decided on later as a matter of temporary convenience.
4. One thing I would like to mention is that it is really nice if you have the storage to keep your photos/maps separate from your storage of text data. Photos as well as maps (maps are photograph format) take up a tremendous amount of space. Place these separately using folders for divisions of surnames. This also makes them easier to find as they are all in one place.
Now, if you have been following along, a copy of every type of email or data has been removed from your computer for safe keeping and sorted into an easily findable format.
From this point on, in order to give a point to your organization
Depending on your flow of email (quantity level) you will want to do the following either weekly or perhaps twice a week or maybe every 2 weeks. Personally I wouldn't go more then a week, just because I don't trust computers. Sit down at your computer and go through your mail folders and remove the items to the appropriate storage place. Likewise with whatever is in "My Documents".. getting it off your computer on a regular basis. After the initial time of doing this, the process shouldn't take more then 5-10 minutes to complete.
Doing this regularly has several benefits:
1. Protects your data in case of computer crash
2. Organizes your data into easily findable areas
3. Relieves your computer of storage space capacity and thereby allows it to run faster
4. Keeps your mailbox from being too full and possibly bouncing out emails
5. Doing it regularly keeps the amount down and it isn't so much of a chore.
You might want to read some of the items you saved in your folders and "My Documents" before you save them as they may not appear as important as they once did.
It is a good idea to keep either a separate CD/disk called "Non-Connecting" for those items you receive that look like they "should" connect, but they don't currently. When using a CD, you might just wish to include a folder WITHIN each surname folder called "non-connecting" instead of making a new CD. Periodically go through these to see if the "connection" has been made yet. If after a couple of months, you are finding nothing or if you have past the point at which that data would have connected, then just get rid of it. (For example: If the data pertains to a possible sibling in a family in 1858 and your research on that family has extended to 1920 and you have positive ID's of all the children of that family-- then toss that "non connecting" data.)
YOUR PAPER FILE CABINET
As mentioned previously; this may be a file cabinet/drawer/cardboard box, so just mentally insert whatever applies to your situation.
As I said, we are making decisions. Return for reference to last weeks entry on file folder divisions if needed.
Create your filing system.
I would personally, for ease of locating later, make your system as easy to navigate for yourself as possible. How this is done will again greatly depend on your own personal research.
For your larger surnames, it works well to remember that with each family you have what I call the "original family". This is normally that "key" family that is the furthest back, or you have the most data on. Many of these families had several children. If you research the complete family, create the hanging folder for the surname and use manila folders to separate each of the original children. With my own, I have maybe 3 different surnames that the data is just monumental in two different generations. In those instances, I have two hanging folders for the same surname; one of them is labeled-- CARTER-2nd generation. This is a misnomer actually as I have the original children only in the first folder and everything after them in the second folder. Likewise, as in my own case...
You might have a surname that is fairly prevalent in an area. Like there are 3 different Carter lines within the Owen, Morgan and Putnam county areas. With this particular problem, I have the Carter family that I know is connected or my lineage; I also keep a hanging folder of "THE OTHER CARTER LINES". This folder is a catch-all of all data found on the "other Carters" just in case, they ever connect. Of course, you will not wish to do this with all surnames, but everyone has at least one in their lineages.
Now, bearing all of this in mind-- create your folders on your needs. Right now we are just creating the HANGING FOLDERS or "the main surname folder". Individual manila "children" folders can be done later when you are actually filing the data when you see what your needs are.
If you have some surnames that although you are researching them actively, you just simply have no paper data on them; then don't create a hanging folder for them. Just continue to keep their data on your CD/disk system instead. Any surname that you have minimal amounts of paper data on, I normally create a manila folder for them and stick them into the hanging folder of the surname they married into.
Another alternative in this situation is:
If you have say for example: One Will for one man in a surname that this Will is all the paper data you have. Don't bother creating that manila folder and sticking it into the surname folder as described above. Just stick it in the "Category Folder" on Wills. (Or whatever topic it falls into.)
Depending AGAIN on your space limitations or filing system--
You may wish to separate your Hanging Folders A-L and then M-Z surnames perhaps in separate drawers. Or you may wish to put all the surname folders in one drawer and the Category Folders in another drawer. That is completely your own decision. I have two drawers to work with and not as many surnames in the M-Z area, so M-Z is in the back section of the bottom drawer and my Category Folders are in the front section. Whatever works best for you.
Don't get discouraged as it may takes several attempts to find what works best.
The Closet Box
I have a box in the bottom of my closet. (Well, currently I have several, but that is a different story altogether.)
In the genealogy box in the bottom of my closet, I keep hanging or manila folders of the surnames that although I have data on them or perhaps have researched them in the past; they are not CURRENTLY being researched. I don't wish to discard the data, but I don't have room for it in my file cabinet and since I am not actively working on it, it just gets in the way. In this box, I also keep a section for copies of blank forms. Basically this box is for items I don't want to get rid of, but don't want it out in the open either. You will need to make the decision if you need one or what surnames will go in here. It also allows you to find a piece of data if someone asks about it without having to just really scrounge for it "somewhere".
Now that you have completed creating your SURNAME FOLDERS it is time to begin the next area.
Create your CATEGORY FOLDERS
Only you know what your needs are in this area. Refer to last weeks entry for some suggestions if you like.
It is possible that you find you don't need any Category Folders. However, since most persons have census records, etc covering different surnames, most persons should need some of these folders.
For now, try to keep these divisions basic. You will find out that you need more or at least a better idea of how many and what you need after next week when we start actually placing the data into the Surname Folders and you learn what data you have to file in the "multiple surname" fashion.
My suggestion on these category folders for now would be:
Burials, Census, Marriages, Land Records, Deaths, Maps and your Obituary Folders
You can certainly create more either now or later; however, the above items most everyone will have at least something in and they are the most common for multiple surnames.
The above category folders are self explanatory with the exception of two of them.
I personally would separate your census records for ease of finding. Create one that is A-L surnames and the other M-Z.
Later, when placing your pages, just take all the census records and place them according to which families on the page are the most important to you. If you are fortunate enough to have some form of consecutive years on one surname, take a paper clip and attach it around them with a piece of paper labeling that surname.
These need to be created in divisions that serve you best. You may have just tons of them under one letter and very few or none in others. Adjust your divisions accordingly. I have six of them. As I naturally have several Carter obituaries, I keep the hanging folder division down to just 2 letters of C-D, the same with A-B. However, as I get to the last section of the alphabet, my obituaries are rather sporadic and I can group the letters of T-Z together as I don't have as many in those letters. If you find that for example; you have no surnames starting with the letters O, P, Q, R then by all means just don't create a hanging folder for those letters. To divide my hanging folders into families, if I have several (as with Carter) I use a manila folder labeled Carter. Within that manila folder, I just take computer paper folded in half and label it with the original or more prominent males of the family line. All of the obituaries for that persons children go in that little folded up piece of paper.
Now some obituaries are just huge and others are miniscule in size. For the larger ones or the ones that perhaps have several on a page all of the same surname, I just place those in the surname division folder. For the little bitty ones, I put those into a small white envelope and label it, then put it in the correct place. They don't slip out the sides of the folder that way.
All of this on the obituaries may sound confusing, it isn't. I also know that since using this system, I have never failed to locate an obituary and I have never lost one again. Fine, I may have to search that folder, but it will be in THAT folder. Not just "somewhere" in the bottom of the file cabinet.
The last form of storage is for your protection in case of disaster. Well, okay, not "disaster" for most of the world, but for a genealogist.
Keep a couple of notebooks. One for pedigree files of the families. The other should be divided into surnames and these will contain what are called "Family Group Sheets". They list the individual families. These notebooks are not "must have", but they are a good idea. Face it, we have been saving data above off of your computer in case of a crash. However, if you computer crashes and you cannot immediately replace it, then the disks/CD's are useless without a computer. Keeping a notebook allows you to continue your researching or reference data in the meantime. Notebooks are also a darn sight more convenient to carry into a library. (Not everyone has a laptop).
Next week, we will start working on the actual placing of papers into the file we just created. This week simply work on finding the best system for you and your research. Remember on the category folders adjust them to your needs.