23 April 2012

Getting organized

I have been working on getting my paper files organized. I started by following "Dear Myrtle's" system of Surname Notebooks. It looks like she moved the web pages describing her method, but Randy Seaver has a good overview here. I especially liked the idea of using the Surname Notebooks as coffee table books that people could browse through.

Then I read all about Barry J. Ewell's color-coded folder system. I liked that way of organizing paper records, too. Oh, who am I kidding, I'm a sucker for any thing organizational. I could spend a ton of money at the Container Store.

While Barry's method seemed straight-forward and well thought out, I didn't want to abandon my Surname Notebooks. So I started creating a hybrid system.

I have a notebook for each surname. They are labeled with the surname and numbered by the ahnentafel number of the female ancestor who introduced that name into my tree. So I have 1-Huigens (which is actually two notebooks, one for just for me, my wife and my offspring), 3-Ogden, 5-Kain, 7-Johnson, etc.

I have divided each notebook by family as Barry suggests with his folders. I put a family group sheet for each family in a clear plastic protective sheet. Then I used 2" clear, self-adhesive index tabs to turn each family group sheet into a divider sheet. For the main family lines, I put the tabs near the top of the page and labeled each with the husband and wife for that family. I put the oldest families first, so that the notebooks are chronological from front to back.

For all the other family sheets, I created an insert with just the relative's name, put the tab in the middle along the edge and arranged the children in birth order behind their parents' sheet. Information about the direct ancestors, starting with a marriage record, goes in protective sheets in chronological order after the main family tab; information about the children and their families goes in protective sheets behind each child's tab. For my direct ancestors, I put the tab on a sheet holding their birth certificate, if I had it. Otherwise, I just used a duplicate family group sheet until I can find a document relating to their birth or baptism. I also used a yellow highlighter on the tab insert with their name on it to make it easier to identify my ancestors.

So this is where I'll put all my hard copy records and documents. I also bought some protective sheets for holding 4x6 photos that will make the notebooks more interesting for people to peruse. It turns out that page after page of records is none too exciting to those not bitten by the genealogy bug.

So far the system is working out well. I've set up the two Huigens notebooks. A grand total of four families in the second of them: my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents and my great-great-grandparents. That's it until I can take my Dutch line back across the Atlantic. I've also just finished my Ogden notebook. My mom's paternal line goes back to John Ogden and Judith Budd in colonial New York. I think I had to make tabs for eight or nine different families and some of them had up to fourteen children. Needless to say, it took a while to get that book set up. Next up will be the Kains, which is only two families. The Strayer notebook will be another one with a lot of families going back to my German ancestors in colonial Pennsylvania.

The only issue that I'm struggling with is what to do with my grandmothers who had prior or subsequent marriages. One of my options is to put them in the surname book of their husband who is my ancestor, but why would Catherine Toemmes marriage to Nicholas Wend after my g-g-grandfather died belong in the Huigens notebook? Who would think to look for it there? I could put it back in the Toemmes notebook, but that seems unsatisfactory, too. I may just create a separate notebook and file those families in alphabetical order by the husband's surname or my grandmother's maiden name. That just leaves me with finding a way to let someone looking at a surname notebook know that a prior or subsequent family for the mother exists with information on half-brothers and sisters filed somewhere else. I'd appreciate any suggestions on dealing with this.

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