07 September 2015

How do you organize your #FamilyHistory? 52Q W14

This week we will focus on the question -

How do you organize your family history?



Over the last 13 weeks we have focused on gathering information for our family history research. This is the first major step when beginning your research. We should have a good foundation of what you know about your family. It is important to organize the information to keep your records safe and to help you find your information quickly.

This base of information is what the rest of your family history research will grow from. Being organized helps you to more easily collect sources and then compare and evaluate them. There are several different established methods for filing records. I cannot say that I use the best method. What I do know is that I have a system that works for me and where I can recall information and sources easily. This is key when putting your files together.

I have used the physical color-coding system developed by Mary E. V. Hill. I gave the shopping list to my wife and kids for a fathers day gift. I cannot say I have used this method to its fullest potential. However, Legacy has a feature where you can color code for families to match Mary E. V. Hill's color coding system.

I use and trust my electronic filing system the most. Although not perfect, I am able to find and add information for my families. When I began one of the bits of advice I followed was that it was more important to document your sources that to worry about how you are documenting your sources. I tried a method that made sense to me and then followed. I have found since that there are some complication to this process. The biggest of which is that it is time consuming to change your electronic filing system after you have already started. Any change will break the links to your files and must be repaired one by one.


I group my files into folders by family name. This seemed pretty straight forward until I had the same family name on two different sides of my family. This problem is solved if you keep your family files grouped together in separate folders. So if I had put all of my mother's relatives into one folder and my father's relatives into another. This system also causes issues when trying to find files afterward.

One suggestion that was made was to file information by location. I created a tree of information based on country, state, county, and city. I found that using this method for all sources put to many files together into the same folder.

I settle on using a hybrid between the two methods. I use location information for cemetery information, maps, plats and other location specific information. I keep all other records with names included by family name. I keep file folders with all of my direct relative's surnames in the top file and any different surnames that descend from my direct relatives name in sub folders. Above you see my Bartholomew family folder. The Keller, Nelson and Stewart files are all surnames of daughters who were married and whose names change. I am related to these families but not directly so the folder is not in the top or main folder.

Legacy assigns each individual a Record Identification Number or RIN. When I save a record I use the name of the main person who the record is about followed by a short description and then the RIN. The short description is not needed but I have found that after I create the record it is easier to save to me database with the description. My short descriptions include obit for an obituary, died for a death certificate, birth for a birth record, grave for a headstone or monument, etc. If the record contains two names I use the RIN of the person with whom I am more closely related.




My only exception to this rule is for census records. Because census records often contain the records for more than one family, my naming standard begins with the year of the census, then the name of the oldest relative on the page, then the RIN. If the census record covers more than one page I add a page count after the surname but before the RIN. [See example above.]


In addition to the family and location folders I also use a source folder. I have found that some sources are not family or location specific. In these cases I add the digital copy of the source to the source folder without including a specific name or RIN.