Method 1 - Michele's Way
I keep all of my documents in sheet protectors in two inch wide, 3-ring binders. The notebooks have A-Z dividers in them. I keep the binders on a bookshelf right next to my desk. I have the binders labeled like this:
- Bible Records [copies and transcriptions]
- Birth Records [birth certificates, birth announcements in newspaper etc.]
- Church Records [rolls, minutes etc.]
- Court Records [minutes, guardianship bonds, bastardy bonds, etc.]
- Death Records [obits, death certificates, funeral cards etc.]
- Deeds [deeds found in deed books, other land records are in the land records book]
- Education Records [rolls, diploma, copies of yearbook entries etc.]
- Genealogies [this is for printed Family Group Sheets and written genealogies I receive from other people that I feel I need to keep. For example, one of my dad's first cousins wrote a genealogy of her immediate family, her parents and her siblings, of one of my grandfather's older sisters. The person that wrote it was the last living child and her information was first hand knowledge and very credible]
- Land Records [patents, warrants, head rights, grants, etc.]
- Marriage Records [banns, bonds, licenses, certificates, announcements in the newspaper etc.]
- Military Records [compiled service records, letters of commendation, rosters, etc.]
- Personal Letters [these are letters that I have gotten a hold of that were written by family members. I have several letters that my grandfather wrote to my grandmother while he was in a Russian POW camp during WWII. I also have a couple of Civil War era letters. They are stored in acid free paper and in acid free sleeves in this binder]
- Social Security Records [SS-5 forms]
- Wills and Probate [wills, administrations, inventories etc.]
- Marriage Records A-M
- Marriage Records N-Z
I file the document by the principle person's name [maiden name for woman]. The complete source citation is written on the document. If I need to see James Elexander Simmons' death certificate all I have to do is pick up the Death Records Book and flip to the S's. He will be in alphabetical order there. All of his death paperwork will be in the same sleeve. In James' case that would be his death certificate and his obituary. I am sure you noticed that I don't have a binder for census records. I do not make paper copies of census pages. I save these directly to my hard drive since I have to access them from the internet anyway. If I were to have paper copies it would take up 15 binders just for the census records!
Method 2 - The Family History Library Way
This is the way I had my paper files organized for many years. It is a very organized system and it did me well for a long time. However, I found it a bit cumbersome once I was doing most everything on the computer. Here is the link to the method:
Organizing Your Paper Files Using File Folders
I did it exactly as described except I had my files in a filing cabinet, one drawer per line. If you prefer to use binders instead, then read
Organizing Your Paper Files Using Binders
but you must read the file folders one first because that one has the specifics of the method.
Method 3 - The MRIN* Method as Recommended by Karen Clifford, AG
I am going to refer you to Karen's Organize Your Paper Files website. She has an easy to understand, step-by-step tutorial. You just click on the genealogy database program that you use on your computer and she will show you how her method works with that specific program.
Method 4 - Another Popular Method Used by Genealogists
Many genealogists use their own number based system. Some use a simple sequential numbering system [1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc] while other break it down by type [Marr 1, Marr 2, Marr 3 for marriage records and Bap 1, Bap 2, Bap 3 for baptismal records, etc.] They label and file their documents this way either in a filing cabinet or in binders. Most genealogy database programs have a field where you can record this information. In Legacy Family Tree for example, when you add a source there is a space for a "File ID." This ties your computer file to your paper files.
You use whatever system works for you. The point of any system is to keep you papers organized in such a way that if you need to look at a particular document you can find it in seconds. Tomorrow I will outline how my files are organized in the computer.
* Marriage Record Identification Number
Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis