Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Organization

Whether working on your own genealogy, an article about some bit of local history, your memoir or a full-length novel it is vital that you have some kind of organization system.

When I started doing my genealogy we didn't have personal computers or genealogy programs to keep track of the information. A couple of file folders or a three-ring binder quickly evolved into file cabinets and shelves of notebooks. Even now, with all your research, family members, and photographs scanned and filed into a database or other program it is still important to keep track of those papers.

I have always filed my information by surname and then by family. For example; my great grandparents William Albert Martin and Nellie Grace Keith would have a folder with all their information and that of all their children; except for Jennie Viola Martin who married Harold Cecil Covey and became my grandmother.

You may ask why it is important to track all those children. The oldest son's descendants may have the family bible or photographs your own side of the family doesn't have. ALWAYS write down anything you find on all relatives and even some of their associates and be sure to make a complete note of the source.

Genealogy programs are a great boon; but only if the information is kept up to date and put into the files correctly. Some genealogy programs let you take information right off the Internet and put it in your file. If not you can keep separate file folders on your computer for bookmarks for each family or area.

Part of one of the hand printed charts I have on my own research. 
I still prefer having these charts spread out to trying to follow them from screen 
to screen on the computer. 

Some of my genealogy reference books. The Keith genealogy and Union County, 
Tennessee histories with information on my families from that area.

The same applies for your writing research. Keep track of the file folders. Don't just dump all the information in a folder named "My Novel" or something. Break them down further. If you have trouble keeping track of all those folders keep a physical file of folders and what is in each one. Whatever it takes to get you back to that particular bit of information.

One of the archival boxes holding my photographs. I order them from Light Impressions.

Do you have boxes of old family photographs that haven't been identified? Don't pass that problem on to your descendants. Talk to older family members for help in identifying people and places. Make sure your own photos are identified.

This all leads to a word of caution. Operating systems change, computers crash, even storage formats change. Keep your records in different formats. Keep backups. Store old photos in archival boxes. Keep the actual records in paper form. If you have papers that are a hundred years old it should be obvious that paper is often more stable than anything on a computer.

Don't wait until next year or when you retire to identify your photos and make those files. Start today. Even thirty minutes a day will lead to better files and more productive research. Keep track of all your notes and be sure to cite your sources. If you start out right you will be a far happier researcher later on.