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Miles and Piles of Paper - what is your favorite method of filing your genealogy papers?

I look to the left of the computer and there is a pile of papers about 10" high. These papers are anything from obituaries, Ancestry census's, e-mails from other genealogywise friends and important information. These papers will not go in the trash! I have started binders by surname. The binders fill up pretty quicky. Do you have a tab for every first name of a person with that last name? How do you do your filing?

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Right now, I'm filing papers chronologically within the surname. That makes it the easiest for me to find in conjunction with my genealogy software. Eventually, I want to switch to this system:
Thanks for the link. I think I will switch to this system too. I looks really good.
My filing system is rather complex, and I have separate filing systems for papers that are old and important (say my parents original marriage certificate or my grandmother's original divorce papers) vs. papers that are recently printed (say a genealogical xerox copy of my gg uncle's marriage certificate or something I printed off the internet yesterday). My "old and important" papers are stacked in an archival box alphabetically by surname (soon to be in polypropeline sleeves). Very simple . . .

The rest gets more difficult. I have one notebook that contains birth, death and marriage records filed alphabetically by surname. I have a second notebook that contains documents with references to multiple ancestors/relatives filed by location. This same notebook has a second section of documents that only mention a single ancestor/relative filed by surname. The two sections of this second notebook will probably just be split off into two separate notebooks very soon. The notebook is getting full. I haven't gotten around to putting tabs in the notebooks. I do have a contents page that describes the contents of each notebook and the filing method. So, if anyone picks it up, they should be able to figure out the "method to my madness" quickly.

Finally, I have a plastic file box with hanging folders that contains "working" files. In other words documents that may or may not be linked to any of my relatives. These also tend to be douments that I have decided not to touch at the moment, mainly because they are related to certain road blocks in my research.

This leaves me with only a small pile of papers on my desk related to birth, death, marriage certifictes and other records that I have "on order" or that I'm planning to look at within the next week or so. All this complexity keeps my pile small and my husband happy :)
Thanks Margaret. I apprjciate your excellent feedback.! That is a good idea to create a content page. Is this handwritten, or computer generated? I also like the "working files" plastic file box idea. I can think of several papers to put in a file like that right now.

You're welcome, Mary! Sorry for the delayed reponse to your question above - the present intervened in the pursuit of the past. :) The contents page is computer generated. My hand writing is terrible, so I type as much as possible.
Patricia - what a great resource. This website is great.
Thanks for letting me know about it. I'm sure it will be very helpful.
We have a group on Organization.
I like the documents filed chronologically, and tied to timelines.
The research logs, however, should be filed for each level of record-keeping: international, national, state/province, county, township, city/village. To the typical commercial log, add a column for Surnames Searched (in this source in this locality).
good hunting...
I've tried different things over the years, and hadn't been able to find a successful system, but now I think I have: I make a file folder for each person. On the front, I put the basic info(D.o.B., P.o.B., Marriage, Spouse, D.o.D., P.o.D.) and on the back, I list the contents, censuses, proofs, etc. Inside, in a plastic sleeve, I put the records.
Thanks everyone for your comments. I just love it because you all have different idea and they all seem to work well for you. Plus the the info on web site ideas as well. I will check out the group on organization too.

Keep the ideas coming!
I think everyone has mentioned some good ideas. I keep mine in hanging folders in a storage box about 3 foot long. I file the documents by surname and person. I still haven't worked out a good system when a document mentions several relatives, for instance a will.
Now the reason behind this is the fact We live in South Central Oklahoma, on the outskirts of a town. We do have several grass fires each year, and should we need to get out quick, we have several grab and run boxes like this with our important papers in them, such as our genealogy research papers. They are also stored in our safe room incase of storms. My main research and research logs are on my laptop and ready to go if needed.
Oh My Charles. I hope you do not have a fire and have to rush out the door grabbing boxes and your laptop on the way out. I hear you have a lot of storms there. I'm using binders for each surname, however am not sure I really like this system. It is easy when I find a clue somewhere else and need to reference it quickly, but the binders are getting awful full by not.
I'm jealous. I just throw everything on one surname in a folder & then file it alphabetically in a file cabinet. Some surnames I collect everyone (not just my direct line) and those I break down by geographical location, or if is from a printed genealogy, then by the surname (i.e. if it is the JONES family I am interested in & the info is printed in the SMITH family genealogy the it is alphabetized under SMITH in the JONES "section"). Anyway I have 10 two drawer vertical file cabinets, 4 two drawer horizontal cabinets, over 140 notebooks (all sizes, but mainly 2" ones) and hundreds of books. Also have downloaded over 700 books from the internet. I have not developed any kind of index or finding aid yet, but am thinking about it. Jim.



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