Organizing Family History Research By Record not Family

About five years ago, I got to a point of frustration with using the family folder system for keeping records organized. I was duplicating files all over the place. I had some file folders bulging with records and others that had one or two. Finding a particular record was sometimes a challenge. Was it in the parent’s file or the child’s file? Did I duplicate it?

I went searching for a new solution and I found it.

I found a post offered by Liz Kelley Kerstens. You can read the same post that started my new organization system here. The gist of the solution is to organize by event type instead of family surname.

All the records of the same type of event go into the same notebook. Each record gets a unique identifier based on the record type and a sequential number. For example, all birth certificates go together. Then, in no particular order, each one gets an identifier assigned telling it’s a birth record and its number. So, BIRTH001, BIRTH002, etc.

This system integrates well with most genealogy software programs. Almost all have a field available at the source level that allows you to put in identifying information. I use Legacy as my preferred software. The field at the source level is “FileID”. I place the unique identifier in this field. For example, the BIRTH001 goes here.

This rearrangement of my files took me a few months to do. But, in the end, it made my life easier in finding and storing files. I also integrated digitization into this system. Now, almost all my paper files are in notebooks with a complete digital image available on my main computer.

I have found many advantages to this system. More on that later.


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