Recording Your Records

I am being forced to take a break from genealogy work for a month or so while we pack and move to a new home.  My books are going into boxes, my papers are going into the filing cabinet, and my mind is going crazy.  You don’t realize how much you rely on performing research until you are unable to do so.  I have a couple of brick walls that I was painstakingly disassembling before we found The House, and I am afraid that even my obsession with the stories won’t be enough to allow me to pick up where I left off.

This is why a quality research log is so important, folks.  Meticulously record each source you consult, even when you don’t find what you need.  ESPECIALLY when you don’t find what you need; you don’t want to consult the same source repeatedly only to come up empty, because you forgot to note that you already checked it!  It’s so easy to click through a bunch of links going “Nope, go back; nope, go back; nope, go back; YES! I FOUND SOMETHING!”  All of those “nopes” need to be recorded as well.  Trust me – it helps.  Because I am meticulous about my research logs, I’ve found myself able to return to a project after months off, and after a brief scan of my research log (which ALWAYS includes at least three “next steps” at the end), I can get back to work with very little scrambling around.

However, while I’m good with the research log, I’m not so great with the filing.  Moving also showcases the reasons why a well-organized filing system is important.  To be honest, I still haven’t found a good way to file my stuff, which is why I’m so nervous about this hiatus.  My computer filing system is slightly better than my paper filing system, but both of them are based on surnames, which doesn’t always work.  For every significant surname, there are multiple associated families via marriage.  So, while I may have an Austin folder, and a Williams folder, in which do I place the Austin-Williams marriage certificate?  Well, I place that in my “Vital Records” folder, which has copies of every original vital record I own… NOT organized by surname.  See how this gets confusing?  Let’s not even get into Evernote, and tags, and Family Tree Maker, with the media…

If anybody has suggestions for a workable filing system, please let me know.  My paper files are, at this point, a random repository of random papers placed in random folders based on how I felt about the papers at the time.  “This goes… with AUSTIN! YES!”  Next time… “WILLIAMS! YES!”  When I worked as a legal secretary, each file folder had a list of the contents, so a quick scan would tell you whether the document you were seeking was inside.   This would be a fabulous method for genealogy, but gosh, with over 4 gigabytes of files and information, implementing this strategy would take away even more valuable research time.  What to do, what to do…