The Archive Lady: 3 Tips for Organizing Your Genealogy Records
Kathryn in Idaho asks: “It is 2019 and one of my New Year’s resolutions is to get my genealogy records organized! I know that archivists have to be very organized, so what tips can you give me to get me started on organizing my genealogy records?”
Kathryn’s email was sitting in my in-box on January 1, 2019. Since then, I have received several emails, Facebook messages and Twitter messages asking me for tips on organizing genealogy research. Kathryn is correct in that archivists, as part of their job, have to be organized and organize records collections so that they can be easily researched. So here are some tips I like to give to genealogists who are tackling a genealogy organization project.
In an archive, organization is very important and something I do on a daily basis as I process the records in my care. If I don’t use the proper methods to process record collections, they won’t be in a form that can be used by genealogy researchers. Also, using archival safe materials is essential to protecting and preserving original documents so they will be around for the next generations of genealogists to enjoy.
There are all kinds of ways to organize genealogy research; I will leave the preferred method up to you to choose. I would like to share three tips to help the organizing go more smoothly and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed during the process:
Choose an Organization Method that Works for You and be Consistent
It is true; there are many methods and ways to organize your genealogy research. You can talk to 10 people and get 10 different methods of organization. I always tell genealogists to figure out the method that works for you and just be consistent in its implementation. An organizational method that works for me may not work for you and that’s okay! If you don’t like the organization method you are using, most likely you won’t stay very organized. So, find what works for you and be consistent in using it every day.
Take Small Bites
There is a saying that goes something like this “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” This is also true for tackling the job of organizing genealogy research. Don’t try to do it all in one day. You will get overwhelmed and discouraged if you try to take on too much at one time. In the archives, when I have a large records collection to process, I take it slow and steady. It might take me a few days or even a few weeks to complete the processing of a large records collection. I have one particular collection right now that has taken me a couple of months and I am still not done. The reason I take my time is because I want to process the collection properly so when genealogists want to use the records collection, it is organized and easy to find what they are looking for. So, don’t try to organize everything as fast as possible. Take your time; you will be glad that you did.
Use Archival Materials
As an archivist, I cannot emphasis this tip enough. I encourage everyone to use archival file folders, archival sheet protectors and archival boxes for all genealogical records. Even if you have decided to go totally digital, I am sure there will be some original records that you will want to keep and preserving them should be at the top of your organizational list. Many of the documents we own as genealogists are one-of-a-kind and should be protected for future generations to enjoy.
The online archival material businesses are now advertising their 2019 catalogs. You can access their materials online or you can request that a catalog be mailed to you, here are links to their websites:
- Gaylord Archival
- Hollinger Metal Edge
- University Products
- Archival Products
- Light Impressions
Metal Paper Clips, Rubber Bands and Tape, OH MY! Legacy QuickGuide
- PDF Version: http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=2883
Melissa Barker Webinars and Quick Guides at Legacy Family Tree
Check out my presenter page at http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=2967 and catch my latest recorded webinars as well as upcoming live webinars!
You Can Now Follow The Archive Lady on Facebook
If you have a question about researching in archives or records preservation for The Archive Lady, send an email with your question to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Melissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation.
©2018, copyright Melissa Barker. All rights Reserved.