- Information that you are looking for, and...
- Information that you find.
Anywho, I actually use a hybrid of the two systems. How's that for being diplomatic? I told you I didn't like someone forcing something on me just because they thought their way was superior. I showed them. I created a hybrid system. [Stubborness can breed ingenuity.] Basically, both systems are the same. First, I'll explain how they are the same. And then I'll explain how I've adapted them for my use.
Then, within each surname, you'll want to divide your paperwork between the types of paperwork. For example, Birth, Death, Marriage, Land, etc. Some researchers would suggest that you don't need this particular level of organization yet, and to keep everything together in the surname division. My suggestion is to be ready for the paperwork so you don't have to stop later and divide it up. We already know that we'll be looking for and hopefully finding this paperwork. And it's best to be prepared.
Now if you plan to use a hanging file cabinet or a plastic file box with hanging file folders, then this would be my suggestion on how to organize it. Use the hanging file folders and the tabs that came with them to make your surname division. Using the names above, you'd have a hanging folder for Smith, one for Davis, one for Johnson, and one for Vaughn. You most certainly will need more hanging folders that aren't marked in between the ones that are marked with a surname so that as you gather information and paperwork, you'll be able to expand each surname.
Now, everyone divides and files the types of documents and paperwork differently. Again do what's best for you. I have come up with the following 16 divisions:
- Research Plans
- Reference Materials
- Family Charts & Reports
- Locale History
- Census Records
- Land Records
- Marriage Records
- Tax Records
- Probate Records
- Cemetery Records
- Church Records
- Military Records
- Birth/Death Records
- Immigration & Naturalization
I use the notebook method for the most part, but because of the amount of paperwork that I deal with and my hate of filing [Oops. I mean lack of time for filing.], I've since added a plastic filing crate with surnames, and that helps me to keep things straight until I break down and file [Oops. I mean until I have time to file.]. Why 16 divisions? Simple. I'm cheap. Dividers with tabs come with 5-tabs or 8-tabs. I originally had 18 divisions, but didn't like having to buy 3 8-tab dividers, so I combined some. It stills serves me well, though.
So. It's up to you on how you want to do it. And while you can certainly start searching for your ancestors before being ready to handle the paperwork you find, it's not advised. Just pick a way and do it. It's much easier on you in the long run if you are prepared for your ancestors. And all their secrets. And, of course, their stories.
Any ideas on how you're filing your research paperwork or how you plan to do it? Any questions? Let me know in comments below.