Category Archives: Organization Tips/Tricks/Hints

Making Progress On Organization

My switch to binders has been going pretty well thus far.  I’ve been following DearMyrtle’s Organization Checklists (I’m moving a bit slower than the checklists say, but still) and I’ve made some pretty heavy progress.

First thing I did was buy a ton of acid free page protectors.  Then I put all of my notes and papers into the page protectors.  That way, it just needed sorting and to be put into the appropriate binder.
Anything that was from my non-sourced days was placed into a regular, cheap page protector and a stickynote with the word “Guide Only” placed on it.
I also bought oversized divider tabs so that every surname can have its own divider.  Right now, I use two dividers per surname: one for all of my direct line ancestors with that surname and one for all of my indirect ancestors.
I am about half way done with having everything in their binders, but I ran out of binders and page protectors (Wow – way quicker than I expected).  I’ll have to wait until Thursday to get some more supplies and continue on.
I have been going through each page to make sure that everything is in my Legacy program and completely sourced.  It feels good to know that I am getting up to date on everything.
By the way, you can buy all of the supplies you need in my genealogy store for organization, research, and things that will make life easier when doing genealogy.

Reminder: It’s Data Backup Day!

I just wanted to remind everyone that today is Data Backup Day!

Make sure that you backup all of you genealogy files, pictures, documents, etc. Preferably, have more than one place to store you backups – or even send a copy to a relative in another state, just in case something were to happen to your home.

Good luck, and hopefully you’ll never have to use your backup!


My Switch To Binders

Many of you know that I have been a fan of using binders to organize all of your paper files.  However, after lots of thought and reading DearMyrtle’s Organization Checklist for January, I have decided to make the switch.

The switch will not be happening all at once – I don’t get my school grant money until next month, so money is very tight right now.  While I have most of the supplies I am going to need for using binders, I need more.  I have a lot of page protectors, oversized dividers, and a few more binders to buy.
But I am so excited to make the switch.  I will still be storing the binders in my filing cabinet until I can find a cheap bookcase at a yard sale.  But the minor setbacks are not enough for me to keep using file folders.
And honestly, I’ve been considering the switch for a while.  For some individuals, I have to much information for a single file folder and for some surnames I have way too many file folders in the hanging file folder.
I can’t wait to tell you guys how it goes!  Wish me luck!

How to Take Care of Those Pictures

As genealogists, we all understand the huge amount of photos that eventually come into our care.  We scour attics, basements, photo albums, all in an attempt to obtain more photos.

But what do you do with all of these precious photos once you have them?  Preserve them!  I have for you some general rules about preserving your photos, along with some suggestions on store these photos, and some great further reading.
The first general rule of preserving your pictures: Never, Ever, EVER do anything that cannot be undone.  That means (but is not limited to) no cutting or gluing.  If it can’t be undone, then it is bad for your photos.
General rule number two: Acid-free, lignin-free, and PVC-free are your best friends.  Acid, that is often found in paper will damage the photos.  Lignin is a chemical that is often found in paper that makes the paper stronger – but over time, lignin breaks down and turns the paper brown and yellow, which will ruin your photos.  PVC is a chemical often found in plastic products, and if you put your precious pictures into a regular page protector, that PVC will damage your photos.
General rule number three:  Remember those magnetic photo albums?  (The photo albums with the sticky page that you put the photos on, and then you put the plastic over the page)  Magnetic photo albums are the enemy of your photos!

General rule number four: Where you store your photos is vital to whether they will last.  High humidity and temperature fluctuations are very damaging to your photos.  Lots of light is also very damaging to your photos, which is why you should never have your original on display.  Basements and attics are a no-no when it comes to your pictures because of the extreme humidity and temperature changes…plus all of those gross pests!  Keeping your original photos on display is very damaging because of the sunlight. The best place for these photos is to be stored in an acid-free box under the bed or in the closet, where there won’t be any extreme humidity and temperature changes. 

So, how in the world do you store photos without damaging or destroying them?
Make sure that everything your pictures comes into contact with is acid-free, lignin-free, and PVC-free.  So if you are going to put your pictures into a box, then make sure that box is acid-free and lignin free.  If you are going to put your pictures into plastic page protectors, then make sure those page protectors are PVC-free.  I also suggest that you place acid-free paper in between each picture, so that the pictures don’t stick to each other.
For further information:
Over at, you’ll find their free webinars.  They have a great webinar on Saving Your Family Treasures – and this is a great webinar full of great information.  It is a much watch/listen for anyone interested in preserving their family treasures.  You just need to register real quick (which just requires your email address) and then you’ll be allowed in.
Where do I buy all of this stuff:
My genealogy store has everything you will need.  Everything from acid-free, lignin-free storage boxes, acid-free paper, even the camera that you need to take the pictures.  I am constantly adding more stuff to the store, so check back often for new things!

A Must-See Organization Checklist By DearMYRTLE

Those of you who have been doing genealogy for a long while probably remember DearMYRTLE’s original Get Organized Monthly Checklists that were originally on AOL’s Genealogy page (which, don’t bother going to AOL for genealogy help, because it isn’t there anymore).  These checklists were designed by Ol’ Myrt herself to get everyone out of the chaos and into organization.

Well, these checklists were eventually taken off the internet (and trust me – I’ve missed them dearly.  If it wasn’t for an old copy of these that I found printed out, I would’ve probably been crying).  Guess what?  We are all in luck because Ol’ Myrt has decided to put up a new and improved checklist!
This checklist is WONDERFUL!  January’s is already posted and I hope everyone follows along.  I can’t wait for February’s!

De-Cluttering Your Genealogy Challenge Part 4

Hello challengers!  I hope you all have been working hard at de-cluttering your genealogy (or atleast attempting to de-clutter your genealogy – during this time of year everyone gets an A+ for effort!)

So, for part 4 of our challenge I have a task that can seem very daunting…making sure that all of your documents in your paper files match everything in your computer program.  How daunting this task seems will vary, based on how big your family tree is.
I have a very easy way to go through and make sure everything matches or doesn’t match.  This will take a little bit of time, but I’ve cut that time down a bit with this system that I have come up with:
First, grab a notebook (or a bunch of pieces of lined paper), and a pen.  Next, take one surname folder out of your paper files.  Open up your computer genealogy program and go to the first person/couple/family (depends on what file system you use) that is in your surname file.  Finally, go through each piece of paper and compare it to what is in your computer program.  Anything that is in the file system but not in the computer program, or vice versa, write it down.  Make sure that you include the name of the person and the document that needs to be entered.
And once you’ve done one folder, move on to the next one.  The wonderful thing about doing this is that you can do it at all hours of the day or night (which is what I am currently doing).  Trust me – when you are done with this, you’ll feel AMAZING.  Everything will match up.  No more thinking that you’ve entered that record, knowing in the back of your mind that you’ve seen that somewhere.  You’ll now have it all at your fingertips, ready for research!

De-Cluttering Your Genealogy Challenge Part 3

Welcome back to part 3 of our De-clutter Your Genealogy Challenge.  I hope you guys have been doing well so far in the challenge.  (If you haven’t been doing too well – that’s okay too.  Just try to catch up)

So we are going to have two tasks for you to do today:
1.) I want you to join a genealogy society – either online or in person.  By joining a genealogical society, you are surrounding yourself with people who can teach you research techniques, who can relate to your frustration with brick walls, and who can appreciate all the hard work you go through when researching for your ancestors.  There are two different types of genealogy societies: The traditional ones where you go to a specific place and meet with a bunch of people and the new online ones where you meet in a chatroom to talk or in some sort of a “group”.  These “groups” can be supported on different websites such as Facebook, Yahoo Groups, or Google Groups.  These online versions are all the rage and are perfect for people who are constantly on the go and busy.
2.) Here is your chance for some catch up: Remember how I told you to pick a paper system to organize your papers and to pick a computer program to organize all of your data?  Well, if you haven’t already implemented this system then now is the time to do it.  Having this system in place is very important for a task that you will be given in the next couple of posts.
I hope everyone is getting some progress in.  I know that the holidays are right around the corner and everyone is very busy, but by de-cluttering your genealogy now – you’ll have a new year full of peace of mind (at least where your genealogy is concerned).

De-Cluttering Your Genealogy Challenge Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of our get organized challenge. I have some more tasks for you – all of which focus on getting your desk/research area nice and ready to do some research in. You can’t do research if you don’t have the proper supplies, and part of being organized is having all the supplies you need at your fingertips.
So here are your tasks:

1.) Make sure that you have all of those office supplies that you need to do your research and make sure that they are stored nearby your desk so you can easily have access to them. Also, make sure you buy one of those cheap desk organizers (either the containers that go on top of your desk to hold pens and such, or the kind that go into your desk to keep everything in a separate compartment). Some of the supplies that I would suggest would be pens, pencils, computer paper and ink, a thumb drive (sometimes called a jump drive), file folders or binders with dividers (depending on which system of organization you use to keep your paper files organized), etc.

2.) Make sure your computer area is comfortable and easy to move around in. That means, make sure that your desk is big enough to fit your computer and still have a little room so that you can write something down if you want. Make sure that your chair is comfy, because nothing will hurt your back if you are sitting in a bad chair for hours on end. Bottom line: Just make sure the area feels comfortable to your tastes.

3.) If you haven’t done this already, figure out a system to organize your papers. This is one thing that I will not be going over in detail, because I’ve done it many, many times before. You can check out my videos on Youtube ( and my other blog entries on it.

4.) If you haven’t done this already, find a computer program that will organize all of your data. The only real requirement on this one is that it can read, import, and export GEDCOM files (GEDCOM is the file type that is used for storing family trees).

5.) For now, put all of your pictures into big manila envelopes. Separate these pictures into categories such as “Mom as a baby”, “Trip to Disney World 1996″, etc. Label each envelop with the category and put all of these envelopes aside. We will deal with these slowly so that we don’t overwhelm ourselves. Trust me.

Good luck everyone, and I hope you guys are all doing well. Stay tuned because I am planning on making a video to show you my successes!

P.S: I am back to having internet at home on a consistent basis. Feel free to email me ( or comment on these blog entries. I would love to hear from you.


De-Cluttering Your Genealogy – Introduction and Part 1

With the new year right around the corner, it is time to think about de-cluttering your life. In particular, I am talking about de-cluttering your family history. And I’m not just talking about that filing cabinet you have full of records – I’m talking everything from your computer genealogy program, that family website, your email inbox full of correspondence, the piles next to your computer, your accounts at genealogy websites, your contact list, etc., etc. Everything needs a good cleaning out once in a while!

By de-cluttering, I mean make your family history organized, efficient, to-do list ready, and presentable. Now, for some of you – this task may be HUGE and seem incredibly daunting. For others of you, this may seem like a good yearly clean-out. Whatever side of the fence you are on, I urge you not to panic, but to take some baby-steps towards achieving beautiful results with your family history.

The way I am going to conduct this de-cluttering task is by presenting smaller tasks. By breaking one big task up into smaller tasks, we will be able to feel some achievement even before we are done.

Now, I know that most of my work won’t be completed by the New Year – but, I am going to get a good start. I will have lots of time to work on my genealogy during the rest of December and January and I am definitely going to need it. The point is to get the ball rolling, and if it means having to keep de-cluttering through next year, then so be it. Remember, baby steps is all you have to take.

Task 1
Create Goals: Is there anything that you have noticed that has been bothering you about your family history. Maybe it is that you can never seem to find that website with information about your great-great grandpa or maybe you have lost track of what is sourced and not sourced in your genealogy program, maybe your genealogy program doesn’t have information that matches your files – whatever it is, write it down.
Priotize Your Goals: Pick 1-3 goals that you are very much looking forward to getting done. It doesn’t matter what it is, just pick it.
Final Note…
I am looking forward to hearing from all of you about your progress or about your disaster of genealogy stuff (Trust me – genealogy disasters when it comes to organization and clutter happen, very often in fact). Let me know if there is any area in particular you would like me to focus on.

Staying Organized On The Go – A Great Article Over At 24/7 Family History Circle

Have I mentioned that I love reading the blogs of other genealogists because sometimes – a new perspective can give you the jumpstart you need to get your genealogy in order.

I just read a great article over on the 24/7 Family History Circle blog that was written by Juliana Smith. 
The article is about keeping organized when you are short on time, and personally, I can’t wait to start implementing some of the tricks that she mentioned.
Please – check out her awesome article over at: