Recently, I saw a question in The Organized Genealogist Facebook Group that caught my eye: “How does everyone organize paper files? …Are paper files even needed anymore?”
If you have been reading my blog for a while, then you know that I am a big believer in going digital with your research. I love having my files at my fingertips on any device, at anytime. I love that my tree is backed up on my computer, various cloud storage sites, and flash dries. And? It only takes up the space of my laptop. That’s important, because in my tiny studio, I don’t have the space for a file cabinet or large bookshelves. It just isn’t feasible for my space.
But can you go complete paperless? The short answer: Mostly.
The key word is mostly. With technology, you no longer need to have print outs and photocopies and handwritten notes sprawled out on random Post-Its and napkins. In all honesty, you don’t really need to print much out to begin with. When you find a record online, then just save it digitally. When you need to take notes, add it to your family tree program or note-taking program like OneNote.
Of course, there are instances where you will need to order records from courthouses or archives. The first thing I do is scan the document so I have a digital copy of the file. Then I store the record in file folders (preferably legal sized) and then in boxes. I am not going to throw away a document I just paid for, even if it is in paper.
There are also times when I will write or print something out to see a research problem clearer. Sometimes, the act of taking a pen to paper can draw out new ideas that typing on a keyboard just can’t. Or sometimes, if I print a problem out and leave it on my bulletin board, I will randomly get inspired with a new idea to try or something I forgot to consider. But once I am done with the paper, I will scan it using my phone and either stick it into OneNote (my note-taking program of choice) or save it in my digital filing system.
So can I go paperless in genealogy? Mostly.
What about you?