Friday, July 06, 2007

"Tidy Your Documents" Month

T. K., over at Before My Time, has declared July to be "Tidy Your Documents" Month and has encouraged all of us to join her. She has a handy-dandy form in her post, which you can download and use to help with your organization. I've got something similar, but Microsoft Front Page has been giving me grief, so I haven't been able to upload it to my forms page (UPDATE: the U.S. Records Checklist is now available here). Anyway, this isn't about forms; it's about getting your stuff in order, something I'm actually dedicating my summer to (or at least making an attempt).

I--like every other family historian out there--want to make a trip to Salt Lake City. But I need to get my documents and files in order and take a look at what I already have. I need to organize, scan, cite, file, and analyze, analyze, analyze. I've already mentioned how going through the documents of my paternal grandfather's life led me to newly-discovered information on the Internet. Sometimes looking at a stack of papers or a cluttered file folder can simply be overwhelming. Recently, I spoke on organization at a genealogy society, and I shared some tips that I believe can be helpful reminders to us all:
  • You have to find the organizing system that works for you; one that fits your storage needs, budget, and organizing style.
  • Over time, our needs change. Our organizing systems will change, too.
  • We use 20% of our stuff 80% of the time. This means 20% needs to be at our fingertips for easy access, but the rest of the stuff can get filed out of the way.
  • It didn’t get to be a mess overnight; it won’t get all organized overnight, either!
  • Set aside a certain amount of time to work on your project: 15 minutes a day, or an hour on the weekend, etc., whatever works for you. Sometimes it helps to work with a friend.
My new organizing system is pretty much based on what Sharon DeBartolo Carmack recommends in her book, Organizing Your Family History Search, with some adjustments that work specifically for my needs. I also am organizing one family line, the Hoekstras, in a binder, rather than in folders, in preparation for eventual publishing.

So, anyone out there willing to give it a go? Remember, it doesn't all have to be done by July 31st. Any progress is better than no progress! If you want to jump in, comment on this post or over at T.K.'s blog.
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