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Tips for organizing genealogy files and genealogy data

Posted by Ian Lamont on

The winter months are perfect for genealogy. On the EasyGenie Facebook page, we polled followers on their winter genealogy plans, asking whether the focus would be on organization, genetic genealogy, breaking through "brick walls," or something else. 

Of the two dozen replies, organization was high on the list. And no wonder - every family historian has a pile of old papers and photos that should be filed in a more systematic manner, or new research discoveries that have yet to be entered onto paper charts or software programs. 

It's a big task. Author Shannon Combs-Bennett devoted an entire chapter to organization ("Preserving Records and Research") in her award-winning book, Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes. She discusses everything from color-coded files (see picture below) to numbering systems, and also addresses considerations for electronic files:

"When it comes to saving digital files, an important consideration is creating files that can be transferred to other applications - and can still be opened 20 years later! Many people who bought early desktop genealogy programs in the 1980s and 1990s are now unable to open obsolete file formats. You may also discover that a popular online family tree program is incompatible with the tools used by relatives with whom you want to share information."

The limitations of digital files and online services are but one reason we encourage genealogists to store core genealogy data on high-quality paper ... and share it widely with relatives. It's the only proven long-term storage medium for genealogy data. Paper charts never crash!

A hybrid approach: paper files and online sharing 

Of course, software and other electronic tools are also effective for organizing and sharing genealogy. We really liked the following suggestion on our Facebook group, describing planned winter genealogy projects: 

"... Then new family sheets updated, project ancestors photo books for each grandchild, and then the old brick walls the history book and getting all the photos shared to the family Facebook group page."

A hybrid approach that involves sharing genealogy on paper and on a shared family Facebook group is a great idea.


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