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Binders, Notebooks or Folders? - Organizing Your Genealogy Files

File Folders, Binders or Digital?

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The first step to starting an organizational system is to decide on the basic physical form for your filing (piles don't count!) — file folders, notebooks, binders, or computer disks.

Genealogical Filing Systems - Advantages & Disadvantages

  • Filing Cabinet & File Folders - File folders, probably the most popular organizational tool for genealogists, are inexpensive, very portable, and easily hold papers of different shapes and sizes. When dropped however, file folders can become quite a mess - with papers thrown out of order, and possibly misplaced. File folders make it easy to consult documents, but you have to be diligent about making sure the paper is put back where it came from. Once you've generated a lot of paper, however, the file folder system is the most flexible and expandable.

  • Binders - If you're someone who really likes to keep things together in one place, then organizing your printed genealogy data into binders may be a good option for you. This method standardizes your genealogical records into a regular size paper format. Documents that you don't wish to three-hole punch, can be added in polypropelene sleeves. Binders are portable and don't require a filing cabinet, however, if you do a lot of genealogical research you may find that binders eventually become too cumbersome on their own.

  • Computer Disks, CDs, & DVDs - Transcribing or scanning genealogical documents into the computer can save quite a bit of space, and computerized organizational systems can greatly speed up tedious tasks such as sorting and cross-referencing. CD-ROM quality has also greatly improved, supposedly lasting indefinitely under proper storage conditions. But, will your descendants 100 or more years from now have a computer that can read them? If you choose to use your computer as your primary organizational system, consider also making and preserving copies or printouts of important documents.
Once you get started organizing your genealogical clutter, you'll probably find that a combination of storage methods works best. Some people, for example, use binders to organize "proven" family and file folders for miscellaneous research on unproven connections, neighborhood or locality research, and correspondence. It is important to keep in mind that organization is and always will be a work in progress.


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