[APG Public List] Advice on organization

Sarah A. V. Kirby sarah at vandeventer.net
Thu Oct 22 08:56:59 MDT 2009

Filing/archival organization is an art, and a personal endeavor.

IMHO. The key is to make things findable to the client. Spend some time and get to know how she thinks. Strategize with her. Come up with two or three ideas and talk them over. Get her input and make changes as needed. See if she has any experience at local history/genealogy collections. Discuss their organization, she might like it. Make a simple "flow chart" on paper to illustrate your system (hand drawn, PowerPoint, or even Excell work to do this).

You might want to consult some general organizational references. My inspiration was "File ... Don't Pile" by Pat Dorff. ISBN: 0312289316. Used copies available starting at $0.01 from Amazon. Or, there's always your public library ... I'm sure they have several similar items.

Before you spend money on an application like Clooz (and it is a good application), document your filing system logic in either a spreadsheet or word processing application. If you get to the point where you want to help her enter the data from all the files (rather than just indexing them), you can think about Clooz at that time. For simple descriptions and indexes, I like word processing and spreadsheet applications, respectively.

Personally, I like to organize by one or more of four things: people, places, times, subjects. I use the same filing system for both physical and electronic items. I am trying to make image copies of all physical items. I try not to go more than three or four layers deep in my filing system.

For instance - I have a "Michigan" section of folders with a heirarchy of labelling.
Michigan/ Monroe County/ History Museum (copies of all records and notes from that museum)
Michigan/ Monroe County/ Probate/ Van Deventer
Michigan/ Monroe County/ Probate/ Stoddard
-- I include "collateral" surnames in my "major" surname folders - e.g. a Benns married a Stoddard, but I'm not pursuing that line, I would include the Benns records in the Stoddard folders.

I also have:
Van Deventer/ Benjamin Ellis/ Civil War (if there are two or more Benjamin Ellis' I include b-d range in the title)
Van Deventer/ Ralph Edward/ Bio materials
Soucie/ Feeley Jr./ WWII letters
Soucie/ Family Photos/ 19th Century
Soucie/ Family Photos/ 20th Century
American Revolution/ General Sources (e.g., background history material without specific genealogical references)
Newberry Library/ General Sources (e.g., flyers and pamphlets and website printouts for using the library)
Me/ Misc Bio materials
Me/ NASA/ employment records [see how I include myself in my family history files :-)]

Sarah A. V. Kirby
sarah at vandeventer.net (primary)
kirby-s at sbcglobal.net (alternate)

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