Genealogy research creates a mountain of paper. Even those who store their genealogy on a computer must have an organized method for indexing, storing, and retrieving documents. For people who do not use a computer, an efficient filing system is even more essential.

As mentioned in the previous chapter, a good filing system has these qualities:

System is easy to understand, use, and maintain.Edit

Nothing can waste more time than spending hours searching through mountains of paper to find a scrap of parchment you stored 5 years ago. Organized storage of your documents is essential. more...

All materials are stored securely and redundantlyEdit

Nothing can ruin years worth of work faster than a disaster to your archives. Fire, flood, tornado... they can destroy years worth of work and permanently eliminate original works forever. For this reason, you should secure your creation by keeping copies of your work in a separate location. Store original documents, such as family bibles, birth certificates, and photos in a safe or bank deposit box. Store only copies of the original in with your files. more...

Provides the ability to transport relevant data to research sitesEdit

Original Documents

Your original documents have cost you time and trouble to gather, even if they are merely photocopies. If they are old family bibles, or birth certificates from a county courthouse which has since burned down, they are irreplaceable. As discussed elsewhere, irreplaceable documents need to be stored in a safe deposit box. Your replaceable documents should remain safely at home in your files, together with hand- or photo-copies of the irreplaceable ones.

Take Information, Not Originals

When you are doing research, you need to know what you already know, to guide your search. Since you will sometimes need to go to a library or archive to try to find the missing link in your family tree, you will need to be able to take with you the records which are relevant to your current search. This could mean a printout from your computer data base, or it could mean extracting some pages from your three-ring binder.

The optimum might be to travel to the remote archive with a copy of your entire, computerized database on a notebook computer. This may be impractical, for any of several reasons: you might not be able to bring your notebook computer into the archives, you might not bave a notebook computer, there might be no place to plug it in (and dead batteries), and so on. Therefore your record-keeping system should allow you to extract what you know, or a subset of it, in a compact, easily accessible form.

You might want to bring along copies of birth certificates, lists of dates (of birth, death, marriage, immigration, et cetera) and a copy of a family tree. You could take photocopies, or abstracts of the information. A computerised record keeping system which could print out an abstract of the information (and the sources from which it came) you have for some of the people in your database would be an enormous help. So would a logical, up-to-date filing system which allows you to pull out that information.

Facilitates the future publication / distribution of collected informationEdit

I do not understand this requirement, as the only criteria for it that I can imagine would be far better placed under the following topic.

(Could refer to being able to easily retrieve information for sketches, articles & books.)

Records complete sources for each documentEdit

Proper recording of the source for all your documents is very important. If the document is a copy, then you should record the location and work where that document came from. Both the location and the work should be very specific, allowing a complete stranger to both find the work, and the reference inside that work.

The site or organization you got the work from. The full name and address should be specified. Try to remember that not everyone is from the same country as you, and to include the country in the address as well.


  • Boston Public Library, McKim Building, 700 Boylston Street, Copley Square, Boston, MA 02116 US
  • Calvary Cemetary, 686 Fond du Lac Ave, Fond du Lac, WI 54935 US
  • All Saints Church, Hertford, England, UK
The publication you are referencing. You should include the work, volume, page, and maybe even the line that your information came from. Include ranges as appropriate.


  • 1973 Brattleboro, VT phone book, page 132, second column, line 14
  • All Saints Marriage Register, volume covering 1822-1927, March 1824

Since genealogical records are often not commonly available, it doesn't hurt to include pointers to documents which are not available to the general public. For example, the only reference to an ancestor might be a birth or marriage record in an old family bible. In that case, an appropriate reference might look like this:

  • Written on flyleaf of Surname family bible, in custody of Jane Surname, 123 Streetname, City, Country.