how to, organizing

I’ve got stacks of family papers. Now what do I do with them?

It’s a complaint I hear often from both professional genealogists and those just starting out. People inherit stacks of family papers and then there are problems. Either they can’t or don’t want to keep as many as they have – or they are just beginning to research their family history and want to find the “answer” that they are sure is in there somewhere…

A few suggestions:

1) Organize. Sort the papers, photos, etc. into files by subject (name/place/etc.)

2) Cull. If it’s about a place in a town where your ancestors lived, but if it tells you nothing about your family, donate it to the local historical society. Return “heirlooms” from distant cousins to their family. Give unidentified photos to a historical society or to relatives who may be more interested.

3) Chart. Go through what you’ve kept and write down the information it contains and where it came from. You now have the basis for future research.

4) Store. Create a plan for storing what you’ve kept. Archival boxes are my best friend!

I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg. Want more info? There’s an organizing group on Facebook, a number of wonderful books, and a multitude of articles. Don’t want to do it yourself? That’s why I’m here! 🙂


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