One of the most frequent genealogy questions I get asked is, “How can I best organize all of my genealogy materials?”  It seems that most of us who are drawn to the hobby of genealogy like to collect more than just information.  We have photos and paper and documents and books and ephemera of all types and more often than not we put them in tidy piles, ready to be reviewed in “the near future” which can be anytime over the next ten years!

My answer to this question is usually along the lines of “I don’t know”.  Now, I’m a librarian and I hate to say “I don’t know” about anything.  However, it is the truth.  The bottom line is that each genealogist has to develop an organizational system that works for him or her.  We all process, learn, and remember differently so what works for me might totally confuse someone else.

I will share two tips that I know can be helpful to any genealogist:

  • To get your materials organized, you have to start somewhere.  It doesn’t really matter where.  Pick the easiest thing to do first and JUST START!  Make your goals small and achievable (I am going to scan 5 photos today) and it is amazing how fast you can get organized.  Don’t think about how much you have to do because the odds are good that you will get overwhelmed and never start.  Just shut your eyes and jump.
  • If you haven’t already computerized your information, start doing it.  It is worth the time and energy to learn how to use a computer/genealogy software/scanner because the ability to organize (once you have these skills) is SO much greater than without them.  Plus, computers can hold a room’s worth of genealogy material without the dust and disorganization of an actual room’s worth of material.

For those who need more ideas take a look at this article from FamilyTree Magazine about simple steps to organize.  I found two good ideas for my organizational efforts – I hope you do too.  Happy research!