Over the past few weeks, besides organizing my library, I’ve been sorting through more boxes. In fact, I have emptied twenty boxes!

What did I find? What did I do with all of it?

Well… One box was filled with Jack and Jill magazines from the 1950s. I looked through some of the issues, then I checked the Internet and found that the magazine is still published and that old issues have very little value. In addition, the issues in my collection were filthy! They felt so grungy that I hated to touch them. I remember they were stored in my parents’ attic for years. Then, when they moved from the farm into town, Mom gave the magazines to me and I have had them in various storage places for more than 25 years. They went into our recycle bin.

Another couple boxes had my old workbooks from elementary school. They were just as dirty and yucky to touch as the magazines. Into the recycle bin they went.

The scrapbooks that I made in elementary school were in the similar condition. Nothing creative here, just mimeographed seasonal designs on construction paper that we cut out, perhaps colored or added some paper fasteners to in order to make moving arms/legs, or paper doilies for a lace effect. Our creations were displayed around the classroom for a week, then we pasted into the scrapbook. Recycle bin.

I had to make decisions, and I just could not keep something that no one would want to touch.

Some boxes included papers from a charter member of our local genealogy society; her daughter gave the items to me after her mother passed away. Where possible I incorporated these items into my collection. I was able to give a few things to the Iowa Genealogical Society. But, still other papers went into the recycle bin. I knew the daughter had given as much as possible to the local historical society before she gave things to me. Some genealogy reference items dating from the 1970s and 1980s were simply out-of-date. I also found a box of items from my great aunt, also a charter member. Those items were treated much the same as those from the other charter member.

The sorting, however, also had some bright sides. I found some family genealogy papers. Many of these papers were in good shape and I was able to file them. My work earlier this fall, to create hanging files, paid off! Now, I could just file papers where appropriate!

As I work through this sorting process, I’m finding it easier to sort through printed material and other papers than to sort through artifacts or photographs.

While twenty paper/file boxes might seem like a lot; this was just a drop-in-the-bucket. Remember, I’ve said before, this project is huge… overwhelming. I’ve been tackling it one piece at a time. I’m definitely making progress, wonder what I’ll work on next…

So… I needed to refer to a book that I knew is in my library, but I could not find it! I also needed to refer to another book that I thought was in my library, but I couldn’t find it either! I checked this stack of books and that stack of books, as well as the less-than-organized books on various shelves. I finally found the first book, but realized I don’t have the second one after all.

My library needed an organizing touch.

After donating periodicals that had occupied space on my shelves and with some other reorganizing, I knew I could do better.

I surveyed my books for probable categories. Then, I went through all the stacks and created new stacks by logical topic, i.e., Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War II, NARA, American Indians, various states, Transportation, Weather, Writing, etc.

After determining how much space to allow for each category (allowing room for expansion), I organized each section alphabetically by author.

Iowa needed its own bookcase, and several counties within Iowa got their own bookcase. And, naturally, genealogy reference books occupy nearly four shelves of still another bookcase.

As a side note, I use LibraryThing.com to catalog all of my books. I should have checked there to see if I had the second book. I love LibraryThing because I can access my library catalog from my iPhone when I am considering the purchase of a new book. Currently I have 525 genealogy/history-related books cataloged. Mine is not a huge library, but large enough that having it organized is very helpful.

Organizing my library was easy once I created space by giving away the periodicals, and once I had determined my organizing plan. But, before I was done, I had exhausted our supply of bookends! (I’ll look for more after the holidays when Walmart usually has specials on office supplies.)

Ta da! Final result: Today I can find any book in my library within seconds!

Pictures showing some of my organized bookshelves:




I’m on a cleaning roll! Focus: genealogy and history periodicals! A bunch are going to leave this house!

Duplicate copies… out of here!

If I can find it at Dunn Library, Simpson College (only 4 blocks from our house), out of here!

Genealogy periodicals… donating to the Iowa Genealogical Society (IGS)! If I need to look at it later, I can go there!

Nearly everything pertaining to our local genealogy society can be scanned. I’ve scanned some things and tossed; I’ve scanned other items and prepared originals to give to our current president.

Hopefully, just by addressing periodicals, I will make more than dents in the quantity of stuff in my genealogy room; serious holes would be good, craters best!

Net result: hole the size of our car trunk which was filled to capacity as we hauled them away.

Flash Drives

Still on the organizing topic… making sense out of chaos…

How many flash drives? I started accumulating all in one spot… So far I have found eleven of various sizes, shapes and colors. I’m sure more are hiding around our house.

How to organize? How to identify what is on each one?

I used the small, round key tags to label each with a number. The number refers to a piece of paper with a copy of the contents which I captured using a “snipping tool” and transferred to a WORD document.

Unfortunately, during this process, I did NOT find the missing photos I was hoping might have been put on a flash drive. Perhaps I will find the photos on another flash drive when it surfaces.

Remember, however, do NOT use flash drives as a back up. These handy gadgets are not known for stability. Intended use is merely to transfer data or for short term storage.



Am I going paperless? Well, not totally… but I’m giving it a try in a couple areas!

Recently, I agreed to two volunteer positions: a 3-year term as Elder on our church board and a 2-year term as Secretary for the Iowa Genealogical Society board.

Also recently, I acquired a slightly used Microsoft Surface Pro tablet, which will transport easily to my many upcoming meetings. (By the way, so far I LOVE this tablet!)

Since I’ve read positive comments about Evernote, a note-taking and organizing software, I’m going to try Evernote as a way to take notes and organize the agenda, notes, minutes and other items from these meetings. I’m impressed with the ability to sync the Evernote files on my tablet with my desktop at home without having to use flash drives.

SO…………… I’m going to see how it goes! With all of our attempts to organize and reduce the paper we already have in our house, I absolutely must reduce the amount of paper coming into our house. Paperless, as far as I can possibly take it in these two endeavors! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Recently while working on a writing project I realized that our family might not realize what they held in their hands when they find this Bible (wrapped in Tyvek in our home safe)… writing the story of a family Bible was needed:

Warren and Nancy McNeill Family Bible, Holy Bible, (New York: The American Bible Society, 1828); original owned in 2014 by Marieta (Pehrson) Grissom (Indianola, IA 50125).

The Bible is 4½” by 7½” by 2¼” thick, and has a well-worn leather cover. In somewhat dilapidated condition, it is possible other pages are missing, however, the birth page is in tact and secure in the binding of the volume.

The person(s) who wrote the entries was literate, but not accustomed to writing, as evidenced by the inconsistent capitalization and punctuation, and difficulty judging how much space it would take to record a date and having to continue to another line.

The birth dates (1832 to 1850) of all known children of Warren and Nancy (Deem) McNeill are recorded in various inks and handwriting. (Transcribed below, punctuation and capitalization are as found on the Bible page.)

Orren McNeill Was Born August the, 21. 1832
Norman McNeill Was Born August the, 30. 1834 and Died the 22 of January 1835 [this is the only evidence we have of Norman’s existence]
William Anderson McNeill Was born November the 14: 1835
Solomon McNeill Was born April the 22 1839
Alford McNeill Was born May the 26: 1841 [note the spelling of Alfred’s first name]
Henry Clay McNeill Was born June the 1: 1847
Margaret Lavina McNeill Was Born November the 8 1850

Warren (1810-1868) and Nancy (1812-1870) were my great-great-great grandparents; I’m descended through their son Alfred.

This Bible is OLD! How many of us have artifacts that have been touched by so many generations? How many of us have actual samples of penmanship by a family member 180+ years ago?

The McNeill Family Bible apparently passed from Warren and Nancy McNeill to their son Alfred McNeill, to his daughter, Edith (McNeill) Morrill, to her son, Ernest Morrill, then, to his cousin, O. R. Pehrson, a grandson of Edith’s brother, Leonard, in approximately 1984. My mother, Thelma Pehrson, gave it to me in July 2006.

This Bible is a family treasure; it must be preserved and saved for the generations!

McNeill Bible - inside enh

McNeill Bible cover

Recently as I purchased still another book with a spiral binding, I realized that I needed a creative way to label the numerous spiral binders on my shelves.

A member of a Facebook group called “The Organized Genealogist,” I posed the question to the group. Responses included 1) using key tags and 2) punching holes in the books and placing them in a 3-ring binder. I didn’t like the latter suggestion because it requires binder investment and space investment (since binders take up more shelf space). I kind of liked the key tag idea, yet it didn’t seem like quite the perfect solution either.

Then I posed the problem to my husband along with the group’s suggestions. His ingenuity amazes me!

We save slats from old mini-blinds to use as plant markers in our garden and flower beds. He suggested trimming some of them, punching holes in the top and bottom, labeling them appropriately, and attaching them to the wire binding using zip ties (cable ties, Home Depot electrical department smallest ones 100/$3.99). The zip ties can be tightened close to the spiral and nothing is left to flop around.

Ta Da! Inexpensive and works great!

spiral binder labels


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