Archive for the ‘organizing’ Category

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.


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Labeling Spiral Binders

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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Dust & Grime

I have written about the shelving in my genealogy room, approximately 110 linear feet of shelving, most of it is the heavy duty steel, office type. Unfortunately, no adjustable shelves, but three-ring binders fit comfortably with 3+ inches of clearance at the top (enough room to pile loose papers on top of the binders). Fortunately, the shelving is a cream color, not a warehouse grey.

It has been twelve years since we added onto our house and created my lower level genealogy room. While moving items from the shelves to the filing cabinets, I have made an interesting discovery. Dust and grime have settled into the tops of my notebooks, scrapbooks, photo albums and piles of papers! Imagine that!

It is a good thing I am moving most of the notebook materials and loose papers into the filing cabinets. This should be a safer environment for them.

By the way, the filing cabinets are sitting on 2″x4″ blocks to allow ventilation under them, and we have two dehumidifiers in our basement and keep a close eye on their function.

However, what about the scrapbooks and photo albums? Currently many of them are laying on my shelves, gathering dust and grime. As I’ve toured Iowa’s various repositories I’ve noticed that many archives store scrapbooks in preservation boxes. I have too many scrapbooks in too many odd sizes to do this within my retirement budget.

However, while visiting another archives, I noticed many of their scrapbooks were wrapped in something and laying on the shelves. I asked the archivist what they use for wrapping their scrapbooks. Tyvek was the answer. Light bulb flash in brain: what about using the tyvek product that is used in home construction? Would that be any cheaper than ordering tyvek from a preservation company?

I started my research, reviewing websites for three archival supply companies (Gaylord, Hollinger Metal Edge, and Light Impressions), pages for building construction materials (Lowe’s and Home Depot) and searched for general information on “tyvek.” Findings: Materials from both the archival supply companies as well as the building construction companies are labeled “tyvek.” DuPont owns the rights to the tyvek product name. Tyvek is a light weight, pH neutral, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) product that protects from water, dirt, dust, UV rays, and is resistant to tearing, mold, and mildew. Sounds like the perfect product for preserving scrapbooks!

My husband thought I’d have to buy a roll 12 feet wide and miles long costing hundreds of dollars. But I discovered that Lowe’s sells a 3′ x 100′ roll of DuPont Tyvek HomeWrap for $35.99. This fits my budget!

Would an archivist agree with my thinking? I submitted a query to the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) email list. A respected archivist responded, “You are correct. Tyvek is tyvek.” Another professional responded with the reminder, “The only difference is that the Tyvek used on buildings has a logo on it. As long as that side isn’t facing the item you’re protecting (I know, you didn’t need me to tell you that), you’re fine.”

Hurrah! Looks like I have figured out how to keep dust and grime out of my scrapbooks and photo albums. Looks like I need to find hours in the day to do another project!

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For years I’ve had many of my genealogy files in 3-ring binders. I’ve had a set of 3 binders for the surname of each of my great-grandparents (8 total sets). Each surname had a specific color code for the labels on the notebooks. Each of the 3 binders: Genealogical Record Book (family group sheets, etc.), Documents, Photographs. As a notebook filled, I added more notebooks. For one surname I have 38 binders. For years I’ve thought this was the ONLY way to organize my genealogy.

I had lots of shelving space. As I’ve gotten more stuff and didn’t have time to add it to the notebooks, my shelves became overloaded with boxes and piles in addition to the binders.

THEN, along came some time to sort and organize! That was when I realized that future generations aren’t going to care about notebooks of land records, cemetery records, census records, military records, etc.

It FINALLY clicked that future generations are going to ask questions about people, not records. No wonder I’ve been assembling a collection of filing cabinets. Did you know that filing cabinets are a more efficient use of space than 3-ring binders?

I am organizing my files by surname and names within the surname in birth order. I’ve set the tabs for each generation in a different position moving across the hanging folders¬†and color-highlighted the names according to generation. I can open a drawer and easily see birth order for everyone in each generation.

I’m not done, but I have files established for each surname and I have been emptying the binders into the files. I’ve also been tackling many of the piles and boxes. My strategies: 1) work on the easiest first, and 2) keep plugging away.

When I am ready to enter information into my genealogy program, I hope to have nearly everything for each person in their file.

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As I was driving the 2+ miles to visit my mother in the memory unit where she resides, I happened across several items placed along the curb with a big “FREE” sign. Included were four 4-drawer HON steel filing cabinets! I immediately called my husband and he lost no time jumping in his pickup and retrieving the filing cabinets. Thus, I got sidetracked: the rest of my day has centered around reorganizing my storeroom, moving those filing cabinets into it and thinking about what to put in them.

For the record… we now have three 2-drawer filing cabinets and eleven 4-drawer cabinets primarily devoted to genealogy/family history. Most likely, they will all be full by next spring! I’d like to be done with the majority of my sorting/tossing/organizing by then. I cannot overemphasize the enormity of this project!

Today, my husband claimed one of the cabinets for his genealogy!

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Continuing my sorting of Mom’s collection, I have found nearly a paper box full of high school and college yearbooks. What to do with these?

I am going through each one looking for relatives. When found, I photocopy the page(s) as well as any related pages and title page, and place in the person’s hanging file. This has been very interesting, especially reading some of the one-line comments with the photographs of the seniors.

One of my favorites was for my mother’s brother, “Because a man doesn’t talk is no sign he hasn’t something to say.” (1) This apparently describes a personality trait for an uncle I never knew (he was a pilot and killed in China in an plane crash near the end of WW II). My brother is also very quiet; a family trait?

My mother’s aunt was the joke editor for her senior yearbook. Mae’s joke:

Howard Miller and Mae B. were sitting on the porch. Howard: “If I had money, I’d travel.” Mae reached out her hand and fondly put it in his, then ran into the house. Howard amazingly looked into his hand. There was a nickel. (2)

I’m going to donate these yearbooks to the Iowa Genealogical Society, as they are just starting a collection of yearbooks.

Yearbooks may provide unexpected color for an ancestor’s biography.
(1) Howard Butler, Indianola (Iowa) High School Pow-Wow, 1935, p. 9.

(2) The Pow-Wow of Indianola (Iowa) High School, Volume Nine, 1923, unnumbered pages, joke pages were near the back of the book.

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I’m on a roll with sorting and organizing! And the roll has gained such momentum that I want to work on it during nearly every spare moment! This is a good thing. I’ve tried to explain previously the enormity of the project I am facing; only my husband really knows. Let me assure you; it is huge!

My mother was typical of many (perhaps most) genealogists. She loved to do research and she did a considerable amount. Problems: 1) Mom only documented some of her sources and 2) she had difficulty organizing the information she found. For the most part she used the notebook method, but I’ve found multiple notebooks on the same surname, with much of the same information. To complicate the situation, she created a new family group sheet every time she worked on the family. I find photocopies of the same obituaries in multiple places. And, it isn’t unusual to find information for a completely different family surname stuck in the wrong binder. On top of that, I’m finding Mom was notorious for making notes for multiple surnames on the same piece of paper. Oh, my!

It isn’t just my mother’s collection I’m dealing with. My grandmother collected and saved, and my mother inherited a collection from her aunt and uncle. So, when I brought home the boxes, scrapbooks, photo albums, and binders from my mother, the contents was the conglomerate from all of these people. As I’ve worked on the materials, I’ve realized that my mother was overwhelmed!

Filing has never been my favorite activity, but I’ve been spending hours doing just that, and sort of enjoying it. I’m filing everything from Mom’s binders and boxes of loose papers into hanging folders in my file drawers. Some people would wonder “Why!” Why shouldn’t I just enter everything directly into a computer program? I’ve asked myself that question, also. However, I concluded that it is easier to get all of the information sorted using a filing system, first. That way when I enter someone into computer software, I’ll have everything that I know about that person in hand and won’t have to keep flipping from one person to another.

Mom should have owned stock in sheet protector manufacturing companies. Recently I told my husband that I can foresee the end of using large quantities of sheet protectors. I can see using archival sheet protectors for original documents; not for every family group sheet! I also told him that I foresee the eventual end of using hanging folders.

I hope I’ll live long enough to get these files scanned and the data entered into computer software. My goal to eventually write several books. Every step takes me closer to leaving something meaningful for future generations.

For now I need to get back to sorting and filing!

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