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Archive for the ‘Sorting’ Category

For a few days last week during the latest winter weather, I tackled more of the boxes in my back storeroom. These are boxes of research notes and memorabilia from my mother, my grandmother, my mother-in-law, two great-aunts, and our own lives with children and grandchildren. At one time, boxes filled a spare bedroom, the storeroom, and the shelves in my office.

Good news: 11 four-drawer filing cabinets have some empty space.

Net result in this latest effort: nine boxes emptied, two overflowing boxes went to the recycle bin, one large garbage bag to the dumpster, a stack to our shred box and the remainder filed. And, I still have room in the filing cabinets for more!

While we continue to have items in the spare bedroom, the storeroom and on the shelves in my office, I see hope for getting the remaining items out of the spare bedroom soon. Also, the storeroom is beginning to see “the light of day”… pun intended; this room doesn’t have any windows!

Three years since my December retirement date; I continue to chug along like “The Little Engine that Could.”

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More stuff! Overhead projector transparencies! A while back I looked at one section of my office library shelves and realized that two entire 45-inch shelves were filled with 3-ring binders of old presentation materials. These are from the years when I enjoyed giving genealogy presentations to various local groups. I spent hours and hours researching and preparing for these public speaking events.

Specifically, the notebooks on my shelves dated 1999 through 2004. The binders were full of my notes, reference materials, handouts, publicity flyers, and the transparencies. I remember how I carefully stored them in sheet protectors and discretely numbered each one in case I ever dropped the pile and had to put them back in order! I wonder how much money I spent on boxes of blank transparencies and sheet protectors? To each event I generally transported a screen and a very nice, but large and cumbersome overhead projector purchased at an Iowa Genealogical Society garage sale (when I began using PowerPoint, I donated the projector back to IGS–they probably didn’t want it any more than I did).

My strategy with the overflowing binders on my shelves:

1) since I no longer enjoy preparing and giving presentations, and
2) since some of the material is out-of-date,

I decided to scan and toss! The likelihood that I will give any more presentations is very small, but, just in case, I will not have to start from scratch should I want to reference any of this material.

As I went through the binders I was quite surprised to discover some valuable information that I can use for reference in my upcoming writing projects; thus, it was worth the time to review my research from more than a decade ago! And, by scanning it, I can reference what I need without having the notebooks cluttering my office.

I admit it: I saved some paper materials from four of my favorite presentations, but the transparencies have gone to the landfill to deteriorate over the next million years. Too bad we haven’t always been as aware of the permanency of these materials as we are today.

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More “stuff!” This time it was the stack of notes and syllabus materials from all of the conferences I have attended. As most of the material went into our recycle bin, I made a spreadsheet of the conferences, dates, topics, and primary speakers. Interesting! I have attended conferences regularly since 1999: most Iowa Genealogical Society (IGS) fall conferences, IGS spring conferences, five national conferences, some regional conferences and two national institutes. In all, the list includes 35 educational events in 17 years.

Not only did I learn from the speakers, I developed many contacts through networking with other attendees. I always paid for the expensive conference meals so I could sit at tables with other serious genealogists and ask my questions. When vendors lugged books to the conferences, I overspent my budget to purchase abundantly! Once home, I studied many of them cover to cover. I also purchased tapes from the national conferences and have listened to many over and over.

My parents always encouraged me to “take advantage of opportunities!” Today I am a much better genealogist for having attended, listened, talked, and studied.

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What to do with literally hundreds of old letters?

What do I have:

  • All of the Christmas letters described in a previous post
  • Letters that my uncle sent to his parents while serving in World War II
  • Letters exchanged between my parents before they married as well as some intermittent correspondence in their early married years
  • Letters between Dave and me during our courtship and our early married years while Dave was in the military
  • Letters Dave and I sent to family and friends during our three years in Germany. It is probably very unusual to have copies of all the letters sent, but I had a typewriter in Germany and had access to carbon-sets… these consisted of 6 sheets of paper with carbon paper between the sheets. I typed a letter every week and sent copies to family members, retaining the final carbon copy for our own records. At least three family members also saved all of the letters sent to them, and now we have those copies, as well. Many times, I wrote individualized notes at the end of the letters to family members, so we now also have those notes.
  • The letters Dave and I received from family and friends during our years in Germany
  • Many letters my aunt sent to my parents over the years
  • Other miscellaneous letters that my grandmother saved from her family

    The plan: sort, scan, place in archival sheet protectors, and transcribe.

    Priority: All (including envelopes) need to be sorted, scanned and placed in archival protection ASAP. Especially important is being sure we have additional copies in case disaster strikes the originals!!!

    The transcription process can be done later.

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  • What to do with piles and piles of Christmas cards received over the years?

    We’re talking about many of the cards my mother has received in recent years as well as the cards Dave and I have received over the years.

    The good news: most cards are bundled by year, either secured with a rubber band or placed in separate plastic grocery bags; not helter-skelter in boxes.

    More good news: I have a plan: save all letters and extensive notes written on cards from relatives and special friends and verify the year is written on the letter or note. (You might be surprised how often people do not include the year when they write.) Then file them in my genealogy files under the name of the sender.

    The cards with mere signatures: recycle. A group at our church saves postage stamps for a mission project; a couple grandchildren will help us cut the stamps off the envelopes and we will donate them; the remainder of the envelopes: recycle.

    The not-so-good news: I estimate I’m only about half way through the collection that I know about; this doesn’t include the ones I will find as I go through more boxes.

    Remember, I’m still in the sorting stage with all of our boxes. For the most part, I have not started scanning. I’m chipping off the iceberg, one piece at a time.

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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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