I am sitting in the middle of my living room with little scraps of paper all over the place.  I wish I could blame my puppy for the mess, but it’s all my fault.  I had this brilliant idea recently that I was finally going to organize all my genealogy files and paperwork into Surname Notebooks.  It sounded like a great idea, but I think someone needs to have me committed…I MUST BE CRAZY!!!!

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I was feeling a bit overwhelmed when I made this choice and now I’m EXTREMELY overwhelmed.  By the time I pulled every file, stack of papers, bits of scrap paper with information jotted on it, and booted up my computer, I had more that I ever imagined possible.  But I couldn’t stop there.  I needed a sense of accomplishment on this project and also I desperately needed to make sure I had everything possible on my ancestors in my computer as well as their paper files.  I figured I better try to tackle this before it totally gets out of hand. <TOO LATE!!!>

STEP 1 – Make the notebooks

This was the easy part!  I grabbed 5 notebooks and made covers and spines for them.  They look really nice with the family Surname in fancy print and a copy of each surname crest.  Simple enough….I’m a graphic designer.  This part I could do with my eyes closed.

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STEP 2 – Separating the pile

Now this part took some time.  I literally sat on the floor with the huge pile of papers in front of me and I sorted them, one at a time into piles by Surname.  Not bad….it only took me about an hour.  By this time I was beginning to see that there were several of my family lines that I could probably handle pretty quickly.  So I matched up each pile with the corresponding notebook.  At least my living room floor looked good again….until I let the puppy back in….then it was covered in a different kind of clutter.

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STEP 3 – One Notebook at a Time

It’s probably cheating, but I took the notebook with the least amount of papers and started with that one.  Yeah…it was a cop-out….but what can I say.  I needed to see some more progress at this point.  Again, I sat on the floor and started sorting the papers.  This time by individual.  It actually was going pretty smooth…then I realized that I had some people that, obviously, crossed Surnames.  My Grandma Anna would actually be in 3 notebooks (her Maiden Name book, and also in the Surname books of both of her husbands).  Fortunately I was finding some duplicate papers, so I didn’t need to make a lot of photocopies.

STEP 4 – Making sure the information is in the computer

OK…so this one was definitely NOT the most fun…but it was a VERY necessary part of the organization project.  Once my notebooks were assembled I made sure that every document was carefully read and the information entered into my software program.  This served 2 purposes….I was sure I had the information logged, and it made me re-read each document.  I actually found several pieces of information that I had missed before.  I also made sure I had each item scanned and uploaded as media to my genealogy software.  This took more time than all the remaining organization steps combined….actually, I’m still working on this one.  But I still moved forward with the next step…

STEP 5 – Genealogical Cemetery Reports

This was a new step for me.  Something that I’ve been wanting to do, but just haven’t had the time or the desire to get it done.  Each “report” is individualized with an ancestors name and vital information along with a picture of their headstone, urn, etc.  There is also cemetery information or cremains location information and information on their Find a Grave Memorial.  As part of this process, I created a Find a Grave Memorial for each relative as I was creating these reports.

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I do have one additional step that I’m working on and it will be a continuous process.  Making a list of what I still need….by individual.  This is going to be a very important step for me, as I found out I have duplicates of several documents.  Things I didn’t remember I had because it was in a pile somewhere.  Now I know what I have and what I still need.

NOW WHAT…..

Well…Truthfully…I’m not sure.  I’m still working on making sure that all the information is in the computer and scanned…and I’m still photographing graves and entering info into the Cemetery Reports.  But I know this for sure….I’m feeling much more organized and a little more sure of what I have and what I’m missing.  A little organization has gone a long way in helping me feel much better about my project…and my house!  I no longer get frustrated that I’m missing a little piece of paper that I wrote a couple dates on.  They have all been put where they belong…..FOR NOW!  The trick will be to keep the system going and not go back to my addiction for little pieces of paper.  I might need to create my own 12-step program eventually!

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The final project…not complete…but, truthfully, they never will be totally complete!

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