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How did I get all these little pieces of paper…..

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!!!!


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.


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.


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.


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!

The final project…not complete…but, truthfully, they never will be totally complete!
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Where did all these files come from?!?!?! YIKES!

Last night I started working on something that I had been promising myself I’d do for MONTHS!  Organize my genealogy files on my computers….yes…I said COMPUTERS…plural!  I had a laptop that I used primarily for genealogy research…a nice big 17″ screen, mega hard drive space, lots of memory for speed….I LOVED IT!  Then it died! 😦  So I had to switch to my “travel” laptop…the one I bought for my trip to Salt Lake City in September of 2011.  It’s cute…it’s lightweight and compact…has a small 10″ screen (perfect for travel but not for everyday use)….and its purple!  Beyond that it has no appeal for me…its slow, its hard to read anything on the screen, and for whatever reason, when I boot it up my blood pressure boots up too.  And of course, then there are the multiple flash drives….what was I thinking!?!?!?!  UGH!

So…about a month ago I bought a new, supercharged, high speed, large screen laptop again!  Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!  I’m back in Genealogical Heaven!  But…..(There’s almost always a “But”, isn’t there?)….None of my important files are on it…yet!

I decided last night I was going to make sure I had all my up-to-date genealogy files, programs, notes, etc. moved onto this new toy of mine.  I had the data off the dead laptop on an external hard drive and I booted up the mini-purple monster and decided to clean the mini-monster off first, and have those files join the others on the external hard drive.  I think I know why it was so slow now….47 GB of genealogy based files!!!  WHAT?!?!?!?!  Where did all those come from?  I think my ancestors have been multiplying while I sleep!  Then I moved all the files from my flash drives to the external hard drive.  OK…I’m now up to over 85GB of files!  MY FAMILY ISN”T THAT BIG!!!  What the H-E- double hockey sticks happened?!?!?!

What I figured would take me a couple hours to organize might just take me an entire rainy weekend to sort out….good thing its supposed to rain all weekend!  Although I really didn’t expect to have to devote hours (or days) to this project, I’m determined to get everything organized so I can make some major progress on these trees over the next couple months.  So…now that I have the 85GB+ of files….what’s next?  I’m sitting here scratching my head with all kinds of ideas running wild inside my head (Not advisable without a really powerful flashlight…its scary in there!).

Here’s how I plan to tackle my nightmare of files….First I need to make some basic files on my new laptop.  One file that simply is called “Duplicates”.  Then I need files for each of my trees (Notice I didn’t say family lines on this one).   This should help narrow it down.  Then under each tree I plan to have family surname files.  And of course I need a file for those questionable documents that I saved but I’m not positive they are family…and another for scans of photos I have no clue who the people are yet.  That should be a good start!  Right????  (Please say yes, please say yes….)

One other thing I didn’t mention…I’m MOVING the files to the new directories…not COPYING them.  The last thing I need is  another 85GB+ of files.  And then I’m backing everything up to my cloud…never going to trust a computer to always work…never trusting an external hard drive as a backup.  Always, Always, ALWAYS have multiple backup versions (in separate locations!).  It’s worth the time and effort to make sure your valuable documents are always safe and accessible.

At least I have a game plan for the massive amounts of files.  Now to get working on it.  Looks like its going to be rainy but productive weekend of the typical housework, laundry, and cooking…but MAINLY focused on genealogy files and organization!  WISH ME LUCK….hopefully I will survive!!!!