Friday, July 18, 2014
Getting Organized (Part 2): Surname Notebooks
The reason for my Surname Notebooks is twofold:
FIRST, that it will help me know what I actually have in my possession. I know some of you may say that there are checklists that I can use, and that Tree Maker programs were made for that purpose, but I am a tactile gal! I NEED to touch it and see it. I need to be able to manipulate it and physically write notes out. For me, digital notes get lost in cyber space, no matter what I try to do because I forget what I have when I can't spread it out! I use Family Tree Maker 14 and LOVE it, but one screen at a time does not work for me. I have to be able to flip quickly and spread things out. Something else to know about me: I have always had trouble recalling information on demand. To help you understand what that means..... Imagine my brain is a bookshelf. I take meticulous notes when learning something and my brain files EVERYTHING on one of its shelves. The problem comes when I need to pull that information back out. I know it is in there, but I can't remember which shelf I put the information on. Alas, I realized I was beginning to have the same issue with all of my genealogy things. I needed a system that made it EASY to find ANYTHING I needed because I knew my brain wasn't going to give me any assistance!
The SECOND reason is to keep me focused! When doing research, one of the biggest issues for me is that I have family from multiple branches that lived practically on TOP of each other (and that does not include just my side of the family). I keep waiting for the day that I learn my son is his own 5th cousin. It hasn't happened yet, but if the town of Abbeville (South Carolina) or Oconee County (South Carolina) were populated in the 1800s with ANYONE my family is not related to, it is a blasted MIRACLE, which means I am still on the look out! Because of this, any research I do tends to make me feel EXTREMELY frazzled, being pulled in multiple directions. I might start out looking for Craigs in Oconee County, but end up finding Allgoods, Deans, Speeds, Weems, and Wallaces not to mention the Reids and Grishams from my husband's side of the family. When I research, I am always worried that if I leave "something" behind, I will never be able to find it again, so I stop and document each thing I come across, and 40 minutes later, I haven't got a CLUE what I started out doing. So............with these goals in mind, I started my new project, and so far, so good (although I will admit that I have only done a few and have a long way to go). But I have yet to encounter a document that was not easily placed and finding things has never been easier!
Too late to make a long story short (sorry about that!), I searched and searched and read every blog I could find and looked at every picture and idea posted on The Organized Genealogist Facebook Page. And FINALLY, I pieced together something that would work!!!
OK - Now Let's break it down:
I have this notebook started off with a Census Checklist. The Black blocks list their birth year and death year and the gray is there to help me remember that I don't need to be looking in the censuses for those years. (This one has not been filled out - I lost the one I had begun working on - imagine that!) This one is typed in Word, but I have begun switching each family's page over to Excel because it seems to be a little easier. You are welcome to use any of them if you think they will help you. I don't know that one is better than the other - it just depends on what you prefer. Below are the links to all three files that I have created.
After that, I have DIVIDERS WITH POCKETS!
Pockets are key for me so that if there is something that I know goes behind a specific tab, but I have not had the chance to deal with it, I know it still has a place to rest without getting misplaced. Each divider is for one generation (beginning with the most recent generation and going back in time). These are the Avery Pocket Divider and they rock! I have them in both 5 divider sets as well as 8 divider sets. Which one I use depends on how far I can go back in each family.
Behind each tab, I have a FAMILY GROUP SHEET (printed straight from my Family Tree Maker). It is SUPER EASY and a HUGE life saver! It lists all of the vital information I need to know at a glance.
Next, I printed all CENSUSES FOR THE FAMILY GROUP that I have found and put them in chronological order behind the group sheet. I have links in a separate blog entry (Going Digital!) to Word Document files I have made of blank US Census forms as well as a single Excel file I created with every Census in it so that I could transpose what I find, making it is easier to read. (I know there are blank pages that I can download and fill in, but I prefer things typed - I'm a wee bit too OCD to deal with the mistakes I tend to make while writing things out.) I would like to eventually have the originals AND the transcriptions back to back so that I have a version of the census that is easy on the eyes while still being able to see that I do have a picture of the original to compare it with.
With the rest of each divided section, I became VERY familiar and with mini post-it tabs! I made a HOMEMADE TABS for each individual that I have information on. It lists the full name on top with the family position under it (i.e. father, mother, son, daughter, granddaughter, grandson, etc.) and placed each on the edge of the first page with their individual information. I do everything in chronological order if I can, but try to have pictures along with any other items specific to each person in this section. For this 4th Great Grandfather (Andrew Muir Wallace), I have a couple of pictures (they are digital copies so I made a print out of each one), some documents from board meetings for the SC State Hospital that I found online through the SC Archives Search Page (he gave the land where it was built and served as the President of the Board of Regents for a while). I also have newspaper clippings (see example below).........
........ and I ended with his Will. Once I have a picture of his headstone (which I actually think I do, but it is still in the unorganized digital files I have yet to go through), the headstone picture will go after the will.
After the father's tab, I put a tab for the mother (both parent tabs are located at the top edge of the page). I began this mother's section with a print out of my blog post about her. I wanted to make sure that I had that to look back through or to be able to show anyone in the family that wants to see the notebook. I figured If I felt strongly enough to write about it, it needed to be put in the notebook.
After the parents, I go to the children and place their tabs on a second tier. All of Andrew's children's family group sheets stay in Andrew's section EXCEPT my direct ancestor's (because it goes behind a separate pocketed divider). After Andrew's children, I continue with any sibling's descendants that I know about (which are all grandchildren and great grandchildren of Andrew and Sarah). Andrew and Sarah had 11 children, so 10 of his children will have their families stay in Andrew's divided section, while my 3rd great grandfather moves into his own divided section. Below you can see how the post-it tab hierarchy works.
So sorry! I have apparently written an entire NOVEL instead of a blog post - oops!. I hope I didn't lose you in the process. If you have any questions or advice, I would love to hear it! I know that these notebooks mean I am using a lot of paper, but it has been EXTREMELY helpful in keeping me focused - I don't tend to get side tracked on other names as much! Taking the time to put the notebook together has also shown to be worth it when I went to be with family for the 4th of July. Our family land is near Oconee State Park and there is no good internet coverage there, so pulling up the digital files was not a great option, but the notebook was PERFECT! Everyone was able to look through it together, identifying people for me that I was unsure of (and since there were only printed copies of the photos, I was able to write directly on them without worrying about messing them up). They were also able to look at their group sheets to fix any mistakes I had quickly.
This is by no means the "end all, be all," but it has worked like a charm for me and so I thought I would share it in hopes that it might give a little peace of mind to someone else out there on another genealogical journey!
Here is a 1-2-3 Checklist (behind each pocket divider):
(a printed copy is made and hole punched into the notebook of any digital copies I have but originals are put in protective sleeves)
1. Family Group Sheet
2. Marriage certificate
3. Censuses for the family (in chronological order)
4. Any documents that have to do with the family as a unit (i.e. city directories when both parents were living or when children were living at the house)
5. family photos that have both parents with other family members
6. Father section (tab at top)
a. blog entries on the person (if I have any)
b. photos of father (in chronological order if possible) (photos of him by himself and with
any of his children or grandchildren)
c. documents (including letters written, wills, etc. - end documents with the will)
d. obituaries, funeral programs, death certificate and headstone photo
7. Mother section (tab at top)
***follow the same format as the father
8. First Child (tab at 2nd level)
a. his/her family group sheet
b. blog entries (if applicable)
c. birth certificate (of him and his wife)
d. marriage certificate (if applicable)
e. censuses (in chronological order)
f. any other documents that have to do with the family (including wife documents)
g. family photos or photos of him with his family
8a. First Child's children (in chronological order following the same order as parent)
*****tab at level 3 for these children******
9. Second Child (tab at 2nd level)
Let me know if you see any mistakes or if something is confusing. I am assuming that this
1-2-3 checklist will continue to be a work in progress.