Organizing Your Genealogy Materials

No items found.

If you have been doing genealogical research for any length of time, you may have pedigree charts and copies of various documents piled on your desk, stashed in your filing cabinet, or stored in odd places on your computer.

There are so many items that you can collect – digital photos, photographs, digital copies of records, original records, letters from distant cousins, pedigree charts filled out by grandmothers, and family group sheets from great uncles – that it is almost impossible to know where to begin organizing it all.

The first step is to decide how to physically store your collection:

  • file folders
  • binders
  • computer files

File folders are portable, but need expensive file cabinets for storage. Papers won’t fall out of a binder and it makes it easy to see images and documents. On the other hand, binders can consume valuable space on your bookshelf. Digital files take up no space, but do require knowledge of computers and diligent back-up routines.

My genealogical data is split between file folders and my computer. That said, I’m always very impressed when people show me their family history that has been collated in a binder. Maybe, someday, I’ll make a “show” binder full of pedigree charts, photos, and my favorite documents.

Once you decide on a storage method for your genealogy material, the next step is decide how to organize the materials. Several common organization methods are by family line, event, document type, or location. Perhaps the most common is by family line as that is how many genealogists approach their research.

And true to form, this is how my file folders are organized. I have one for each of my four grandparent’s families. The four folders contain Christmas letters, funeral cards, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and research done by my relatives. I did have copies of census records made in the 1990s, but I got rid of those and replaced them with digital files.

My digital files are organized first by record type, then by location. For example, I have one file for census records that has subfolders for states where my ancestors lived and subfolders for counties within those states. In the county folder are the actual census images. If my file structure were to be written out it would look like this:

US Federal Census – 1880 Census – Tennessee – Granger – Actual Census Images

This structure makes sense for me as I have many ancestral lines that came from the same states.

There is no right or wrong way to store or organize your genealogy materials. You simply need to make sure that you can find the document you need when you need it. Whatever organizational structure you select, write it down, post it somewhere, and then stick to it.

For more information on organizing your genealogy research visit our Pinterest boardOrganize Your Family History.

by Amanda Epperson © 2015,, All rights reserved

click to go to our respective social media site

Be sure to subscribe to the blog above to automatically receive our next article.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Written by


January 29, 2015
Wesley is the founder of

Additional ARTICLES