How to Get Organized and Put Your Family History Household in Order

From Guest Blogger Denise May Levenick, a recent guest on The Genealogy Gems Podcast:

If you are buried under a mountain of genealogical clutter, take note that January is National Organizing Month and a great time to put your Family History Household in order. When Lisa and I chatted for Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 144, our conversation reminded me that we can all use a little help keeping the paper tiger under control.

This excerpt from my new book How to Archive Family Keepsakes takes a look at practical strategies to help you Break the Paper Habit. I hope it helps you get a start turning your paper mountain into a manageable molehill.

7 Steps Toward a Paperless Genealogy Office

If you are thinking about converting from paper to digital documents, consider the two types of documents you work with — Archive Originals and Working Documents — and take steps to accommodate preservation and efficiency for both.

Aim to minimize paper copies and maximize the efficiency of your computer file system. Minimize confusion by using the same file naming scheme and file folder organization for converted paper files and for new electronic documents.

1. Pick a Start Date. Businesses recognize the value of knowing exactly when they shifted from paper to digital; it’s easier to find things.

Select a meaningful date, if possible, your birthdate, January 1st, Tax Day, anything that will be easy to remember. Begin saving new information as digital documents and filing according to your file scheme. As you have time, work on digitizing past documents.

2. Print Less. Whenever you need keep information, choose to save a digital version instead of printing a copy.

3. Use a Consistent File Naming Scheme. If you’ve been using a computer for any length of time you probably already have a file-naming scheme in place. If not, or if you feel like you need a better system, investigate different options and find one that works for you before beginning a full-scale digital file management program. Find more information on file-naming schemes later in Chapter 13.

4. Purge the Paper — No doubt, you have a considerable amount of paper sitting on your desk right now. Your Digital Birthday is here; how do you handle the paper pile? You have two choices, digitize or purge. Do you really need to keep the paper copy? Is the information readily available online or in a public resource? See How to Archive Family Keepsakes, Chapter 9 for specific strategies on moving toward a paperless office.

5. KISS, Keep It Super Simple — Keep your system easy and intuitive. Don’t be tempted by fancy, hard-to-remember schemes. Develop a workflow that suits your own personal style, and tweak it until it’s nearly effortless.

6. Post a Workflow Cheat Sheet — Post a simple list to remind you of your paper workflow and file-naming scheme. This can be a real timesaver for those of us who research in bits and spurts on weekends and vacations.

7. Celebrate Your Digital Birthday — Every year on the anniversary of your digital switch, evaluate your current system and upgrade if necessary. This is especially important if you use CDs for external storage; CDs deteriorate over time and older formats should be upgraded to remain compatible with new operating systems.

This is also the perfect time to check your Archive Document storage. Look for any sign of mold, mildew, or bug infestation. Air out your closets. Do random spot checks of different file boxes and folders. Schedule any needed preservation or restoration projects.

Listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 144 to hear Lisa Louise Cooke interview Denise about her new book and share ideas on preserving family keepsakes.

Join the Blog Tour

Join the Blog Book Tour for How to Archive Family Keepsakes January 10-26, 2013 for author interviews, book excerpts, giveaways, and more. Visit the Blog Book Tour Page at The Family Curator for the complete schedule.

Proceeds from the sale of How to Archive Family Keepsakes during the Book Tour will help fund the 2013 Student Genealogy Grant founded in 2010 in honor of Denise’s mother, Suzanne Winsor Freeman.

Blog Book Tour Giveaways

It’s easy to enter to win a free copy of Denise’s new book or one of the weekly giveaway prizes. All you have to do is leave a comment to the Blog Tour Post hosted at one of the official tour blogs. Random winners will also be selected from social media comments on Twitter, FaceBook, and Google+.

Comment on daily Book Blog Tour Post
Tweet the Tour Twitter @FamilyCurator #keepsakebooktour
Share the Tour on FaceBook, Google+, Goodreads.

Each blog tour post comment gives you one chance to win; one entry per post per day, please. Leave a comment at each stop on the blog tour and increase your chances of winning. The lucky names will be announced each Saturday during the tour at The Family Curator.

About the Author

In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” Denise May Levenick is a writer, researcher, and speaker with a passion for preserving and sharing family treasures of all kinds. She is the creator of the award-winning family history blog, The Family Curator www.TheFamilyCurator.com and author of the new book How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records, (Family Tree Books, 2012).

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

United States Colored Troops (USCT) Service Records Digitization Project

Here’s the latest from the National Archives:

National Archives Marks 150th Anniversary of U.S. Colored Troops

Sic semper tyrannis - 22th Regt. U.S. Colored Troops, 1864. Bowser, David Bustill, 1820-1900 , artist

Sic semper tyrannis – 22th Regt. U.S. Colored Troops, 1864. Bowser, David Bustill, 1820-1900 , artist

Washington, DC. . . Marking (the) 150th anniversary of its creation, the National Archives announces the completion of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) Service Records Digitization Project, in partnership with Fold3.  For the first time, this collection – nearly four million images of historic documents with detailed information on former slaves – is available online to anyone, anywhere.

On May 22, 1863, the War Department issued General Orders 143, establishing a Bureau of Colored Troops in the Adjutant General’s Office to recruit and organize African American soldiers to fight for the Union Army.  These service records – including those of the men of the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry featured in the movie Glory – are a treasure trove for genealogists and a rich source of documentation on the black experience in America during the Civil War.

Researchers may be surprised to find that the USCT military service records hold not only muster rolls but also a huge array of personal papers that can include enlistment papers, correspondence, orders, prisoner-of-war memorandums, casualty reports, and final statements.  Starting in October 1863, slave owners could enlist their slaves and receive up to $300 upon filing a “manumission” or deed of ownership.  Unique to some of the records of the USCT are these deeds of manumission and bills of sale.  For genealogists, these records may offer the only source of documentation of an enslaved ancestor in the absence of other vital records.

For the first time, these valuable historical records are available online, thanks to Fold3, and to National Archives staff and volunteers who spent years preparing, preserving, microfilming, and digitizing them.  The collection is available free of charge to non-subscribers on www.fold3.com/category_268 today through May 31, and can be accessed for free at any time on computers at National Archives research facilities nationwide.

In total, the USCT consisted of seven cavalry regiments; 13 artillery regiments plus one independent battery; 144 infantry units; two Brigade Bands; and other miscellaneous smaller units.  Records are arranged by regiment and then alphabetically by surname of the soldier.

The USCT fought in 39 major engagements and more than 400 other ones.  Sixteen African American soldiers received the Medal of Honor.  The last USCT regiment was mustered out of Federal service in December 1867.

One soldier chronicled in the records is Edmund Delaney, a slave who served in Company E of the 117th USCT Infantry.  Delaney was 25 years old when he enlisted in August 1864.  His owner, Harvey C. Graves of Georgetown, Kentucky, filed a compensation claim for Delaney’s military service in December 1866, stating that Delaney was “purchased at private sale when he was quite a small boy.”  Graves attached to his “proof of ownership” a rare photo of Delaney, and letters Delaney had written to him while serving in Brownsville, Texas.

Another soldier’s file reads like an ultimate page turner and details the tragic story of Fortune Wright, a free black man before the Civil War who served in the 96th USCT Infantry.  Read USCT project manager Jackie Budell’s fascinating Prologue “Pieces of History” blog post.

More information:

Female Census Enumerators? Check Out These Backstories!

There’s a story behind every census record. In fact, there are as many stories as there are names on each census page. This is true not just for people being enumerated, but also for the census-takers themselves.

A female census taker interviews a mother and child for the 1950 US Census. Image courtesy of the US Census Bureau, found at Flickr Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

A female census taker interviews a mother and child for the 1950 US Census. Image courtesy of the US Census Bureau, found at Flickr Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/uscensusbureau/5020542240/in/photostream/.

I was reminded of this by Joanne, author of the Researching Relatives blog. She wrote in response to a blog post I wrote about a census taker a few months ago:

genealogy gems podcast mailbox“Thank you for inspiring me with one of your posts from October. I never paid attention to the census takers until I read your post, and then I went back and looked at some random pages and found two female census enumerators.”

Of course I went right to her blog. She says she looked through random census entries about her relatives without finding anything special. Then, “In the 1930 census, the enumerator was Anna M. Allen and, in 1940, it was Bessie Dorgan. I’m guessing that female census takers weren’t that unusual, but it still caught me by surprise. So like Lisa, I wanted to find out more.” She put her research skills to work and learned more about these women and their roles as providers for their family. Click here to read more about her discovery.

 

Do you blog about your family history? Have you ever blogged about a discovery made in response to a tip you got from Genealogy Gems? I’d love to hear about it! Learn more about blogging your family history in my FREE Family History Made Easy podcast, episodes 38-42. Learn how-tos and get inspired by the stories of others who are sharing their family history discoveries online!

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