Where Do You Store Your Information?

+11 votes
Hello, lovelies!

I recently came in contact with a fellow genealogist cousin of mine, and when we met she gave me some physical copies of information and family history. I recently went out and bought a nice red ring binder (my homage to the Red Book of Westmarch, haha) to store it in. I was curious where you guys store your information? Are you an exclusively online person? Or do you prefer strictly paper? Do you keep it neat and organised, or messy and haphazard? I'd love to hear about how you keep yours!
in The Tree House by Amelia Utting G2G6 Pilot (210k points)
Computer with backup. I'll never get it all online.
I like a paper trail along with online.

I place mine in hardback notebooks. I divide the grandparents up. Example

Roy Ware Mattie Gay Linger Ware then I do grandmother side in one hardback note book and my grandfather in a different. I do one grandparent at a time.I worked on my grandmother`s for months. Until I hit a great big Wall. So, I placed them a side. Then I  started on my grandfather`s side the Ware`s  I hit a wall after several grandparents. So I placed them a side. That was my Mother`s side. now I am working on my dad`s side. I bought two hardback note books one for my grandmother one for my grandfather`s side. I do for each side like this

 I do research on her side and place all the grandparents of her side in her folder . In order of grandparents. same as my grandfather.If their is important info. I print out place by the name.

As I do on my computer. I also make print for my sister and when I get  to a wall I mail out to her.

But, I like a paper trail. I place in my  holder that way I can just grab it when I want to do research.

I color code the note books. Seems like a lot of work But I like it.
I have multiple family trees in binders, duotangs, coil ring books, and loose sheets that were passed down to me from other family members. I keep everything in a trunk, but I would like to take all the sources and information I have from Wikitree and make a hard copy as well (maybe I will buy a nice leather-bound book!).  It would be nice to have all my lineages compiled into one easy reference place for my future descendants.  I also have accounts on myHeritage, and Ancestry.com (currently the free versions!) to maintain "unsourced" information/leads/speculations to facilitate future research. Perhaps a USB would be another way to preserve the information in case online sources ever go away, and/or my hard copies are physically destroyed for some reason.


I will add to backup the word "offsite" (as well as onsite)yes 

My genealogy stuff is quite messy but I am trying to organise it better. I use blank books to write my research in, one book per what I am trying to find out or one book per family group etc. Eventually those books will form the history of my research into the family that hopefully my children will treasure in years to come. I guess that is one of my problems with digitisation it is taking the personal out of family history. Our ancestor's handwriting is a precious gift and if everything is typed maybe we will eventually lose that part of our genealogy. My mother used to write stories, I have them now and they are all hand written. Her handwriting was terrible and if you weren't used to it you wouldn't be able to read it but I wouldn't give up her stories just for that little technical difficulty, her hand writing was part of her character, part of who she was.  .

     The problem with my books though is that I spend quite a bit of time flipping through them trying to find a particular idea or bit of information. In conjunction with my books  I was also putting the documents in separate plastic folders, one folder per couple, but they started turning my papers yellow as well as being a bit disjointed from my research notes.

     Now I'm thinking of using folders (what you call binders) because the organisation of those would be more flexible probably keeping my idea of having one family group per folder. I am currently using three separate on-line sites to record my family tree, WikiTree, Family Search and Ancestry.com so that the tree is kept safe. I'm not so keen on personal electronic storage because the operating systems move on and information can be lost (so I will probably keep using my books as back ups, besides I like writing in them!).

    With precious family papers, I am lucky enough to have my parent's and my grandparent's (on my mother's side) marriage certificates and my dad's original apprenticeship papers. These are treated like royalty and have their own storage place and do not become part of the general disorganisation. What I would say if you are digitising and have plans to turf the originals, hold that thought, donate them to a repository if you can't find a good home for them among your family because once lost they can never be recovered.

      I guess what I'm saying is - organising is good but not at the expense of what really gives our family its individuality - those pesky little pieces of inconvenient mess - the things that our ancestor's held in their hands and now we hold in ours. Maree.

Good point.

13 Answers

+6 votes
A wardrobe full of paper! Got to get it all online as it will go on the fire when I die.
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (342k points)
+6 votes

That's an unusual question. Suddenly am reminded of the unorganized sacks of photos, remnants of old scrapbooks tossed into storage boxes, placed hither and thither in my little apartment. Sigh.

My mom and dad, now deceased, moved cross country many times during the 60s and 70s, and in the process their archives got shuffled. When they needed to move to a nursing home (this is heart breaking) they had to sell their house to pay for care. My brother and sisters and I were unable to personally supervise the "estate sale". One of my sisters now has a few boxes of their personal papers in her apartment. We are all thousands of miles apart. Nobody has been through those boxes yet.

Bit by bit I will one day organize the meager papers I have, and scan whatever documents. Maybe there will be a chance to work with my sister on her boxes too. Probably for our family the most important action to undertake will be scanning and sharing.

I don't put documents online however. Storage is on my personal drive ... or in boxes.

Thanks for your question!

by C Ryder G2G6 Mach 9 (90.4k points)
+5 votes
I have piles of orange enevlopes stuffed full of papers, records and photos, all of which i am trying to scan in to the hard drive to save them.
by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
+4 votes
When I began I had a Windows 98 computer and dial up modem, the message boards at Ancestry were key - wrote it all out and have several binders as I like to have that, When I found out how much was messed up about different lines in my tree this really helped find the right ones - gave up and just recently returned to the tree and now here and I got GRAMPS but have yet to figure out how to use it
by Navarro Mariott G2G6 Pilot (171k points)
Oh goodness, dial up! I was pretty young when dial up was removed from my life (perhaps seven or eight?) but I still remember the absolute boredom of having to wait for the ringing tone...congratulations for soldiering through! -A
Navarro, I started pre Windows, I had a PC that ran PC DOS, and I had no internet. I still have papers in a folder that are over 40 years old written by my grandmother who gave them to me in the 1980's. She had a lot of spelling errors, with names, that have made research difficult and many newspaper clippings that have no note as to relationship to the family so I can appreciate how you feel. As an aside, I run Legacy 9 on my home PC, free version, and have found it easier to use than GRAMPS.
Yep I remember dial up and using a dot-matrix printer to print out everything really slowly (and it was so noisy!) That was in the days when I used to have to access the old IGI on microfice in some volunteer's spare bedroom, before FamilySearch went online!
+4 votes
I do not keep mine exclusively online, in fact I am starting to do any new actual family data on a program on my desktop computer. I am also still working on a big pile of handwritten papers my grandmother gave me over 30 years ago. some is in binders but more recently I started grouping the actual papers into folders to sort for relevance. I have many backups for the stuff stored on my PC and a lot of the same data is on WikiTree. I am fortunate to live near a Family History Library and even my local library has a genealogy section with a staff genealogist that provides access to a lot of pay sites for free. That is one reason a lot of my new research is not on WikiTree, my current goal is to sometime soon give most family members a digital copy of my work to do what they wish with it, I do point some toward WikiTree but most do not even bother to look at it and my way seems to work a little better.
by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)
+5 votes
Most of mine is on my laptop and backed up both onsite and offsite. There are still tons of old photos and papers and a file cabinet that have things to be scanned and preserved. I'm slowly moving things to WT as an additional backup mechanism but it takes time.

I, too, started pre-Internet and have used a number of programs. I currently use MacFamilyTree for its charts and ability to also use on my phone when not at home. It is backed up mulitiple ways as well.

Those boxes of papers will take forever to digitize but need to be done.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (549k points)
Wow that's a pretty cool program!
+3 votes
I store everything digitally now in OneNote in a format similar to the binders i used to use. It is backed up in the cloud and locally. It makes all my work totally portable — something i need since I house sit and move from place to place — and accessible on multiple devices. I can also print out a PDF file to share with non-genealogist family members and collaborate via a public notebook with cousins. Although WikiTree is another way to collaborate as well. :-D

edited to fix typos.
by Erin Klein G2G6 Mach 2 (28.7k points)
edited by Erin Klein
I love this idea! I especially like that it makes it easy to organize, and I can even print the info out easily. I'm trying to work on a standard form, but I don't really know what to put on it yet so this is easier. Besides, this actually works great because I don't have to write everything out, so there's no concerns about it being unreadable to someone else if I want to share or leave it behind ;)
+1 vote
I just started using a file box, I lost a lot in the past saving things on the computer. Now not only save on the computer I print things out and put it in the file folder it goes in. That way I will have the important things in case of a comp crash.
by Dallace Moore G2G6 Pilot (158k points)
Paranoia says to also keep a copy somewhere other than your house. Disasters hit there as well as computers.

Great idea Doug, now why didn't I think of that. surprise

+5 votes
I have over 30 years of research in about 100 ringbinders that take up most of one room. But I also have most of my research backed up on my pc, online and on the cloud, and now about to start working through my folders to get rid of the paper and create more space!
by Michelle Wilkes G2G6 Pilot (174k points)
wow 100 binders!  That is so cool!
+1 vote
A side question that is related, for those that backup up into the cloud, what service do you use? We use Apple's TimeMachine for local backup and Backblaze for cloud backup of our laptops. Our NAS server for photographs and other larger size storage is backed up to Amazon S3.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (549k points)
+2 votes
I prefer to hang onto hard copies of all of my documentation, especially old family letters and records, but also keep a scanned digital copy on a series of external hard drives that can be transported easily.

The documentation and photos are organized into binders for each specific branch. I have inherited all the family photos, papers, and records, so the binders now fill three bookcases in my office. I still have several large plastic totes full of unsorted photos and papers left to go through, organize, and compile into binders.
by Chad Stumph G2G3 (3.6k points)
Yes, despite my original answer I do keep hard copy of certificates and other documents. They are laminated in plastic folders.
+1 vote
I use the purchased version of Legacy.  It assigns a marriage number to each couple.   I transcribe everything into the program with its source.  It is backed up to the cloud and stored on my laptop backed up to  a desktop with an external drive auto backup.

I store hard copies in binders. White for my family. Red and blue for the families of my two spouses.   I currently have three white 4 inch binders. Original documents are in plastic sleeves (photos,  birth certificates etc) other copies I may want are just hole punched.  I don't keep hard copies of every online source.

The items in the binders are arranged by their Legacy marriage number.   That makes it easy to locate what I  need by just  checking the database for the number.  I also have binders for research on place and family lines like trees shared by other  family members.

I am hopeful that having it organized will encourage someone to think it valuable enough to keep when I am gone.
by Cherry Duve G2G6 Mach 7 (70.6k points)
+1 vote
Oddly enough, I use WIkiTree as my Archive.

My family kept almost nothing in regards to a paper trail of family history.  Except photographs of which I have quite a few.  Only Mom and I were interested in our family roots. My sisters still think I am nuts for the amount of time I spend on my research.  My father was estranged from his family and couldn't care less. And sadly, most of what Mom knew about her side was basically hearsay, conjecture and recollections,  which have since proved to be about 50% correct.

I started my earnest searching in the digital age and though this may seem anathema to many old school genealogists, 99.9% of my research has been performed on online sites.  To me, an image of a death record is no different than having a piece of a dead tree in my hand.  My online image is as good as their Xeroxed copy.  And most of the historical books I need are online and in the Free Domain as well permitting me to use them as a URL based source.

While I do take screen shots of many images, many I don't.  Census reports for one.  I will always be able to find an online image of a specific a Census record in this day and age.  So why fill up a hard drive with those?  I do keep the more esoteric items.  Many of which I load or will to WikiTree.  And having been involved in personal computers since the days we used cassette tapes to load programs, floppy discs were a gift from God!  I am reticent to load a lot of images as I still have that storage space limit bug-a-boo in my psyche.  LOL Old habits and such...

Also, when I shed my mortal coil, WikiTree will still be here.  If I left boxes of papers or a computer with FTM or Legacy, well, one man's treasure is another man's trash and I know where my immediate family will file it.  LOL  I have no children to pass on my interest and to my nieces and nephews, it is just a passing fancy to them and soon find other more immediate pursuits to follow.

I am a digital genealogist.  Am I better or worse than those with reams of detailed historical papers.  No.  I just use a different methodology in pursuit of the same goal.  I do create Gedcom files and store them online, Amazon cloud, but that is about it.  And these are mostly insurance for my own use in case my local HD decides to fail.
by LJ Russell G2G6 Pilot (221k points)

Related questions

+4 votes
6 answers
262 views asked Nov 27, 2018 in Genealogy Help by James Wilson G2G Rookie (250 points)
+14 votes
7 answers
302 views asked Mar 16, 2016 in The Tree House by Living Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (447k points)
+6 votes
1 answer
+7 votes
2 answers
+6 votes
0 answers
+12 votes
4 answers
144 views asked Nov 1, 2023 in Photos by Jo Gill G2G6 Pilot (172k points)

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright