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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring Cleaning Genealogy Style

In the spring, life is all about cleaning and organizing inside and out. I'm fairly organized (obsessive according to my family, but I digress), so restoring order has never required a huge amount of time or energy. Until I turn to my genealogy files.

Every piece of paper left unattended seems to multiple overnight. I used to awaken to an unruly stack of folders, forms, and files; the result of overzealous family history searches.

One day I had an epiphany. I needed a SOP for my hobby, something similar to what I had at work. And my genealogy took a turn for the better, both historically and environmentally.

To be effective, a Standard Operating Procedure has to be written. I appreciate good documentation since my aging brain cells can misplace even the most brilliant of ideas.

So I created a Word document that clearly spells out how I do things. Things like who gets a manila folder and how those folders are labeled. My SOP explains how a surname is determined to be worthy of its own hanging folder. Where unmarried daughters' records will be kept. How to tell (at a glance) the difference between three folders with the same first and last names on the labels. What each direct line folder should contain. The purpose of those color-coded folders in the front of each hanging file.

One of the reasons I documented my process was the gap between research opportunities. If too much time lapsed, I wouldn't remember where I had left off. My SOP is priceless for that alone, but even more so in many other ways:

* Who will take over my research? If they can't understand my system, what precious records will they toss?

* Fewer trees give their lives to the creation of census records printed two and three times because I didn't know I already had them. My SOP explains where one copy will be kept for each family group. Don't have the SOP handy? Not to worry. Part of the instructions are to put directions for shared records in each folder.

* Only a tiny increment of time to play genealogy? Each folder has complete information and 'next steps' are clearly explained.

It's quite possible that your system is better than mine. That's okay. Having a system is the real key. Consistently using that system is a time-honored method for unlocking more priceless family history treasures.


Michelle Goodrum said...

Great article! I have a SOP but it's not written and needs to be updated to reflect all of the digital resources. Thanks for getting me to thinking....

Nancy said...

This post states so clearly what might be difficult to see even though it's right in front of our noses. I am writing down my SOP. Thanks.
Nancy Hurley

Paula Talbert said...

Any advice for developing our individual genealogical SOPs?

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