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Paper or Digital?

Paper or Digital?

January 5, 2022

The sacker at your grocery store’s checkout may ask you, “Paper or plastic?” but for genealogy research, the key question is slightly different: “paper or digital?”

Let’s say you have started your genealogy research and are saving information digitally. Or maybe you have been researching for a while, and you want to go from all paper to digital. After loading your computer full of files, what’s next? You might want to organize your files so they are more manageable and easier to find. Here are some tips for that!

First, create a main folder on your hard drive or a removable drive. You will add more to this folder as you continue your research, so be sure there is plenty of space. Within this folder, you can create subfolders. Your subfolders can be surname folders or record types, such as pictures, vital records, etc. Choose whatever works best for you. If you have paper files you have organized and that system works well, use the same process for your digital files. Move your files to the appropriate subfolders, and be sure to be consistent with file names.

If you decide that hard copies are still the way to go for you, FamilySearch Wiki has a couple good articles on organizing files that can help: “Organizing Your Files” and “Genealogical Filing Systems (National Institute).” Another great place to turn to for ideas is Mid-Continent Public Library’s catalog. One highly recommended book that you can find here is Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher by Drew Smith.

There are also software apps that can help with organizing. Two of the more popular ones are Evernote and Trello. Search the web and find one that you like. Many have a free version.

Most importantly, remember to do what works best for you!

So, how do you organize your genealogy research—paper or digital? Let us know in the comments below!

Sheri V.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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