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When teaching my class in genealogy at the local University Continuing Eduction Center, I ask students how they are maintaining their Source files. The answers vary from (1) in 3-ring binders, to (2) in folders by type, that is marriage and death certificates, obituaries and so forth.

I then ask the students how do they file , let’s say, the marriage certificates: by bride, by groom. Or do they duplicate them and file both ways. Or do they when asked for a copy, just find what they are looking for by going through the entire file from beginning to end.

What I do is the following. I sequentially number each document with a label and place the document into a legal sized manila folder, keeping the folders in sequence as well. Legal sized because many documents are on legal paper, 11 X 17. On the backside of the folder I put the beginning number to facilitate retrieval. Thus the bottom folder is “1″, the next might be “52″, the next “68″ and so forth.

After attaching the label with its sequential number, I prepare the record for Sources in my genealogy software. In that record will be placed the sequential number.

Here is an example.

0051, Marriage Certificate, Emsley C. BOBBITT and Mary. W. RASH on October 11, 1838.  Solemnized by E. M. Earle. From Madisonville, KY Vital Records Department.

Seen above, this is the 51st document or Source record I have (numbered 0051 so that I can handle 9,999 records) and is a marriage certificate of the named individuals.

If the Source is a book in my library, I place the numbered label on a sheet of paper with the name and author of the book and where it is in my library. If I have xeroxed pages from a book, the label goes on the front page of the set and then into the manila folder. If the item is a grandfather’s hammer, a sheet with label is made and includes a description and location of the hammer.

I have a personal rule that for an item to be a Source, I must own and have possession of it or a copy. If let’s say a cousin has and will not share even a copy of an item, I place such information in the Notes of the software to allow for a degree of confidence in the information, but not a true Source record per se.

I have more than 2,000 records. I can find any one of them in 10-15 seconds.


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