I continue to get the question in the classes I teach which goes like this: “I am overwhelmed and do not know where to start. I have (1 to 4) boxes of stuff retrieved from the old family attic, so where do I begin?”
First of all, I say you are lucky. Most people have yet to be told about the find in the attic, other have a sibling who forgot s(he) took the boxes, and many will never locate such a serendipity.
Next I say, read either in my book or on the internet how to record Source records. (I will give two examples shortly).
Then remove the first item out of the first box and put a sequentially numbered label on it if it is a piece or several of paper. The sequential number should be of the form 0001, which allows for 9,999 Source items. If it is a book or bedspread or otherwise clumsy item, then take a piece of paper, apply the label there, and describe on the paper what the item is and where you intend to locate it. For the regular piece of paper or book-replacement numbered 0001, insert it into a legal sized manila folder and do the following: Put the following on a log you will maintain, or prepare an entry in your genealogy software which looks like that below:
0050, Marriage Certificate, C. R. CARDWELL and Emily C. GRAHAM on March 15, 1876. Item 240 in the Madisonville, Hopkins County, KY Vital Records Department. The marriage was solemnized by Isaac H. Henry. Attested by C. R. Cardwell and Harvey Graham (father of bride). Groom age 22; bride age 22. Marriage to occur at Bride’s Home. Witnessed by William Bailey and Joseph Cardwell (brother to groom).
0095, Book, Some Early Pioneers of Western Kentucky, Their Ancestors and Descendants, by Helen E. Hart Peyton, Anundsen Publishing Company, Decorah, Iowa. 1990, Second Edition, found in this Compiler’s Library.
I strongly advise one to buy genealogy software early in your research, and equally important to learn how to enter Source records in that software.
Now, pick up the next item in Box 1, label it or a piece of paper as item 0002 and follow the procedure.
Now if the item is a photograph of totally unknown individuals, just set it aside for later reflection. Do the same for any item you deem useless until you are better acquainted with what are in fact very useful in genealogy, such as Wills, Propate Records, Divorce Degrees, Marriage Certificates, Death Certificates, Probate Inventories, Obituaries, Newspaper articles, Birth Certificates, Deeds, Land Warrants and the like.
Just continue with your serendipities.