When dancing with the ancestors it is not possible to not accumulate multitudes of paper. Trust me on this one. Before you know it, you'll have paper, paper everywhere.
The first step in this paper not overwhelming your life, or the closet in my office, as the case may be, is to get some file folders and a sharpie! Any color will do.
Then, you print off that Census Record for your 3 x great grandfather. Get a file folder and . . .
. . . label it!
For example ~ Maternal: Sweat
Now, this can get out of hand if you have a folder for every ancestor. The further back you go, the greater the number of ancestors. For me, I create a surname folder only, stick everything for members of that surname in the folder, and label as indicated above. Next, on the inside of the folder, I include the descent from that surname down to me.
So, for example, my Boarman line. The folder label would be ~ Maternal: Boarman
On the inside of the folder I would write out the descent as follows . . .
Boarman - Halswell
Boarman - Linle
Boarman - Pile
Boarman - Edelen
Boarman - Boone
Boone - Hagan
Boone - Hagan
Boone - Duvall
Boone - Watson
Boone - Sweat
Sweat - Mitchell
So, when next I pull out that folder, I can easily trace the descent.
The second step of file storage is digital. SCAN EVERYTHING! Or, just save the file rather than printing it off and save a tree or two!!
Once you have everything in a digital format, you need to save it in some semblance of order so as not to drive yourself - short drive with me sometimes - insane trying to find the document you know you saved, but just can't find.
First, I create a Folder called: Family Tree
Then, I create four folders within that main folder using my grandparents surnames: Mitchell, Smith, Sweat, and Boone.
Now that I have the main branches of my family tree, I then create folders within those folders. For example . . .
Mitchell: Forrest, Tate, McGregor, McGee, Clendennin, etc.
Smith: Lane, Halterman, Sevier, Campbell, etc.
Sweat: Morris, Langdon, Hare, Page, Hussey, etc.
Boone: Watson, Duvall, Hagan, Edelen, Blandford, Bevan, Boarman, etc.
Anytime I find a document, picture, or whatever related to a particular family, I save it to the appropriate folder.
First, this makes things much more organized and easy to find. Second, when doing a blog post about a particular surname, or deciding to work on a family history book, the source information is in two locations: the paper file and the digital file.
I also save the digital files to three locations: hard drive, flash drive, and external hard drive. Better safe than sorry!
Last, but not least, is naming the files. You don't want to just save a file as 1850 Census Record or a picture as Tombstone. I actually do the following: James D. Tate - 1850 Warren County Census or James D. Tate - Tombstone. This way, I can easily go to whatever file I need at the moment, without having to open up a bunch of files to find what I'm looking for in the first place. Yes, I wasn't so good at labeling in the beginning. I learned from my mistakes. Ha!
So, when dancing with the ancestors with paper, paper, everywhere, organization is important!!