piles of genealogy paperwork for filingI work in a genealogy store, and there is one question that customers ask fairly regularly, and fair enough as it is a very important one, and that is “how should I organise my genealogy?” Now obviously those who ask the question expect to get a straight-forward answer complete with details on just how to do it, so they can go home and implement it and then be able to find any given record or document within seconds … sadly the answer is not that simple.

The simple answer is that “there is no right or wrong method”. I know, that’s not what you wanted to hear, but it is true.

There are many different filing methods out there, and it really is “what works best for you”. One that you feel comfortable with, one that you can understand, and one that fits into your home (this is important too, or else your family are likely to get cranky if you start using their rooms for your filing cabinets, or bookcases).

You need a system that will allow you to be able to locate that photo, that document, or anything to do with the 3 cousin of your grandma’s in just a minute or so. Now that takes some work, BUT put it into perspective, how long have you spent looking for something you know you have,  but can’t find? Put some effort into filing (I know, filing is never going to be fun), and you can spend all that extra time actually doing more research!

There’s the manilla folder method, the ring binder method, the colour coded method, and the filing cabinet method just to mention a few.

Now as there are plenty of good resources already available on this subject, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, but rather direct you to some of the many wonderful resources that are available, so you can read, watch and make up your own mind as to how you’d like to organise your genealogy.


Cyndi’s List has a whole category devoted to organising.

FamilySearch is a wonderful place for more than just searching for names. They have a fabulous article on organising your files, together with a video on how the organise your records.

About Genealogy has a great list of organisation tips for genealogists.

The Family Curator tells us about Four Tried and True Systems for Organizing Genealogy Research.

The Organized Genealogist goes  into far more than just organising your paperwork.

Elyse Doerflinger doesn’t just TELL us about the system she uses, she SHOWS us in this YouTube video.

Legacy Family Tree has links to a number of webinar CDs, together with a bunch of articles they have written on the topic of organisation.

Dick Eastman has put a powerpoint ‘The Organized Genealogist’ up on SlideShare, and in doing so reminds us there are more that simply paper files to organise.



Books are great to get ideas on organisational methods (note most of these are now out of print, but you be able to find a secondhand copy):

The Organized Family Historian by Ann Carter Fleming, ISBN 9781401601294

30 Seconds: A Guide to Organizing Your Genealogy Files  by Robert R. Langman and Jimmy B. Parker, ISBN 9780971252608

Organizing Your Family History Search: Efficient & Effective Ways to Gather and Protect Your Genealogical Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, ISBN 9781558705111

Lets Get Organized!: A Practical Guide For All Aspects of Family History Research by Penelope Christensen, ISBN 1894018818


So there’s just a few links to get you thinking about what style of system you’d like to use for your genealogy filing system. There’s a whole heap more out there … and feel free to visit our friend Google if you want more. But sometimes more isn’t always a good thing, so I’ve just left it at those I have listed above.

I wish you all the best with your filing, and happy researching!