Marrying my electronic and paper files

Store census documents by pressing Print, rather than SaveI used to be a paper gal. But when it comes to my genealogy records, I’ve stopped pressing the Print button. At the moment almost all my genealogy research is being done online, so I’m really understanding the utility of clicking Save rather than Print.

Part of the reason I’ve been able to make the shift is that I’ve set up a good electronic file system. That gives me confidence that I’ll find what I need on my hard drive.

Switching from paper to electronic has ramifications in at least a couple of areas. It means that it’s changing how I do things from this point forward. That’s no problem. But it also means I have a backlog to deal with. In the past, I’d print and file census documents and other resources I found online, rather than save them electronically. While all the information are recorded in my software (I use Reunion), the source documents themselves might be in a file or might be on my hard drive.

So this week, I’ve been working on marrying the two systems. It’s going to be a long process. What I’m doing is taking out a file folder for a couple and going through the documents, making sure they’re included in my software and seeing if they’re on my hard drive. If they’re not, I’m finding them online and saving them within my file structure.

I’m also taking the opportunity to do one other thing while I’m in there. As I look at census documents, I’m adding siblings of my ancestors to my family tree software, something I blogged about doing a few months ago.

This may sound really tedious to you, but I’m having a good time. It’s allowing me to reacquaint myself with various couples and really pay attention to all their kids, not just my direct ancestor. It’s also giving me the chance to clean up my hard drive and re-file errant files (and move some documents that accidentally ended up in my Genealogy folder). I’m not going through each line systematically. To keep it interesting, I’m jumping from family to family, choosing file folders as my whims take me.

Since I’m no longer printing newly found documents, I guess I’m slowly phasing out my paper files. And that’s okay with me. My hard drive is fast, spacious, orderly, and backed up both to an external hard drive via Time Machine and to a remote computer via Crash Plan Pro.

I’m looking forward to the comfort of having everything on my hard drive. Since I store my paper files in a closet a few steps from my desk, I also love that my data will be at my fingertips whenever I’m using my computer. It’ll be great when I travel, especially if I take research trips, to have all that information available to me. I believe this will be time well spent.


  1. I also used to print all my genealogy records, but digital seems like a better option nowadays. I’ve slowly been moving everything to digital format, but haven’t quite finished that project yet. Good luck getting everything moved and organized! It is fun to go back through old research files and revisit ancestors.

    • Darinda, thanks for your comment. You know exactly what I’m going through! I like the phrase, “revisit old ancestors.” That’s exactly what’s making this fun.

  2. Leuwanna Williams says:

    So glad to find your site, started research in 1952, so you can see how many binders, files , fileing cabinets that I might have, it is so hard to find something that you know that you have, but don’t remember how it was filed. Not sure I understand your system, but going to see what I can do with it, have all my letters in binders and index from the early 1970’s, also have all the old group sheets, and notes that I had people fill out for me and go back thru them every few years. The computer has made thing so much easier to do research. Found you on Cyndis list. Thank you will let you know how thing go.

    • Leuwanna, thank you for your comment and for reading the blog! I can imagine that 60 years of research produces a lot f materials! If you can save items electronically and store them on your hard drive so that you can find them, at least your stuff will take up less space! I’ll look forward to hearing from you again.

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