The Pile of Paper, Photos and Scans…..

Paper pile

Usually when I work on a project I am very methodical about documenting every piece of evidence as it comes in.  I create folders for a person or a family transcribing the document when needed. I also have my folder of possible related persons that I go through from time to time.  I’ve recently added a portable scanner to my tool kit.  I’ve experimented with keeping digital images for some documents, and forgoing the traditional file.  I’m not stranger to paperless environments.  My day job I am a financial analyst for a large technical company.   I’m on a global team, and I rarely print anything out. In many cases though these are standard documents, and I know what data I will find on it.  While the thought of scanning, “e-filing” and skipping the printing in theory makes sense, I’m not sure I will continue this practice for genealogical research.  Maybe it’s not working for me because unlike my full-time job, I still have most of my papers in hardcopy form.  Perhaps also I will always be going back to genealogical documents because what may have been unimportant two weeks ago suddenly becomes relevant with a new find.


In Hunterdon County NJ, some of the records at the courthouse are indexed in the library.  In order to cut down on my research time I will go to the index in the library, and then return to the courthouse at a later date. Additionally our historical society has very limited hours.  In situations where archives hours are restricted my methodology tends to be find the surname, make copies, and sort ‘em out at home.  If I stumble upon a surname in a neighboring town and I think I might need it later, I try to grab the document, or at the very least jot it down in my notebook.


Last night I settled to go through a pile of papers.  I felt I had been documenting everything, though I do admit it’s a bit of a whirlwind lately.   I created my files and started going through the accumulated evidence piece by piece.  I reviewed all the pages I had from some marriage records I pulled.  It was one of those “possible” relatives I had pulled early on, at the time I had no connection, but a couple of weeks later there was indeed a place on the tree for this individual.  It was then I realized I had missed a first marriage.  It got me thinking if I had simply scanned and filed under marriages on my computer, I may not have caught it.  Sometimes it’s easier to just open a file and page through documents from time to time.  I guess it’s a personal preference or perhaps I need a document management application, which I’m not sure I want to invest in at this point. I’ll continue to use my scanner, but I may also keep a paper copy of my items scanned, until I can commit to a completely paperless system I think this will be my way to go.  Note to self, explore the possibility of finding an affordable documents management system.


Lesson learned, don’t let the paper pile get too big.  Casting a wide net may be my personal style, but it is not going to work if I don’t analyze and document in a timely manner.    It’s been a wild week and a half; a day job, two seniors going to a prom, a couple of genealogy projects, house that needed cleaning, and a dog that still needs to be walked.  I’m glad I stuck to my process even though it may be a bit delayed. So I’ve tamed the pile a bit, worked on my report, and found a wife I had previously missed.



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