What’s in Your Pile of Papers?

passport Genealogy is a hobby that tends to generate quite a bit of paperwork. Have you ever forgotten what documents, notes, or photographs you have because you couldn’t find them? It is definitely beneficial to find a way to organize your pile of papers.

For me, this all started with a desire to find my birth certificate. I was attempting to begin work on my family tree by starting with myself. This piece of advice has some advantages. After all, most people know when their birthday is, and the year that they were born. Trying to find one’s birth certificate is a good way to improve existing genealogy research skills.

The problem was, I couldn’t find it. I was convinced that I didn’t have a copy of my birth certificate, and could not recall ever seeing one. My attempt to try and find it through free genealogy resources online were unsuccessful.

My husband and I are interested in taking a trip outside of the country soon, and this will require us both to get passports. In order to get a passport, a person needs to have a certified copy of their birth certificate. I really didn’t think I had a copy of mine, but, I did have an old passport that had expired. That might be helpful, except for one problem. I couldn’t find it!

This is a perfect example of why it is so important for genealogists to take the time to organize their pile of papers. Copies of vital records could end up mixed into unrelated piles of papers, or misplaced, or accidentally destroyed if you don’t have an efficient way to store them.

Find a way that works for you, and stick to it. Get into the habit of putting away genealogy notes, documents, photos, and family tree charts shortly after you finish a research session. If you can’t find the particular paper you need, you could end up wasting time trying to find another copy of it, all over again.

I got lucky. My old passport had gotten mixed into a bin that was filled with tax documents and old pay stubs. In addition to the passport were not one, but two, copies of my birth certificate. I had completely forgotten that I had a copy of it! Now, if I’d kept things organized, then I wouldn’t have had to waste time online recently, when I tired to locate a copy of my birth certificate. This type of experience is one way to learn a lesson, I suppose.

Image by J Aaron Farr on Flickr