How to Organize Inherited Family Genealogy Research (Guest Post from The Family Curator)

by Sally J.

in * How to ORGANIZE Your Photos, * How to PRESERVE Family History Treasures, Free Articles / Blog

This is a guest post by Denise May Levenick, The Family Curator.

At my request, she’s offered an excerpt from Chapter 6 of her new book How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records (Family Tree Books, 2012).

This content is specifically about your ancestors’ genealogy research records and what to do with ones that you inherit.

Copyright, 2012, Denise May Levenick. All Rights Reserved.

_____________________ “” _____________________

Were you lucky enough to inherit your great-grandmother’s marriage certificate? and photograph? If so, you’ve certainly marked them for preservation and digitization. But what do you do with inherited genealogy research – computer printouts, census copies, family group sheets, and photocopies of old books?

Are you a second or third generation genealogist? Does research run in your genes? Does your family archive include boxes of genealogy research, printed pedigree charts, handwritten family group sheets, and carefully photocopied source material?

When my sister and I inherited our mom’s stuff, we had no idea that Mom was such a good record keeper. She must have heard the “Cite Your Sources” chorus because her files were filled with photocopied pages from books, web printouts, and copied correspondence. It’s a genealogist’s dream to find source material right there with the research, but what do you do when the sheer volume of material threatens to take over your own home or your own research materials?

First, go back and look at your goals in accepting the responsibility of your family archive. Do you want to extend your pedigree? Or are you working on family history book? Whatever your goal, you owe it to yourself to screen the new materials with an eye for moving forward. You do not have to be overwhelmed and burdened by someone else’s stuff.

In vetting Mom’s genealogy research I moved her original notes to a new plastic file box, eliminating any duplicated material I found.

I saved:

  • Mom’s handwritten notes
  • Email printouts and copies of correspondence
  • Books, articles, magazines I wanted to read

I didn’t save:

  • Genealogy society journals (donated to my local society)
  • Duplicates of census records and other sources I already had in my own research
  • Books I owned (I donated these)
  • Pedigree charts and family group sheets that duplicated my own information and research
  • Copies of stuff I had sent Mom

I made digital copies and discarded the paper originals for: Some research material from unknown sources; I didn’t want to lose the material, but it was more than one hundred pages, and I didn’t want to store it. My Scan Snap sheet fed scanner made quick work of the pile.

Organizing Options

1. Organize research by creator. Order a custom rubber stamp with the researcher’s name to identify his or her work.

2. Organize by family line. Identify work from other researchers.

Storage Solutions

  • Keep these materials separate from your own work in a designated file space.
  • Store paper files in plastic file bins. This is not archival storage.
  • Store historic documents in archival storage following appropriate guidelines in this chapter.


  • Keep pages together. Unless you are handling historic documents, use paper clips and staples as needed.
  • Remember your own goals; your inherited research should be a blessing not a burden.
Excerpt from How to Archive Family Keepsakes:
Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records by Denise May Levenick (Family Tree Books, 2012). Copyright, 2012, Denise May Levenick. All Rights Reserved.


Join the Blog Tour

Join the Blog Book Tour for How to Archive Family Keepsakes January 10-26, 2013 for author interviews, book excerpts, giveaways, and more. Visit the Blog Book Tour Page at The Family Curator website for the complete schedule.

Proceeds from the sale of How to Archive Family Keepsakes during the Book Tour will help fund the 2013 Student Genealogy Grant founded in 2010 in honor of Denise’s mother, Suzanne Winsor Freeman.

About the Author

In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” Denise May Levenick is a writer, researcher, and speaker with a passion for preserving and sharing family treasures of all kinds. She is the creator of the award-winning family history blog, The Family Curator and author of the new book How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records, (Family Tree Books, 2012).

Like to Win Free Things?

Denise’s Blog Book Tour Includes Fabulous Giveaway Prizes

It’s easy to enter to win a free copy of Denise’s new book or one of the weekly giveaway prizes. All you have to do is leave a comment below or at one of the other official tour blogs. Random winners will also be selected from social media comments on Twitter, FaceBook, and Google+.

Each blog tour post comment gives you one chance to win; one entry per post per day, please. Leave a comment at each stop on the blog tour and increase your chances of winning. The lucky names will be announced each Saturday during the tour at The Family Curator.


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