I started using surname binders earlier this year. My surname binders are set up based on Dear Myrtle's system. Basically you take the nearest direct-line family with the surname you're setting up and you make a family group sheet for them. All documents related to that particular family are filed behind their family group sheet, starting with the marriage record and moving forward chronologically through other records (birth records for the children, census, land, military, etc) to the death records of both of the parents on the sheet.
The next family group sheet in the binder is the one with the husband from the first sheet as the child and his parents as the parents. You file the records the same way as the previous family. You continue adding family group sheets followed by associated documents up the line of ancestry until you reach the last known family. If, in the future, you are able to continue the line beyond where you stopped, you simply add another family group sheet and keep going.
At the back of the binder is a section for collaterals, the siblings of the male head of each family group sheet. This is where I plan to veer off from Dear Myrtle's system. Since some of the families in my tree have large numbers of children (and sometimes multiple marriages with more children as well), the collaterals are taking over my binders.
After debating about the best way to handle this, I've decided to move the collaterals to their own binders. So my Sweat line will have a main surname binder documenting my direct-line ancestors and a second surname binder just for the collaterals. Since I just decided to do this, it will be a couple weeks before I have this completed.
In order to deal with the many other papers I came across that didn't quite fit with my surname binders, I've began using a filing system. This is based on Karen Clifford's method as taught in her Organizing for Success webinar, but adapted to my preferences. I have hanging files for each surname and each locality they are found in. Each of these hanging files contains multiple folders.
Surname files contain folders for:
- Research logs-Since I generally research an individual or family in one research period, these are filed alphabetically in the folder.
- Clues-This is where I store hints that I've picked up from message boards, online trees, unsourced published genealogies, comments from family members, blogs, etc. As of yet, these are unproven.
- Possibles-Every once in a while, I come across someone that is probably related to the family, but I just haven't figured out how yet. This is where these individuals are put until I'm able to work out the relationship.
- Notes-As I'm researching, I often take notes on other records I want to check, things I want to follow up on later and questions I may have.
- Documents-If I have a document that references multiple individuals with the same surname, I file it here. For documents that mention someone found in my main surname binders (not the collateral ones), I will make a copy for the binder if I feel it is important enough to include. If more than one surname is on the document, I will either make a copy for the other surname's folder or cross-reference it so I'm aware of it.
- History-Knowing the history of a particular area can help you determine what records are available and also why your ancestor did certain things. This is also where I file notes on boundary changes so if an ancestor disappears from the area suddenly and I'm pretty sure they didn't move anywhere, I know to check the new place.
- Books-This folder includes a list of books on the area that I'm aware of, as well as notes from those that I have read.
- Visit-One day in the future, I'd like to visit the areas my ancestors lived in. I've already visited a few. This is where I file notes on places in the area I want to check, including cemeteries, libraries, archives, historical societies, etc. The notes include specific resources I want to check at that particular place in the locality. If I get the opportunity to visit a certain area, I can just pull out the visit file for that locality and build my itinerary and research plan(s).
Legacy isn't as visual, but I'm finding I prefer how it handles sources. While I can include my sources in Family Tree Builder, they're linked to the individual. Legacy lets you link sources to specific events (for instance a marriage record to a couple's marriage). I can still see a list of all sources related to a person, but I can also choose to only look at sources related to a specific event in that person's life.