Saturday, January 21, 2012

Storing All Those Certificates and Such

So how do you store your important genealogical certificates and documents? In my mind, I consider anything I had to cough up money for and/or possibly wait several months for, a certificate. So things like:

Birth Certificate
Death Certificate
Marriage Certificate
Divorce Decree
Social Security Application
Draft Registration

Plus there could be more that are a bit more unusual. For instance, I have a copy of the papers for one relative that officially changed his name.

Why do I worry about how to store these things? Hey, it's a scary world out there! And beyond the obvious answers of fire, pestilance and plague hurting my precious little documents, there is always the thought of getting to these things easily when I want to look something up. Or maybe I just want to stare at them all and kind of wallow in the thought that they are mine, all mine.

So I like to keep the originals (If I have originals) in plastic sleeves in a binder.

I'll have additional paper copies of them stored with the originals, and also in other family-specific binders and folders. Also, for you eagle-eyes out there, yes, I do keep a copy of Family Tree Maker 16 on my computer because I love the deliciously decadent feeling it gives me when it tells me my grandmother is also my cousin. The newer versions just don't do that (unless a really new version does and I just don't know about it, tell me if it does!!!). So it stays.

Back to the topic at hand...of course, there is the magical Redundancy Rule that saves me every time - it means everything has been scanned and stored on my computer's hard drive, on an external hard drive, and also burned onto a CD - one copy is stored at my house, and a 2nd copy is forced upon my father to store at his house in case my house ever detaches itself from its foundations and collapses in on itself like the house in Poltergeist. I hope I didn't just ruin the movie for you. Also, because I like to take things to an extreme (in case you didn't already notice), I store my electronic copies as both TIFF (for long term storage) and JPG (for actual use - emailing, posting).

Finally, I keep an inventory of what I have. Why? Because yes, I have actually ordered the same Social Security Application twice in the past. And you who have done that know it is not an insignificant price or waiting period. So when I realized I did that, I decided to keep a spreadsheet inventory.

I'm not saying my way is the right way - it's what works for me and I'm always open to new ideas!!!


  1. Brilliant! I am also considering converting one of my (usually) unused bedrooms into a file room with everything neatly duplicated and broken out by surname, location and topic. Then I'm going to scan everything and invent a massive database with every single word encoded so I can find anything instantly and then everyone will want to add their stuff until all genealogical data anywhere is in ONE place!

  2. I like your checklist, and your redundancy rule. I make lots of copies too, but I keep original heirloom documents in archival storage and file copies for reference. I don't want to risk losing the original.

  3. I have many binders full of documents in page protectors. Many of them have been scanned and, like you, I scan them in tif and jpg. I like your spread sheet..that's a great idea I hadn't thought of. Great tip, thanks!

  4. I love the system you outlines here. I'm so bad at organizing and storing my certificates and other papers. Getting my genealogy records organized was one of my new year's resolution.

    Regards, Jim

    Genealogy Blog at Hidden Genealogy Nuggets