As you conduct research, make it a practice to make photocopies or digital images (with your camera or scanner) of the key sources of your research. It provides proof, citation and clues for future research. Make it a practice to include the title page of your source. If the title page is missing, substitute the library catalog printout. As your research progresses, some of the images are no longer pertinent (not the right family) and should be purged.
Photographs require their own storage place
Genealogical file folders are not a good location to store family photographs. Take the time to learn about how to preserve and archive photos properly. After I scan or duplicate images, I have made it a practice to catalog and file the images so I can actively use them in my research. Where appropriate, I will place a copy of an image in the file folder. Because a large portion of my photographs are digital images, I have created a digital catalog, which is cross-referenced to the individuals, locations and the original.
Keep original documents in a safe place
Whenever possible, store original documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates under archival safe conditions. I have found that archival sleeves or file folders stored in an archival box are best. I place a reference photocopy in the appropriate folder of my filing system. I make it a practice to always scan these documents, which allows me to share this information with other family members and to use the digital image in family history research.
Create and file a cross-reference guide
For ease of access, I have created a cross-reference guide indicating which documents pertaining to each person or family are available in other folders. There is no reason to duplicate documents within the paper files, such as a marriage certificate or a census page. However, these documents and many others include multiple names, so it's helpful to have a cross-reference guide.
Barry J. Ewell is author of "Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips and Tricks for Discovering your Family History" and founder of MyGenShare.com, an online educational website for genealogy and family history.
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