How to Organize a Genealogy Binder: The Complete Guide

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Inside: Are you stuck on how to organize a genealogy binder for maximum efficiency and ease of use? These tips will point you in the right direction.

Genealogies are vital pieces of history for every family. It is critical to keep every bit of that legacy intact, and genealogy binders are an excellent way to do that.

However, it may be tricky to figure out the best way to organize a genealogy binder to contain the information inside.

How to Organize a Genealogy Binder

This guide will provide you with everything you need to know about organizing your family’s genealogy binder.

Read on to learn all kinds of tips and tricks that you can use to preserve and organize your family history in one place.

What Goes in the Genealogy Binder?

It is crucial to understand what a genealogy binder is before making one yourself.

It is essentially the hard-copy storage of important papers such as:

  • Birth certificates
  • Letters
  • Personal research
  • Pictures

These are just a few of the items typically placed inside a genealogy binder. Anything used to keep a record of your family’s past may be added to the mix.

There are no guidelines for what is supposed to be inside one of these.

how to organize a genealogy binder

Select a Binder

The first selection in this process is to choose the type of binder you would like to use. It seems simple, but there are several classic styles to choose from.

All of the following binders work in different ways, so it is important to take a look at each one and decide which will work best for your organization’s goals.

The Three-Ring Binder

The three-ring binder is the most common form of binder in general. It is a solid structure, held together by three rings.

Three-ring binders come in a multitude of sizes and colors to fit whatever your needs may be.

Some excellent ones for purchase on Amazon include:

All of these serve as excellent binders and will work to protect your information. They are affordable and of good quality.

Archival Binder

An archival binder is a heavy-duty form of a three-ring binder. If you are looking for something a little heftier, this is the one for you.

These typically have slots in which you can place pictures, clipping, and much more. You might also add extra papers inside.

Some quality archival binders you can purchase on Amazon include:

Both of these are quality choices for storing your history.

They will also make the overall organization process simpler since they come with some dividers already inside of them.

Archival Binder Box

The archival binder box is the biggest of them all. The archival binder box is the size of an archival binder, but it is made of solid plastic and closes completely.

These are not as easily portable but the most durable of all. They are also more practical for storage.

Select this option if you do not mind the bulk that will inevitably come with it.

A Note on Cover Type

When looking for a binder, make sure you know whether it has a softcover or a hardcover. Hardcovers are the better selection for keeping your family’s history safe.

Hardcovers are better because they:

  • Keep papers straight
  • Are more resistant to outside forces
  • Can carry more inside

If a softcover is your only available option, it will work.

However, note that you may need to take extra care to keep your documents safe.

Hardcover should be your first choice if you intend to keep the binder for a long time.

Find Document Protection

Next, you need to find coverings for every one of your papers. This is also important because it will place your research inside your binder and attach it to the rings.

There are a few types of protection you can invest in.

Plastic Protectors

These sleeves serve well as a cheap form of protection for your papers. You can buy them in bulk, and they come in a format that fits any three-ring binder.

Papers slide into each slip, just like a plastic bag. Some excellent ones for sale on Amazon include:

These will serve as an excellent semi-permanent form of protection that can be exchanged whenever necessary.

Paper Inserts

Paper inserts serve as a flat, blank page that protects the page as a whole. They can be placed around every single page or used to protect large chunks of paper.

They attach very well to any three-ring or archival binder that utilizes the three-ring system.

Some excellent ones for sale include:

These are affordable and will serve to protect your documents when the binder is closed. However, they do not defend if the pages are open.

Laminate

This is the most time-consuming version of document protection, but it will last for a long time. According to dictionary.archivists.org, lamination is the process of applying a thin layer of plastic to a sheet of paper.

According to bizfluent.com, you can get your pages laminated in a variety of places:

  • Staples: Go to the front desk and ask for your pages to be laminated.
  • Office Depot: This operates the same as at Staples.
  • UPS Ground Location: This can only be done at on-ground stores by asking a person behind the counter.

Lamination is an affordable process. You can even invest in a laminator. This option may be beneficial if you will have a large number of documents in the future.

A Warning about Lamination

If you have any papers that possess historical qualities, laminating may not be the right move for you. Take care not to damage works from hundreds of years ago. Only use lamination on modern pages.

Note that it may be hard to retrieve documents once laminated.

Purchase Dividers

Once you have protection for your documents, you will need dividers.

These can be utilized to divide a variety of subjects in your history:

  • Years: These may be in gaps of time as large as you would like.
  • Important moments: These may include birthdays, deaths, and vacations.
  • Individual people: If there are individual people whom you are researching, you may divide these people into separate categories.

By using dividers, you will be able to quickly flip to a page or add additional documents without the chaos of searching.

These are simple to find and are sold at more craft and office supply stores.

Design Your Cover

Though a potentially skippable step, designing your cover is more than making it look pretty. A well-designed front will help you and your family identify the binder later down the road.

You might create your cover as one of several items:

  • Write directly on the front: If your sleeve supports the addition of pens and paint on the surface, you can go ahead and create right on the surface.
  • Create a cover on a slip of paper: You might generate a cover on a slip of paper and glue or tape it to the surface.
  • Slide a cover into a provided front slot: If you purchase a binder that holds a plastic space on the front for a title page, create one on the side and slip it in.

A cover will allow you to feel as though your binder is complete. It will also help you identify it in the future and help your family understand its purpose later on in life.

Organize Your Information

Now, it is time to space out the sections of your binder.

You have the dividers. It is time to decide how you wish to divide the genealogy information. There are a couple of different ways to go about this process and sort the pages you have.

Divide by Person

You may want to separate your information by person.

You may place relevant articles, pictures, and letters associated with the individual in a separate location in the binder.

If you come across documents that seem as though they might apply to multiple people, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is mentioned the most on the page?
  • Who created the piece?
  • Whom is this document made for?

Once you have answered these, it should be clear to whom the documents apply.

If not, use your best judgment to decide.

Divide by Year

Another method you may use is to separate everything by year. You can do this in chunks of time as big or small as you wish.

For instance, you may use:

  • Periods of 10 years, such as 1850-1860
  • Periods of 50 years, such as 1850-1900
  • Periods of 100 years, such as 1850-1950

How you space the years out may depend on how much information you can access.

More family documents mean you can create smaller or larger chunks of time.

Divide by Family

Though it is all your family history, there may be separate smaller families within all of the information you possess.

For instance, you might separate them:

  • Into paternal/maternal sides of the family
  • Into individual families within the overarching family
  • Into major groupings of families by marriage

However you organize it, family is an excellent way to separate your large amount of acquired family history.

Subheadings within Genres

Within each of these topics, you can also divide them into smaller subcategories. For instance, if you divide by time periods, you might use individual people as subheadings.

If you divide by family, you might use the year as a subheading. Whatever works best for you, settle on that as your priority.

It is how you will be working, and you need to make sure you enjoy it.

Related: 5 Tips to Finding an Unknown Ancestor

Place Your History inside the Binder

Once you have organized everything the way you would like it to be, it is time to put everything inside the binder.

When sorting, there is an order that is useful in saving time:

  • Insert the dividers first: If you have physical ones, make sure you place them first. These will give you the groundwork for adding the rest of your pages.
  • Add the information: By starting with the back, you will not be overwhelmed with the additional task of pushing the already added papers out of the way.
  • Add extra labels last: Add extra labels last: Smaller ones can be added at the end once everything is inside and set into place. Use these to divide your pages.
  • Add your cover: Place it on last as the finishing piece.

Once this is done, you have successfully organized your genealogical binder.

Steps to Take If You Dislike the Results

Like any project you may undertake, it is possible that, after all of the work you have put in, you may not like the organization of your genealogy binder. You may find you prefer folders. It is okay to make changes.

If your pages are protected, moving them around will not cause damage. You can move them around as many times as you need until you are satisfied with your results.

There are a few methods you can use to help you try again and obtain results that you will enjoy.

Take Your Pages Out

If it is a simple ordering mistake, you can take all of your pages out and rearrange them to your liking. The best thing about the genealogical binder is that it is able to be altered in an instant.

Plot Out Your New Plan

If you do not think it is a simple fix, take a simple sheet of paper and begin to plot out your new organization style.

Write pros and cons for each new method.

Create your dividing topics.

Ensure that you know exactly what you would like before you take everything apart and try again.

What Is the Best Way to Organize Documents?

You may be wondering if a genealogy binder is the best way to organize your genealogy documents.

Other ways include the following:

  • Storage box
  • Virtual genealogy organization
  • Filing cabinet

Once you are familiar with this guide, consider some of the alternative methods alongside the classic genealogy binder.

You might find that you can tailor these alternatives to your liking based on this guide to create the perfect genealogy organization for you.

Inside a Storage Box

If you are not looking for a fancy method of organization, you can use a storage box to your advantage. It is a simple box, sometimes with dividers and sometimes just used to hold papers.

You can purchase multiple to organize your papers to your liking. The disadvantage is that these are not practical in searching and finding information if you are in a hurry.

Virtual Methods

You might also opt for keeping your files all online. This can be done by saving them to an online folder or scanning each physical document one at a time.

This is good to have in general on the off chance that your physical paper gets damaged by weather.

Some excellent benefits of going virtual are that:

  • No risk of weather damage: If you have uploaded everything to a drive, not even weather can permanently pull your documents away from your possession.
  • Accessible copies: With online versions, you can access them on the go. It is harder to bring a binder with you at all times.
  • Online organization: Before you go about shifting your binder around, you can figure out your favorite form of organization online. Online, it is easier to figure out than dealing with physical documents and may save you time.

Regardless of the organizational method you use, you should scan and place all of your documents online just in case.

In our modern-day and age, there is no reason to skip this step. It will ensure the permanence of your history more than any binder protector ever could.

Inside A Filing Cabinet

A filing cabinet is a classic method of storage. These products come in a variety of different styles that can help you organize your files.

If you have a large amount of material, the filing cabinet may work best for you.

Small Filing Box

Filing cabinets come in a smaller size, more portable than the usual filing cabinet but still larger than the genealogical binder.

Some small, portable versions sold on Amazon include:

If you need something that is bigger than a binder but smaller than a massive filing cabinet, this will do.

You may go about organizing it in much of the same way you would a binder.

Small Filing Cabinet

You might invest in a small filing cabinet, one that is two drawers tall rather than three or four. This cabinet is a permanent version of storage, rather than the filing box or binder that serves as portable formats.

Some excellent ones on Amazon you can invest in include:

If these are too small, you might invest in the larger format of a filing cabinet.

We will delve into these next.

Large Filing Cabinet

If you have an overwhelming stack of family history, investing in a large, office-sized cabinet is the best method of organization for you.

These can be bulky and expensive, and if you do not have the number of papers that will fill the space, it will not be a worthy investment.

While all of these are great organization methods, the genealogical binder tends to work the best for easy access and practicality.

Unfortunately, many do not have enough material to fill an entire filing cabinet or bin.

We hope this guide has helped you figure out how to organize a genealogy binder that works best for you.

Related:

About GYAdmin

Hi, I’m Emma. I fell in love with genealogy the second I found out my ancestor fell off the Mayflower. I started GenealogyYou to help others on this fascinating journey (and to put my History degree to some use).

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