Organising Your Family History

I recently shared online some pictures of my Family Tree Filing system and organisation and it proved to be popular amongst fellow Family History Researchers, so I thought I would expand and explain my system in a bit more detail.

Rest assured, my workspace and systems were chaotic and I found myself wasting too much time either searching for a document I had lost or re-ordering and downloading material that I already had! Does that sound familiar?

So how did I get from this……


To this………


(These are just examples, neither are actually my working space!)

I have one colour coded 4 hole ring binder for each of my 8 x Great-Grandparents and each folders contents is identical. Accompanying each folder is the same colour A5 Notebook/workbook. Which looks something like this;


Each folder is laid out identical and has it’s own contents page, which looks like this;


Contained within these folders are my working Family Record Sheets which I have also published before online, they look like this;



A5 Workbooks/Notebooks




I also have a separate ring binder solely for Military History, which is another one of my passions, hence why it has it’s own folder! This is laid out like this;



I have a separate Census file for the Chiddicks Family and associated Families and these also have their own record sheet which I made for myself.



Next up is the 1939 Register, which is huge! This ended up in two A3 folders because the pages are so big, separated into Chiddicks and basically the rest, again colour coded;






Plus there are additional files for DNA, Family History shows etc.

Now all of this has not happened overnight, far from it! It’s evolved over time and has been tweaked and ideas borrowed from others! It normally gets altered or adapted after I have lost something!

It’s not perfect, far from it, but the key thing is “it works for me”. So whatever system you use yourself, the only criteria you need to fulfil is, “does it work for me”. If you’ve achieved that then your system is perfect for you.

I will also add tha,t as well as the paper files, all this is mirrored in digital format backed up to an online tree, backed up to two memory sticks, plus a further back up to the cloud, better safe than sorry!

Not everyone is as OCD as me!

If you want a copy of any of the sheets, don’t hesitate to drop me a message;



25 thoughts on “Organising Your Family History

  1. Are the Individual Family Record Sheets types up individually? It seems like this would be the Percy kind of data to keep in a spreadsheet. Then, a simple merge to create the report if separate pages are desired.


  2. That’s awesome, Paul! Your binders look great! I’ll admit that I almost fell off my chair when I saw the “before/after” photos, and had to laugh when you said those weren’t really your office (c’mon, share with us!)! 😝

    I hope you’ll add your post to the January Genealogy Blog Party: Organizing and Prioritizing (psst, tomorrow’s the last day). I’d love to have you join the linkup! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have to agree with your comment that the best system is the one that works for you. That is my standard answer when I am queried for my opinion. Like Elizabeth, my mouth dropped when I saw the “before” desk and then I had to laugh. Glad it isn’t your real work space!


  4. My goodness that’s so organised! I do have a separate ring binder for each branch of my family that I’m working on, and within those subdivisions for parish register info, censuses, wills, newspaper reports, correspondence or whatever is relevant to that particular family. I try to keep a copy of my research log and ‘to do’ list at the front of each file so that I have some prospect of remembering where I’d got to when I return to that branch after a period on another!


  5. I am definitely not as organised but I do have the families entered onto a tree and I have a large file with the individual and their research notes in a sleeve. It is also all digitised. I plan on improving accessibility in the coming few months as I explore the Irish side of my family now we are living in Ireland again.. Very helpful.. thank you.


  6. That’s a great system, Paul! A quick question – the individual person records, do you complete those only for direct ancestors, or ancestors + siblings/family groups?

    I’m absolutely nowhere near as organised or practical as what you’ve created (having a slight “yikes” moment!) but I want to start a one-name study so I may borrow a few ideas off you!! 😉


    1. Hi Dominic, thanks for the compliments but believe me it’s taken me years to get this organised! The individual records initially started as direct line on,y ancestors, but as I have progressed sideways I have started using the record sheets for th per extended family as well. If you want copies of anything don’t hesitate to shout and I can email them over


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