organising OPS stuff

Organising family history material seems to be a hot topic at the moment. There is an active Facebook group dedicated to organising your material and last week’s #genchat on Twitter was on this topic as well. There are a plethora of systems - colour coded binders, numerous templates for extracting data, nested files both literal and digital and so on. Some use dedicated genealogy databases for organising data (as opposed to trees), others use Evernote or Excel, others good old fashioned index cards.

My own ancestry is filed by family units which start at marriage, or at the birth of the first child if, like my ggm, they never bothered with that bit. Within them is the marriage certificate, birth certs/baptism records of children in order, census entries, death certs then misc - photos, newspapers etc. It works, I can find stuff and is consistent.

Organising OPS data seems less logical. It doesn’t fit neatly into families. Significant events in the life of a given place may not fit into centuries. Even defining a place without clear geographical boundaries can be problematic - my own study illustrates that. Yet the system chosen for organising data is seen both in how the material is stored/analysed and how it is presented.

The history of the Springhill area divides into a number of relatively clear periods, most with specific start times.These are:
  • the time when the area was subject to Forest law - 1066 to 1507 when the land was deforested.
  • the ‘post Forest’ time of predominantly agricultural/home textile economy - 1507 to (say) 1750
  • the period of industrialisation - 1750 to 1896. Springhill house was built in this period (c1830) but the money was made before that date. Why 1896? That was the date of the death of Charles Patrick and so marked the end of the direct involvement of the Ashworth/Patrick families who built Springhill House, owned much of the land and had a massive influence on the life of the area.
  • the period covered by Mrs Turner’s Trust - 1896 when she inherited the estate to her death in 1923. She was much less ‘hands on’ than the Ashworth/Patrick families and willed that the estate be sold.
  • the death of Mrs Turner to the breakup of the estate and modification of many of the houses in 1934.
  • post 1934.

This gives an apparently random set of dates but they make sense in the context of the history of the place.

That then leads to questions about storing the data - for example do census data go together by resource or under each time period? I chose the latter but that may not be the best way of doing it. Newspaper extracts by date, theme or by paper? Pictures by … what?

I tend to store raw data in Excel (and loads of scraps of paper!). I have separate folders for raw material and stuff which makes the website but with otherwise identical filing system. Plans and ‘to do’s are in a notebook app on the laptop and phone (thus permitting much time wasting tinkering).

My current question is family reconstitution. I’m just starting out on this. If the data is in Excel then its a fair bit of work to transcribe it into a FH programme (and which one to use?) as families are reconstituted, but that seems necessary in order to show working and how I reached that conclusion. If I put it into the FH programme in the first place then it is harder to see links. I tried Custodian but didn’t get on with it, and now don’t want to run Windows on my mac.

These are, of course, all very first world problems… but it would be interesting to hear how other OPSer’s organise their data.