My Favorite Organizational System For Paper Files!


You guys. I have spent FOREVER trying to figure out how to organize all my papers. Done many many searches on what was the best system. And I found it! No more searching through PILES to find that one record I know I have somewhere.

If you are just starting with your family research then this is the perfect time to start a system that will GROW with your research.

Are you ready for this?

My Two Portable File Folder Carriers

Tada!! It is called “The FamilyRoots Organizer Color-Coding System” by Mary E. V. Hill and it is fantastic! It is expandable to fit as many ancestors as you can find and it is visually very easy to search through. It also has folders for “places”, “holding folders” for those things you just don’t know where to file yet, and can be portable if you choose to use portable file holders like I did.

Creating this system will take a couple hours but remember this is an investment to help save you time in the future!

Before you can create this system you will need some supplies! Many of these items you may already have at home, and if so thats great! Otherwise I have compiled a list for you to make this project easier.



    1. Two File Boxes, either portable or stationary (Whatever you prefer. I found mine at a garage sale, so they are nothing fancy!)
    2. Hanging Files- Colored- Smead Hanging File Folders, 1/5-Cut Tab, Letter Size, 25 Per Box, Assorted Primary Colors (64059), $13.69
    3. Hanging Files- Green- AmazonBasics Hanging File Folders – Letter Size (25 Pack) – Green, $8.99
    4. Manilla File Folders- Smead SuperTab Heavyweight File Folder, Oversized 1/3-Cut Tab, Letter Size, Manila, 50 Per Box (10401), $7.16
    5. Ultra Fine, Felt Tip, Black Permanant Marker- Sharpie Permanent Markers, Ultra Fine Point, Black, 12 Count, $7.79
    6. Highlighters- Sharpie Pocket Highlighters, Chisel Tip, Assorted Colors, 12-Count, $4.97
    7. Manila Folder Labels- Avery Assorted File Folder Label Pad, 1/3 Cut, 160 Labels (45215) , $4.49
    8. Label Dots, 4 Colors- MFLABEL Pack of 2016 Round Color Coding Dot Labels, Multicolored, Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, $5.99


Before you get started you will also need is a 5 generation pedigree chart. Start with yourself and fill out as much as you can. Family History Is Fun has a wonderful chart on their site that you can download here- 5 Generation Pedigree Chart

You can find detailed instructions of how to create this system here- The FamilyRoots Organizer Color-Coding System

If you would like to see me create a video on how to create this system just drop a comment below or send me an email!

11 thoughts on “My Favorite Organizational System For Paper Files!”

  1. Family Genealogy seems like a lot of work and definitely lots of information coming in from different sources. I can see where organization would be a necessity for your sanity. Organization is the key for lots of things so I would think even a system like this would be helpful for keeping certain areas of your life organized like schooling, bills, house documents, etc.

    1. Hi Jen,

      Keeping organized is a crucial step in genealogy and life in general. I agree that this could be adapted many different ways. 🙂 Filing systems are not a new invention but they are a great tool!

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Thanks for sharing your favorite organizational systems. As Jen commented genealogy is a lot of work and it helps to keep things organized as you know what information you have and what you need to get.

    Most of my research is digital although I have six ring binders for each family group of my ancestry. I then have records within these that are dated from the most recent to the oldest. I believe people organize the way that is best for them.

  3. Oh, wow! I’m so glad I came across this article.

    Right now everything is in a state of chaos. I literally have piles of papers and photographs everywhere. This system is just what I need to get organized and it’s well worth the time setting it up.

    I was wondering if I should set up the same system just for old photographs that I’ve found that are rather delicate. Is there a way to preserve them so they don’t deteriorate with age? I know I can get digital copies made, but I’d like to preserve the original.

    1. Thank you Barb! It is true that the piles of papers can become overwhelming very quickly! 

      Making high quality digital copies of your original photos is your first step! Because as much as we can try to preserve the originals, what is the point of genealogy if we cant enjoy the old photos that we have? Scanning them will provide so many options for sharing. Once they are scanned you can see the photos much larger, print them larger, make photo books, and share with all your family! However, I do understand the preciousness of an original photo and the need to preserve the irreplaceable photos that we do have! I will write an article soon on preserving the original photos! Thanks for the idea!

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