Family History Binder – Part 6 – Documents

This is the sixth and final post of my Family History Binder series. Click here to go back to part one.

In each section of my binder, I placed copies of every document I had about each individual in chronological order. If a document referred to multiple ancestors, I printed a separate copy for each of them. I didn’t use any original documents, but I still wanted to make the copies last as long as possible so I used Avery sheet protectors that are archival quality. Here are some of the types of documents I included:

  • Birth/death/marriage certificates
  • City directories
  • Military draft records
  • Yearbook pages
  • Land records
  • Cemetery records

Most of my sources were obtained on and For any online documents, I printed the image of the document and then also printed the transcription page from the website with the source information. I placed the transcription page behind each document in the same sheet protector.

I wanted to be able to easily find the individual’s name in each document, so I highlighted the corresponding line in the document with a yellow highlighter. This is especially helpful in census records or city directories that contain many names. Before highlighting, I made sure I let the ink dry for at least 30 minutes or else the ink smeared.

I don’t personally have any original documents for this line of the family, but I was able to obtain quite a few copies just from asking relatives. My in-laws have a cardboard box of various family records that I was able to borrow and scan into my computer using an Epson WorkForce Scanner. I love how quickly I was able to scan stacks of documents while still having high resolutions for photos.

Facebook also proved quite helpful in obtaining records and photos. I received a few items by simply asking our Reynolds Family Facebook group. I also came across the Buffum Family Association group (my husband’s great-grandmother was a Buffum) and asked if anyone had information about our particular line. The next day I was sent over a dozen old photos of ancestors, most of which I had never seen pictures of before.

As my research has continued, I have already found several new sources that I will add to my binder. I hope to make similar binders for all of my other family lines and will post updates here on my blog as my work progresses, along with other research tips.


67 thoughts on “Family History Binder – Part 6 – Documents

  1. Argle West January 11, 2017 / 1:24 am

    Thank you for sharing. I have enjoyed this series.


    • Donna January 14, 2023 / 1:09 pm

      I’ve been doing my gen and my husbands and will begin creating binders for each. The Ann I for the inspiration. My question is about ancestry. I have only used family search. Is it worth the subscription for What addl info might I find.


      • Lin May 3, 2023 / 12:07 pm

        For Donna- I had Ancestry years ago but it became expensive so I switched to Fam Search. Lots of good info but sometimes records could not be found. I am back on Ancestry but monthly only for a few months. When I finish my binder, I will stop Ancestry again. Works for me.


  2. Avalon January 11, 2017 / 1:30 am

    Many thanks for sharing….enjoyed following your Family History Binder


  3. Deborah Polley-Pflumm January 11, 2017 / 1:46 am

    As much as I love my Mac, I still need to actually feel the pages. I like to keep copies of everything as well. (What is the power should go out?). LOL. Your binder is neat and tidy just how I like it. Great job.


  4. Sandie January 11, 2017 / 3:09 am

    Thank you so very much for sharing all your work! You did a wonderful job and I’m inspired to “do as your doing” – Thank you for listing your supplies. Have already ordered them! This is like a shot in the arm to get going again!!


  5. Myrl January 11, 2017 / 4:48 am

    Thank you so much for sharing. I really needed the help and inspiration to get organised with sorting out my pile of records. I have been following your blogs and have partly completed one binder which I intend to finish to give to my father in law for his 90th birthday next month.


  6. Nan Bailey January 11, 2017 / 5:15 am

    This has been a great series of posts and it really gets me motivsted. Thanks so much for sharing.


  7. Meredith M. January 11, 2017 / 6:53 am

    Wow!!! This is absolutely wonderful! I am doing a thorough “go-over” of my tree and I would love to do one of these for each of my grandparents, perhaps for next Christmas. It would give me a definite goal to work toward.


  8. Jenny MacKay January 11, 2017 / 1:59 pm

    You’ve really inspired me to put my family files together and stop researching. I think we all tend to just keep searching and forget to do something with what we find or already have. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Linda Miers January 11, 2017 / 11:01 pm

    Thanks you so much for sharing your work with us! I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed it and how much it has prompted me to do as you’ve done. I write a newsletter for my hometown Genealogy Society and shared your link with the members in the current edition. I’ve ordered the supplies and look forward to getting started ASAP! Just the ideas I needed.


  10. Susan Oliver January 16, 2017 / 2:46 am

    Hi Jess.Can I ask when you add each generation into the binder which is numbered 1 to 15 for the 4 generations are you adding after each one the children from each marriage which is a family group record and includes there births ,marriages and deaths,or are you only adding a report for that first person of that generation and any other documents such as census ,death, marriage,ceritficates for each one of the 15.If so where wili the family of each be added.I hope this makes some sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jessaroni January 16, 2017 / 2:51 am

      I only did the documents for the 15 individuals. There is a family group sheet with just birth, marriage, and death dates for their children but that’s as far as I go with them. I have all of those cousins in my digital trees on ancestry and facebook but I don’t have the money or space to print and store all of their documents.


      • Susan Oliver January 16, 2017 / 6:49 am

        Thanks Jess I think that is what I mean so for each child of that is born to the person say number 2 my dad I can put a family group record and then for my other 4 siblings one for each of them which has their marriage and children and so on for each of the 15 lines.


    • Susan December 23, 2017 / 3:27 pm

      I am also researching the Reynolds family but in wisconsin


      • jessaroni December 23, 2017 / 3:36 pm

        Where did your Reynolds come from before Wisconsin? I know there were some from this line that went to Michigan so they could have gone to Wisconsin too.


  11. Linda Davis January 17, 2017 / 7:48 am

    I have really gotten a lot of help from your binder ideas. I have a question about documents. I have some individuals, direct line, that I have so many documents, that the file cabinet folder is actually 3 inches thick for one. Not many are like this but there are a lot that are at least a half inch to an inch thick. Do I just make a volume 2 and vol 3 for that particular surname?


    • jessaroni January 17, 2017 / 7:53 am

      Yes I would definitely recommend dividing it up if it gets that big. Mine just barely all fits in the 3-inch binder. If I add more pages later I’ll buy another binder and divide it in half. Make sure to print another copy of your pedigree to put at the beginning of the second binder so you have that to refer back to.


  12. Peter Violette January 21, 2017 / 6:19 am

    I keep binders on each different line of my family. But I don’t give the binders out, I used the information in the binders to create a Family History Book, and many of the items in the binder, end up in the book. I have a binder on each line of my family. The binders help keep me organized and focused, also I write notes all over everything in the binder, and refer back to my notes when I start writing. I also keep electronic folders on my computer containing everything in the binder, and much more, all in an electronic format (documents, pdf’s of books, photos, etc). In 2015 I was introduced to Createspace, and I have used it to self publish a Family History Book (working on second). In the end, the copies I gave out to family members, where cheaper then if I had copies made at Staples, and the Createspace service itself is FREE (you will have to pay for proof copies, mine was about $16). The end result looked amazing, everyone loved them and it created a lasting record of all the research I did (by the way it is still available on Amazon if you want to take a look, search “Violette Family Book”).

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Margo Malcheski April 3, 2017 / 2:51 pm

    thanks so much for sharing all of your work; however, some links-example to #3 -are broken


    • jessaroni April 3, 2017 / 11:17 pm

      Thanks for letting me know! It looks like those websites deleted the blank pedigree charts I was linking to. I’ll try to find replacements and fix the links as soon as I can.


  14. pattyejones September 28, 2017 / 8:00 pm

    Great series! I found your article on pinterest.

    I did a binder very similar to yours last year for my best friend. I had been researching her paternal line because she knew very little about her father and his family. She was coming to town for her birthday and I wanted to present it to her in a special way. It turned out wonderful, much slimmer than yours, but I learned a lot along the way.

    It’s wonderful to be able flip through a binder like this and made me realize I need to do this with own family lines. Already collecting supplies! I will use your index tab ideas with names and numbers.

    When i gave the binder to my friend she got all teary-eyed and said it was the best gift she had ever gotten.

    Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. jacki Wicker October 12, 2017 / 8:37 am

    Where did you find the cover page for your book? Is it a template we can purchase?


    • jessaroni October 12, 2017 / 8:59 am

      I designed it myself on my computer. Yours would vary depending on what pictures you have. Just line up some pictures on top and some at the bottom and put black lines to separate from the middle section. The font is Castellar.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Beth S October 27, 2017 / 5:27 am

    Insipring series! Thank you for sharing how you have organized yours, well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Natalie October 28, 2017 / 4:09 am

    Would you recommend Family Tree Maker over ancestry? Ancestry has been having a lot of problems lately and I’m really getting tired of it. So I’m thinking of changing. Thanks. I’m working towards a book for both sides of my family and this is great!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jessaroni October 28, 2017 / 8:03 am

      I find it so much easier to add and edit the info through ftm than through ancestry. I then sync my ftm with ancestry to share my tree online. That also lets me view my tree on my phone through the ancestry app.


  18. trilliumlady November 5, 2017 / 12:18 am


    I actually did the opposite for my family reunions. 7 living children.

    At the beginning are the Group Photos from the 40s to present. Then, I have a Tabbed Family Group sheet for each child (I designed the sheet and had them printed on CardStock) This was followed by pictures. Then, I had smaller nested tabbed sheets for each of that Uncle’s children with photos. Granted, it’s more of a photo album with FGS, but ….

    I might try and pull off Your Binder for the son and daughter-in-law for **next** Christmas! It would be a Neat Thing to do for the Family Reunion too … Pa was born in 1895 and Granny in 1899. I haul around the photo albums of all the reunion pictures. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Laura Piccirillo Dedering November 5, 2017 / 5:47 pm

    Your binder and clear instructions are an inspiration. I have been researching for a few years but the info is just thrown into file folders.
    You have motivated me to purchase all the supplies and get organized this winter.
    Thank You!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Janet November 6, 2017 / 5:05 pm

      I have been looking for an idea like this for quite a while. Thanks I will definitely be buying the folder and starting soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. gruneichtime November 18, 2017 / 9:11 pm

    Thank you! Loved this series! I had quiet the paper mess going over here. Now I’m up to my elbows in organization! Oh happy day!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Bonnie Burns November 25, 2017 / 8:35 pm

    I have done a lot of research on my family history and actually have it on paper, but it’s irratic and unorganized. This method is so perfect for me to get it all organized. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Vicki Kaiser January 25, 2018 / 11:34 am

    Are you going to another binder for the next 3 generations?


    • jessaroni January 25, 2018 / 12:20 pm

      Eventually I hope to go further back but I’ll probably do the first 4 generations for all of my other family lines first.


  23. Brenda Jones January 28, 2018 / 9:12 pm

    this is GREAT!!!!!! Thank you so very much for posting…..I now have a place to start and i love your system!!! Thanks again!!!


  24. A. Starnes January 29, 2018 / 11:21 am

    Am I reading this correctly that you don’t add all the children and siblings of your direct line ancestors? I know researching all of them, when there are 12-16 kids per family, gets very overwhelming; and then where do you draw the line?!? I have been using ancestry, and PAF before that. Somewhere down the line, when I first started on ancestry, I trusted the family trees downloaded by other individuals and now am finding lots of mistakes! I am getting ready to go back through each line and correct everything. Not a process that is going to be easy!!
    Thanks for your insight into your binders! You have done a fabulous job and I am inspired to get my stuff corrected and organized!


    • jessaroni January 29, 2018 / 11:28 am

      In my 2nd binder I made I did add the children as well. Also, my binders don’t include all of my research. I have all of my research in FTM and include any blood related relatives and their spouses. My binders are mostly just for non-genealogist family members to flip through and learn about their direct ancestors.


  25. Keli February 8, 2018 / 7:45 pm

    I have done all the work for my ancestry and have tried and failed in my attempt to put all the information together. I never knew that I would find as much information and photos as I did. It would be nice to put it all together and in one place. Your tips are very helpful and I like the blank pages that I can print out. Did you stay with just the parents and grandparents or did you gather children names and their families as well?


    • jessaroni February 8, 2018 / 7:52 pm

      In my first binder I only did direct ancestors, but I did include a family group sheet for each that listed their children. In my 2nd binder (my most recent blog post) I also included records for all of their children.


  26. Pearl July 7, 2018 / 6:29 am

    Nicely done! What do you do for generations 5-13?


    • jessaroni July 7, 2018 / 8:26 am

      I just create a new binder for each of those individual lines.


  27. Jan July 7, 2018 / 7:59 am

    Thank you for this. I need to put my research in a form that will interest other family members and this should work well. Do I understand correctly – a marriage certificate copy would appear under both the husband and wife’s section – a census record might appear under both the husband, wife, and child section?


    • jessaroni July 7, 2018 / 8:23 am

      Yes I duplicate everything because I find it easier when I want to view all of the documents about an individual.


  28. Michelle July 27, 2018 / 8:20 am

    Making sure I’m following this all correctly, you have a separate binder for each pedigree chart you complete? 15 dividers in each binder assigned to an individual (plus an extra for the extra things) and for each individual you include any record you can find on that individual, birth, death, marriage, etc?


    • jessaroni July 27, 2018 / 9:08 am

      If you want binders of all of your info then that’s how I’d do it. I personally keep all of my research digitally and just create these binders for family members that don’t use computers. I’m not planning on creating a complete library but you definitely could if you prefer to have everything printed.


      • Michelle July 27, 2018 / 10:36 am

        Thank you for replying. I am more of a “feel the page” type of person (maybe one day I’ll do everything digitally). Do you also include a source checklist with each person? Also under your extra divider what are some other “things” you include?


  29. Charlene Harmon August 11, 2018 / 6:05 am

    I notice you have Curry listed as a family name where are they from? My family is from South Carolina, And Mississippi.


    • jessaroni August 11, 2018 / 9:21 am

      Our Currys are from Illinois, and Virginia before that


  30. Cartha September 9, 2018 / 6:51 pm

    I loved your series. I like so many others, have just gathered and gathered information. While some of my info is digital, I too like to “feel” the paper so this organization idea has helped immensely! Thanks for paving the way (and then explaining it all to us 😉 for us!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Janet WHITE October 5, 2018 / 10:31 pm

    I have experimented with several ways of organizing my different families, but I like your idea of just using the 15 people on the group sheet and filling in their families on the back of each individual’s timeline and map…also putting all general maps, photos, etc. at beginning of the book with number of individual is a great idea…like the idea of having a space for captions on ultra-pro 5×7 sheets, too. Good luck with other three families. People are right…it is time to STOP researching and start putting pen (ink) to paper! I have just returned from a great trip to Scotland, with lots of family history on my daughters’ father’s family, so am ready to get started now. Thanks so much…

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Janet WHITE October 5, 2018 / 10:38 pm

    PS Wills and a few anecdotes are other great additions to a person’s section


  33. Barbara Hull October 9, 2018 / 6:28 am

    It is great timing I found this series today. I am organizing our family records for a family vacay next summer. While I cannot make binders as large as you did, I will use several of your ideas. I have at least 15 binders to make, enough for the 4 siblings and all the adult grandchildren. My parents have both passed. I may include some stories so the grandkids learn the stories too. I have contacted my cousins on my moms side about making copies for the 8 of them as well, so they know the history of that side of family. I have no living relatives from my dad’s side. I never thought about including any maps, but it would be very helpful. Thanks again for all your hard work.


  34. Julie Brokaw November 28, 2018 / 8:12 am

    I just love this series. I am trying to create a book on my husband’s linage (to give to my kids for Christmas) which we just discovered includes Mayflower passengers and tons of quirky pioneers, fur trappers and devout Quaker families that are well documented in Colonial books, letters and family histories.

    Do you have any suggestions for how to organize a book like that? I’m afraid I will become frustrated and never get to the stories on their more distant ancestors if I have to first create detailed binders on the first five generations? I guess I want to create a broad brush picture of their ancestory that makes them interested in learning more.


  35. Cathy Knight February 25, 2019 / 7:56 am

    Oh my goodness, what a labour of love!! I have been looking for a way to document our family and have just discovered your excellent series!! Thank you so much for sharing!! I have boxes of b/w photos, some going back to the late 1890s and really had no idea how to store / document them all!! Think I’ll definitely give this a go!! Thanks again!!


  36. Bernadette February 28, 2019 / 11:11 am

    Thank you so much! I recently printed out all the information and have it in stacks (literally). I couldn’t decide on how to categorize it in my binder. You saved me a lot of extra time as I’m making 3 copies!! Love the idea of numbering each person. I just updated my FTM to the latest software & can’t wait to print all your great ideas. Thank you again!!

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Jane Cronin April 20, 2019 / 1:21 pm

    I just found this information on PINTEREST and have been reviewing how to make binders for the last hour or more, It has been very helpful, it is just what I needed to read as I have a lot of papers and photos here and there. This will help me organize this information. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Theresa Jensen Strange April 23, 2020 / 2:46 am

    My grandma’s maiden name is Reynolds. Born in OK, moved to ID around the dust bowl yrs. Her father born in Kansas, 1st name Milton. Of course the name on your book grabbed my attention.


  39. Cindy May 22, 2020 / 8:47 am

    When you do tabs in your book do you include children


  40. Pam Trocha August 23, 2020 / 2:59 pm

    Alway use acid fast storage. Make sure you include your contact info because someone will want the info. Alway list where you get photos as someone may know the person everyone can not remember the name. In your documents add two more. Wills. When someone passes ask for the will it always has family info.and locations. Secondly recipes, grandkids love grandparents favorite food items when they have passed. I have a few greatgrandarents cake recipes. Another thing you could put census in an area with just the enlarge portion for each person with directions to the actual document.


  41. Linda January 6, 2022 / 9:36 am

    Do you have a special tracking form that you use to enter names of immigration and/or naturalization?


    • jessaroni January 6, 2022 / 10:43 am

      None of my ancestors I’ve found so far have changed their names during immigration, so I haven’t had the need for this. My dad’s side were all British, and my mom is from Italy so she is my immigrant ancestor on her side and didn’t change her name.


  42. Missy Mills January 6, 2022 / 7:52 pm

    Just found your series. I love this. I want to do this with my family tree. My cousin has done a lot of the work and has it posted on I found out that I’m related to Sir Isaac Newton.


  43. trilliumlady February 11, 2022 / 1:57 pm

    Just dropped in on this series again. Girlfriend, you were clearly in the right place at the right time with the Right Idea.

    Kudos and Congrats for coming up with **AND SHARING** one of the best ideas to date.

    I hope you are well in our time of plague!


    • jessaroni February 11, 2022 / 2:15 pm

      Thank you! I wrote most of this in the middle of the night while up with a newborn. I have no idea how I was even able to write anything that made sense haha. Now my kids are older so I really should write more but I’ve been spending more time researching instead.


      • trilliumlady February 11, 2022 / 6:31 pm

        Nods. Those little ones come first. They’ll be starting college next week! Shakes head. Mine will be 34 in June.

        We’ll be here when the time is right!


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