There has been a lot of interest in the MRIN filing system so I think it’s worthy of a recap. From the questions I’ve been asked it seems my overly-complicated presentation of it left some people in the dust. And there may have been other people who threw up their hands and just left. I’m sure there are genius-level filing systems around. The MRIN filing system just isn’t one of them so I take full responsibility for being abstruse.
First of all, your genealogy database has to include MRINs – Marriage Record Identification Numbers. If it does, the MRIN filing system has only 3 things going on: the numbers in your database, (MRINs and Master Source File IDs) the numbers on your paper documents, and the numbers of your digital documents. And for each source it’s all the same number. Hey, it’s your lucky day!
At this point I have over 9,000 people in my database, paper or digital documents for 500 MRINs, 100 Master Source File ID numbers, 1,000 digital documents, and a 15″ pile of paper. And I’ve hardly begun. This system is as easy to use now as it was when I started. Whatever I’m looking for can be found within seconds by a number. The MRIN or the Master Source File ID.
Your paper can be filed any way you want, according to budget and space. Binders are lovely but expensive. A filing cabinet would be my dream but it would take space I don’t have. So I use storage boxes and and page protectors and dog-eared dividers with home-made numbering. The supplies don’t matter so much, so just use what you have or can afford.
If you want to stick with the MRINs already in your database, that’s fine. Otherwise start with anyone who has an MRIN that you’ve got documents for and renumber them “1″. (under Tools in your Legacy program) Now every piece of paper or digital file connected to them individually or as a couple, and any unmarried children, gets filed under “1″. If you scan any of their documents, they go under “1″ in your digital library. Digital documents need an extension, i.e. 1-a, 1-b, 1-c, or some such to distinguish them from each other. I do it this way:
As you can see, this has nothing to do with alphabetical filing. It’s all strictly by MRIN.
As you are citing a source for the MRIN “1″ people, in your database, use “1″, plus its extension, in the Source Detail box. Voila! if you ever need to find your way back from your database to the related digital document, just follow the number. If you’re looking for the paper source go to “1″ in your paper files.
In this case the Master Source cited is Erie Co., OH Marriage Records, and the file ID number for the specific document is 0001-1. If I have another document for couple “1″ it would be 0001-2, etc.
Then pick someone else to be MRIN “2″ and keep going til you’re done.
It does not matter if you have paper and digital documents for a particular person or just one or the other or nothing. It does not matter if you only have documents for some of your MRINs. You can’t file what you don’t have, so forget about it.
Here’s what I do when I don’t have paper, but have digital sources only. I put a plain text document (I don’t use plain text for anything else so its recognizable in its meaning) with the MRIN and the name of the person as its file-name in my digital library. I put a brief list in the text document of the paper pages I have, so if I’m looking through my digital library it will tell me what I’ve got in my boxes of paper without having to haul them down off the shelf. This is totally optional but seemed to make sense when my muscles got tired.
As I scanned my way through hundreds of pages I renumbered my MRINs starting at “1″. Just one couple at a time. It takes 2 seconds to renumber an MRIN. What that does is push the higher numbers out of your way. This is not critical, it’s just tidier.
Here’s the process if you’re scanning documents:
- give the digital document a number, i.e. the MRIN, followed by an extension, person’s name and a short description if you like
- extract all relevant information from the document into your database
-cite the Master Source, noting the number (the one you just gave the document) in the Source Detail File ID box for each place you use information from this document
- add the scanned page to your digital Source Library folder
- file the paper page, and move onto the next
I like to scan everything I can because I’ve seen what even 10 years can do to a piece of paper, not to mention the risk of fire or flood. Another good reason for scanning documents is that it makes them easy to share by email. If someone’s willing to trade you a 1795 newspaper clipping for a long-lost death certificate, you’re already on top of it. Yet another advantage is that you can search your computer for a snippet you recall but can’t remember exactly where. But if scanning is not your thing, it’s even easier – just file your papers according to the MRINs of the people you’ve got paper for.
For Master Sources it’s a similar process. Say, you’ve got a paper document of 30 pages called Pennsylvania Genealogies that involves many persons. If you want to scan that, then give it a number, any old number that suits you. If you only have it as paper it’s the same process. You can also print pages from the Internet and give them a place in your digital library. The number could be 4081, or PG107 or en&%kl4957. The only thing that matters is that it says the same thing in your database under Master Source File ID as it does in your digital library and/or your paper files so you can find it again. In this case there will be no number in an individual’s source detail citation box. You can put a page number if you have one.
Somewhere along the road choose a backup option or two if you haven’t yet. This is a project that will make you proud as well as taking the weight of chaos off your shoulders and you don’t want to be losing it. The combination of an external hard-drive and SyncBack is my favorite. I also use Mozy for online backup. If you have less than 2 GB you can do it for free. If you have more, it will cost you $5 a month.
For the original paper-based version of this system, read FileYourPapers.com. If you have time, let me know how this is working out for you.