Sorting Saturday: Satchel Sanity

I do believe, I do believe, I do believe.  Like the Cowardly Lion, I do believe that I have the heart to stare straight at what has left me motionless–physically and mentally.  In this case I don’t have to kill any wicked witch; goodness reigns in my house.  But I do have the dreaded satchel of family scraps–a history trove any other genealogist would LOVE to have. Loose letters, receipts, documents, and notes have been carefully stored and read by others.  But there is no table of contents, no annotated who’s who.  The satchel’s connections and stories are mine to retrieve.

A prepared space makes for a prepared mind.

Looping through my head this motto coaxes me to take the time to get everything ready before I dive into the wonderfulness of 19th century ink.  Selecting a small bundle I set it at one end of my dining room table which, with its leaves in, has become a 26 square foot work space.  The east side of the table is laid with my computer, notebook, acid free sheet protectors, label tape, pencils, printer/scanner, and digital camera. The west side of the re-purposed dining surface is ready to receive the work.

I draw a deep breath of patience and begin.

My time on Footnote.com has taught me to annotate names, dates, places, and type of document before attempting to qualify a connection to other known facts, stories or events.  If I have a buzz train–a series of aha!s–roaring through my mind I stop the annotating and write it all down in my notebook.  At the bottom of that page I leave space to create some good working questions, the kind that a science teacher would like, the kind that will clarify a  pattern, explain some event or challenge an assumption.

Back to my item, I prepare a sheet protector by affixing an index finger-sized piece of labeling tape to the upper right corner.  The date is written in the upper right hand corner of that empty white space, with any place names underneath.  People names go in the left hand corner, on top of my declaration of Will, Bill of Sale, Deed, Letter, Receipt or Other.  The item is slipped into the sleeve and placed in chronological order on the open, west side of the table.

By the end of my sortin’ time, I have a timeline of items, a page full of thoughts and  more than a few questions.  A three ring notebook clicks open and I place the sleeve protected treasures in–most recent items first.  I jot the dates of the included items on a clean sheet of paper, followed by questions this session has generated.  Slipped into the front plastic protector, my workbook now wears its own unique cover.  Tomorrow I repeat this process. When every last paper has its annotated home the reading for connections will begin.  Another round of sorting is sure to follow before the collection of documents yields its patterns, explanations and revelations.

I do believe, I do believe, I do believe–that the satchel scraps sorted today will be woven into great family stories, someday.

8 thoughts on “Sorting Saturday: Satchel Sanity

    • Yes. Very. Now to control the sense of being overwhelmed and the expectation that I will “get it” in just a few sessions. :)

  1. I love your satchel! I also like the idea that you’re jotting thoughts, notes, questions as you go. I expect this will be really helpful in the long run and at some point, you’ll probably choose to rearrange your papers into those pertaining to a particular person or family. I believe you’ll find great stories there, too!

    • Oh, thank you for the encouragement! I have already recognized some threads of stories, and it is all I can do to restrain myself to just sort accordingly. But I have already experienced the “oh, that goes with THAT?” more than once, and I know that I have to process ALL these papers before going back. The stories are sure to follow! :)

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