I have been doing Genealogy research for well over fourteen years now. Since the very beginning I disliked paper and the clutter associated with it. In the following paragraphs I will explain how I have managed to keep my genealogy research paperless. If you all have any other tips to keep it paperless, let us know in the comments.
I bought a scanner which I have already replaced twice since 1998. The first thing I did was obtain as many pictures as possible from my mother. I scanned them and returned them, this allowed me to have them at my fingertips and could reproduce them as I needed. It also allowed me to create a back up in case that anything happened to them. To store and manage photos I use Picasa it’s free and very user friendly and currently managing my over 37,000 photo collection. You can also use it to scan pictures, documents, and even create collages. You can also tag their GPS location to see where each photo was taken.
I have no documents lying around anywhere. Since very early I either printed anything that I would find on the internet into PDF files by using CutePDF Writer or would scan magazine articles and books. The way I decided to manage my documents and reduce clutter but yet find them as fast as possible was to create one folder and label it Genealogy. Under that folder I created sub-folders for many subcategories but the most important one is Sources and yep all my sources are in that folder. From the main Genealogy folder I am always four clicks away from any document that I may need in my sources folder. As of the time of writing this I have over 34,000 files on my Genealogy Folder Imagine printing all that out.
Finally, I am very selective of what goes into my database which I currently use Family Tree Builder from MyHeritage to manage. It currently holds over 16,000 names, countless documents, images, and photos.
How can I get rid of my piles of documents?
Very simple change your habits, instead of copying files at local library try taking pictures with smartphone or iPod, if possible take your scanner and laptop. Also don’t print anything from the internet, PDF it instead and place it in your Genealogy Folder. Finally once you have changed your habits and those piles are not getting any bigger set aside at least 30 minutes of each day to scan the documents that you already have.
CutePDF = http://www.cutepdf.com/products/cutepdf/writer.asp
Picasa = http://picasa.google.com/
MyHeritage = http://www.myheritage.com
All of the above mentioned resources are free and wont cost you a penny.