MRIN Filing System

By Beth Birchfield.

This article was originally published in 2009 as a post on my blog, “Everyone Has A Story/aka Beth’s Blog”, and updated on 29 May 2018.

The MRIN Filing System

It has taken me many years and losing my research several times to finally find a way to get myself organized. It’s actually very easy and I’ll show you how to do it in this section. I use this format as an electronic database, as a way to keep my hard copies and original documents safe, organized and to easily match up with my genealogy program, and also as the format on my blog that makes it web based.

I want to make sure that I’m sharing with you just exactly how fantastic and helpful this filing system is for getting and staying organized while obsessing in genealogy/family history research. It took a little bit of practice for the process to click-in, but once I really got the concept, it was easy to put it all together and really get a good use from it, and be able to explain it in a simpler way.

I cannot stress enough how much this has helped me. I don’t have to have dozens of binders and clutter everywhere. Everything is neatly organized in a file cabinet. I use to use a binder and switched to a file cabinet because (1) we inherited it so might as well put it to use and (2) I got tired of having to hole punch everything or have put up with page protectors that were too big and blocked my labels. It’s totally your choice, this is just my own preference.

So let me share with you the brilliance of the filing system that is called the MRIN = Marriage Record Identification Number

(I’m going to use one set of my 3rd great-grandparents as the example)

This is the family of Robert Gore Ball and Susan Jane (Brock) Ball and their 13 children

I’ve given this family the MRIN-19

R.G. Ball Family2

What I did was add this family to my tree and in the suffix area I put MRIN-19 for each member of the *family. I do it this way because I want that MRIN visible to me at all times when I’m working on this family. You can put the MRIN in the notes or wherever you feel more comfortable, but this is the way I like to do it. It has never interfered with any search options in any way.

*This includes multiple spouses, step and adopted children. They are all a part of this family unit.



For my hard copies, I create a hanging file in my filing cabinet for MRIN-19.

For my digital copies, I created a file on my hard drive as follows (this way I always know where my files are saved

MRIN database

  • In my Documents I created a file labeled Genealogy
  • Within the Genealogy file I have several sub-files one of which is MRIN Sources
  • Within the MRIN Sources file I created a file for MRIN-000019 Robert Gore Ball and Susan Jane Brock (I use all the zeros to keep my files in numerical order.

That’s it. Now all of my sources, documents and pictures, both hard copies and digital copies have a place for everything and everything in its place. If I want to know anything about that family I just go to the file for MRIN-19.

Now for their children. The exact same process as above applies. They stay in their parents MRIN until they marry and/or start their own family, then you would assign them their own MRIN. Keep all of their childhood records in their parents file and just start when they are out on their own.

The following is my own tweak to this system so it might get a little confusing. Don’t worry, just follow the process above…that’s the heart of it and all you really need to do. This is just something I’ve found I like to do myself.

My own preference is to assign my direct line ancestor from this family a separate MRIN and for all of their siblings I create sub-files in their parents MRIN in both the hard copies and digital.

In the genealogy program for this family I kept the MRIN-19 and added a letter behind it for each child.MRIN database 2

For the hard copies I use manila folders and labeled each one with that new MRIN-19 and their name and placed that within the hanging file folder for MRIN-19



For the digital copies I created a sub-file for each child (other than my direct line ancestor who has been given a completely different MRIN)

MRIN database 3

So the siblings would be MRIN-19A, MRIN-19B, MRIN-19C…etc. I do this because mostly this is where I stop doing intense research on the siblings of my direct ancestors. I research them throughout their lives, their spouses and a little on their children. All the while keeping MRIN-19 and adding a letter for one generation, then follow it with another number for the next generation and so on. This way I always know who is our MRCA = Most Recent Common Ancestor.

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