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 this blog makes it web based. (I think you should always keep both an electronic database and hard copies of all documentation, records and pictures).

What is an MRIN ?

This entire filing system is based around MRIN’s, so you’ll need to understand what that is and how it works

MRIN = Marriage Record Identification Number

Think of it as a family group sheet. Basically, when a person leaves their parents home and forms a partnership/marriage of their own, they are now their own family unit (where you would create a new family group sheet). A new MRIN is assigned to that particular family and this is where you would put all documentation of that family. All members of this family will remain in this MRIN until the children each go out and start their own families, then they would be assigned their own MRIN.

If a grown child never marries/has a relationship and or children then I leave them in the MRIN with their parents. Sadly, all of us will find that we have family that died way too young. Even though I don’t give them their own MRIN, I do research them as much as possible and try to give as much information about them as I possibly can. I believe that especially since they didn’t have the chance to have their own families, and that line ends with them, that it is our responsibility, as their nieces and nephews, to make sure they are not forgotten.

I like to keep the records of multiple marriages/relationships/children of one couple in the same MRIN.
For example: one set of my great-grandparents were each married multiple times. My grandfather was the result of their very brief marriage, but each of them had several children from other spouses/relationships. However, since my grandfather and his parents are my direct line and the main focus of my research, I keep all of the relationships/spouses/children of his parents in this one MRIN. I do keep a separate family group sheet for each relationship and the children from that relationship. I then file all documents behind the family group sheet that they apply to for each one to keep myself organized. Maybe someday I’ll go through and give each one their own MRIN if I decide to research extensively on other spouses and children. But for now, keeping them all together works best for me. You’ll figure out what works best for you.

MRIN = Marriage Record Identification Number

MRIN 000001 is your marriage and any children that you may have
(always start with yourself and work back)
MRIN 000002 is your parents marriage and their children
MRIN 000003 is one set of your grandparents and their children
MRIN 000004 is one set of your great-grandparents and their children

See where we are going with this? A person remains a part of their parents family unit until they marry and/or have children of their own. Thus, they have started their own family unit and are issued their own MRIN at that point. You simply put any and all documents in the file accordingly.
It is pretty simple once you get the hang of it.

(The numbering system only needs all of the zeros in front on the electronic database filing to keep it all in order. It’s not necessary to have them on anything else unless you want to.)

Genealogy Programs

To my knowledge all genealogy programs issue an identification number to every person entered into it. There are some that will also automatically give a family an MRIN. I find that for some of those programs that automatically give the MRIN that they are not always in order (I think that you should be able to stop the program from doing that somewhere in the setup) and sometimes if you’ve made a mistake and had to delete a family unit out for whatever reason some of these programs will re-distribute the numbers and totally throw off your system. This is why I like to issue my own numbers. I simply add the MRIN in the suffix box after their name. I would suggest this method mainly because if you decide to switch to a different genealogy program this will transfer over and you will not lose your numbering system. Also you can search by the MRIN instead of a name.

Hard Copies

You will need the following items:

  1. A large 3 ring binder or file drawer. I believe that my 3 ring binder has 2 inch rings. I would suggest this size. (As far as using a binder versus a file drawer…this totally depends on your preference. I use the 3 ring binder simply because it is easy to pick up and take with me versus pulling files out that I would probably misplace)
  2. A 3 ring hole punch (only if you use a binder, it’s not necessary with a file drawer)
  3. Page dividers with tabs to label (for binder) or files for a drawer
  4. Page protectors for your original documents to keep them safe

Simply write numbers (1, 2, 3, etc…) on the tabs of the page dividers (I suggest using a black marker)
Put the page dividers in the 3 ring binder or file drawer in numerical order.
Assign a MRIN number to a family and put all of your documents for that family in the appropriately numbered divider in your binder or file. If you have original documents, I would suggest that you make photocopies for this book and put the originals in a safe place. You don’t want to put holes in them or you could simply use a page protector. I wouldn’t suggest using a page protector on all of your documents because they tend to be a little too long and may cover up your numbering system.

Electronic databases

You will need to make a file labeled MRIN Sources (or whatever you decide to call it).

Then make sub files within the MRIN Sources file labeled as MRIN_000001 (I even include the names of the married couple on this file for easier lookups. Always put the MRIN before the names. This will keep your records in numerical order and you will be able to find your documents in a matter of seconds). Do this for all of the families you have already, are in the process of, and plan to research.

As you find documentation for a person print it out and put a copy in the the MRIN file for that person. Scan a copy and file it in the electronic database for that MRIN. You may even want to go as far as transcribing the document into your genealogy program.

I hope that these instructions make sense. I may eventually add some screen captures and pictures so that you can see what mine look like. Personally, I learn better that way.

Web Based

I decided to add this as a format also because if you think about it, this entire blog is an MRIN. So please go to the home page and scroll to the MRIN index and check it out, click on some names and look around, get a feel for it. If you have any question, please feel free to ask. I’ll do my best to answer or to point you in the right direction.



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  2. Beth, Does the MRIN number get assigned to both husband and wife or just husband? What genealogy software do you use, for example, and where would you enter the MRIN in it?

    • The MRIN number is assigned to the husband, wife, any of their children who did not marry and/or have children. Once the children married and/or had children, they get assigned their own MRIN.I also include any other spouses and/or children with those spouses, but that’s just my personal preference, to keep that family unit tied together. I put the MRIN in the suffix box (where you’d normally put Jr., Sr, etc) because it shows up in their name and also in a search, but it’s totally your preference and how you think it will work best for you. As far as what program I use. I usually keep and work on my tree on I do have Rootmagic as a backup. Especially since it now works with Ancestry. You can usually set up your genealogy program to automatically issue ID numbers for each person in your tree, but I found that if you deleted someone, those numbers sometimes changed and I like to have a number for each family rather than each person, it’s just easier to keep track of. I hope that helps answer your question, please feel free to ask if you need more assistance

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