Growing up with a relatively small family, and what I always thought was an uncommon surname, D'Addezio, I was quite surprised to see how many potential cousins I had as I researched the family heritage. My biggest challenge? What to do with all these clues!
In his article, How Do I Keep All This Stuff Straight?, George Morgan confirms this by saying "You've been so busy working on tracing the family tree that a you've killed a tree and it's laying in your house." A vivid image of what my genealogy room looks like.
There are plenty of "systems" out there for you to follow. But the bottom line is you have to come up with a method you are comfortable with. Take your pick: binders, boxes, envelopes or folders. These are the basics elements for storing research.
Once you've got your clues under control, then you should begin recording all correspondence you have. Unless, of course, if you like suprises! One day I came home to find a letter with some documents I had sent away for months ago and had totally forgot about.
When you mail away for information, whether to a relative, archive or the government, it's always best to file a copy and record the date in a log of some sorts. I often just keep an Excel spreadsheet of this information.
A common oversight is not to include e-mail correspondence. With more and more organizations coming online, it is becoming easier to request lookups and order documents. These requests should be recorded as well.
Organizing Your Family Records
A guide by Desmond Walls Allen and Carolyn Earle Billingsley.
Producing Quality Research Notes
From the Board for Certification of Genealogists
Naming and Numbering Your Documents
An article by Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, CGRS.
Organizing Your Family History Search : Efficient & Effective Ways to Gather and Protect Your Genealogical Research
A book by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack.