I have not kept good research notes along the way. I have several boxes of family history papers, many priceless family photographs, plus online files and emails. I take good care of the pictures by having them in archival boxes in one location. I have scanned many but not all with my Canon MX860 printer. (It scans a group of pictures and then automatically separates them into individual files!!)
I am currently taking HIST 433 for my degree "Writing a Narrative Biography" and spending hours and hours every day going back through my records, using RootsMagic's source feature, and undoing years of neglect. In the end, I will have a super record of the research that I have done. For now, I have resolved to take better notes and filing research under logical categories.
If you are interested in keeping better records, I would recommend the article linked here. FamilySearch Wiki has as much information about doing family history as you could possibly need! I am thinking of regularly scheduled class breaks to learn about what I should be learning. (haha)
Here's what I am doing now for census records -- choose one family unit (father, mother, children) and run the family through the census. (The McDermotts came to America in about 1870. I check the census for 1870, 1880, (1890 was destroyed), 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940. The principle applies to every other document.
When I find a family that fits the name, dates, and places of my family, I type the reference into RootsMagic. For example, the Frank McDermott family is in the 1900 US Census, Clay Banks, Door, Wisconsin; E.D. (enumeration district), page, dwelling & family number. Also, I enter the film or online location of the record. (Ancestry.com) Next, I go into the detail source portion of RootsMagic and enter everything from the census record.
Frank McDermott, head, June 1850, 49, married 15 years, CAN E/IRE/IRE (he was born in Canada East, his father & mother were born in Ireland), immigrated 1868, naturalized; postmaster; owned home, free (no mortgage), house.
Valentine J., son, Nov 1886, 13 years, single, WIS/CAN E/WIS, at school 8 months
John H., son, Oct 1890, 9, single, WIS/CAN E/WIS, at school 8 months.
Frank McDermott was the brother of my great-great-great grandmother Mary McDermott Madoche. He ran a cheese factory with his brother-in-law, Eugene Madoche, and split postmaster duties depending on which political party was in office. The two families were neighbors in Door county, Wisconsin. Sometimes, research problems are solved by looking into the siblings' lives.
I will also note if any family members are living nearby (on the same page). Dwellings 9, 11, 13, & 18 have family members. I once heard that a thorough genealogist will collect everyone for the page before and after plus the entire page of the family. I am not that thorough although I do look on the current page.
On RootsMagic I will save the source (alt+o), then highlight & memorize the line (alt+m), close the individual (alt+o,alt+o), and save the record to each member listed in the census (Frank, Marie, Valentine, & John). If I don't have a record of the deaths of the other two children, I will make a note on their files as well.
This is what works for me. I repeat the process for each member of the family and each census year that they are alive.