What do you think? Am I crazy? Digitizing my genealogy files.

Frustrated - Photo courtesy of Deboer at stock.xchng.com

Frustrated – Photo courtesy of Deboer at stock.xchng.com

My goodness! Here we are with only five days until Christmas and 12 days left in this year! Our seasonal exclamation “Where did the time go!” never seemed truer than it is today. So with all the last minute holiday details of shopping, wrapping, baking and so on I’ve decided to look ahead to next week. The “calm week” (for me at least) between Christmas and New Year.

And what’s so important that I’d look past the holiday to my “calm week” you ask? Let me tell you! I’ve taken the leap and made the commitment (to myself) to digitize my genealogy files. No longer will I be searching piles upon piles of papers for a copy of a handwritten letter by my great Aunt Sarah. No longer will I have small scraps of papers on my desk with hastily scribbled notes and research ideas. No longer will I have sticky notes plastered everywhere! No siree, not me!

The idea to digitize my family genealogy records comes from Joey Bowen. Joey is an IT guy and has used his computer knowledge to digitize his family history which is easily available on his computer and smart phone. Joey shared his digital genealogy organization methods at the Lima (OH) Family History Center back in October. (Please check this link when you’re finished with this post!) I was very fortunate to sit in on one of his classes, Now I Have It – How Do I Organize It.

Basically Joey suggests:

• A master file folder for each person (Cindy Freed) There would be four files within the master file.
• One for documents about that person (Cindy’s docs)
• One for father (John D. Frueh)
• One for mother (Dorothea F. Lowery)
• One for the family the person grew up in (John & Dorothea Frueh)

I would repeat the master file w/four folders for each person in my family tree. (Yes that would be hundreds of master files!)

Documents that would be scanned and placed in each folder would include birth, death and Baptism certificates. Additional spouses and research relating to them. Military service records, photos, you get the idea.

In the folder for the family the person grew up in – you would include census records (after the parents were married), marriage and divorce records, etc.

The master Cindy folder could also include a sibling file, a children/descendants file with related info and additional spouses as well. That’s how I plan to handle those.

So we’ve got one master folder for each person and various files in that folder with the documents and info relating to that person. This will require a lot of scanning on my part, along with detailed titles for each document so I can access them with some ease. I have a Flip Pal for the photos and a regular size flat bed scanner for documents. Once I have scanned both photos and documents I will file the hard copies in binders to be stored. All my documents will be in one place and not in several drawers and folders like they are currently.

A side benefit to scanning all my documents will be a review of all the information I have. I’m sure I have scads of info I have forgotten or now has new meaning to me. Along with scanning I will create a To-Do folder on my hard drive to keep track of all the research ideas that come with reviewing information.

In regard to documents that apply to several people, Joey suggested they should be placed in the folder of the main person the document refers to. Then create a link back to that document in the folders of the other people included in the document. This is a great idea! It will save a lot of memory on your computer. You won’t be putting one document in several folders. If you’re not sure how to create a link, just Google it. The instructor only worked with PCs not Macs but I easily found how to create a link on a Mac by googling it.

Also if you have family members that show up in your family tree a couple times, create only one folder for them but add links back to this folder as you need them.

One last item! Always back-up your computer! With your family history digitized you don’t want to lose your valuable work if your computer dies or you experience a calamity!

Now I’m sure I’ll vary this plan to suit my needs but this blueprint will get me started on digitizing my genealogy files. I expect digitizing my family files to take all of 2013. (I really don’t know how long it will take, that’s just a guess on my part.) With some diligent work I hope to have it completed a lot sooner but I seem to get side-tracked easily and frequently.

I also plan to blog about my progress once a month. Hopefully a monthly post will keep me on track and with your input, together we can work out any snags in the process.

So what do you think? Am I crazy? Will let you know how I’m doing at the end of “calm week”! Wish me luck!

P.S. Many Thanks to Mr. Bowen for allowing me to share his hard work and valuable information.
Now I Have it – How Do I Organize It – notes by J. Bowen

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5 thoughts on “What do you think? Am I crazy? Digitizing my genealogy files.

  1. Pingback: What do I do with the small scraps of paper, hastily scribbled ideas and the sticky notes plastered everywhere! | Genealogy Circle

  2. I recommend to the students who take my class to have three methods of back up, keep the paper files, have a back system on your computer and also save on cd’s. I also recommend giving cd’s to another family member in case of fire. We lost many family photos, the only copies to a fire at a relatives home. Lesson learned- have many many ways you save family history you never know when a tragedy will take it all away.

    • Mary Jo,
      Thank you for your comment! I appreciate your words of experience. A cd of family photos distributed to other members is a great idea. Who knows what what unfortunate incident may threaten our collected family history. Even the most unlikely tend to occur. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.

  3. So glad I saw this. I digitized all docs, well over 300 photos and letters etc. quite a few years ago. They are on flash drive, then copied onto flash drives for all interested family members, thereby creating backup. I have always felt whatever genealogical find I stumble on belongs to the entire family, not for me to hoard and digitizing was the most logical method. It also preserves the originals. Am grateful for these ideas on organization…think I will have to reorganize my collection!

    • A great way to share data and have a professional backup at the same time is to upload all documents and photos for deceased individuals to that person’s FamilySearch entry. Doing so gives access to your data to anybody who comes along, including more distant relatives you may not share with now and also to future researchers who may come along after you’re gone. Your various family members may have copies of the data but what happens they’re all deceased? Another benefit is that FamilySearch is constantly upgrading to prevent technological obsolescence. Your data is therefore constantly being placed on the latest data storage systems. Having your data on flash drives is great until those drives become obsolete. How will you retrieve it the? Remember 5 1/4″ disks, then 3 1/2″ disks, Zip drives, and many of the latest tablets have no USB slots, etc.

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