This week in Organizing my Genealogy Files . . .

. . . I set up my “system” on my computer. This is where I create all the files for the pics and documents I’ll be scanning. This is fairly simple. It’s a matter of creating and naming files but really important to have ready to go since these folders are where you’ll be placing your pics and docs once they’re scanned. The biggest decision here may be how you want these files grouped on your laptop for easy access when you want to find a pic or document at a later time.

So what I did was create one file on the desktop of my computer and named it My Family History. Then I opened up that file and I created another folder inside it and put my name on it. Next I opened up my file and added two files, one for each of my parents. When I open up the file with my dad’s name I add two files one for each of his parents. When I open up the file with my mom’s name I add two files one for each of her parents and so on. The example below helps to visualize what I’m saying.

Examples of files for Organizing Genealogy Records

When I click on the Me file it contains My Dad and My Mom files. When I click on My Dad file it contains Dad’s dad and Dad’s mom files and so on.

I opted to use this system because it is like a path. Each file is a stepping stone of my direct ancestors. I just climb through the generations to reach a distant relative. This helps reinforce family relationships in my mind. I decided I like this method better that opening my main file and have 100 or more sub files for each ancestor. BUT if that works for you please use it! The main idea here is to create a system you feel comfortable with and will use as you scan and save your family pics and documents.

Now of course there are subfiles to add collateral ancestors in this system. Take my dad’s file for example. First there is a file for his dad, Camillus and a file for his mom, Flora. I also added a file for their family, naming it Camillus and Flora family. Into that file goes a new file for each of their children (my dad and his siblings). The pics below may help make it a little clearer.

ScreenShot of my Digital Genealogy Files

Clicking on my Dad’s file you see there is a file for his dad, his mom and a family file.

When clicking on the Camillus and Flora family file you’ll see I’ve added their children as seen in the second image below.

ScreenShot of my Digital Genealogy Files

Clicking on the family file you get my dad and his siblings.

I can continue adding files for their children and the next generation but I’m holding off on that. I’m not sure how many pics or docs I’ll have for some of my distant relatives, so past first cousins I’ll add files as I need them. This isn’t a pedigree chart just digital storage for all my scanned genealogy papers.

Now as I scan and save docs, photos, censuses and family histories I’ll save them to that person’s named file.

One other thing I’ve found through setting up my files is to come up with your own guidelines and stick to them. Are you using middle initials? Do your female ancestors have both maiden and married names or only maiden names? I’m not too far into this and found I fluctuated and used both variations when naming files. I really want to stick to using the same guidelines all the way through. Then later I’m not questioning if a certain file belongs to James D. Van Meter, James R. Van Meter or James Van Meter.

As I mentioned earlier, this system appeals to me but may not work for everyone. I know some genealogists have tried to number their desk top files to coincide with their genealogy software. Others have a desktop file for each ancestor listed alphabetically by surname. Still others store their scanned documents in labeled files like birth certificate file, death certificate file, wills, etc. It’s all in developing a system that you like and will use.

Here are a couple resources I’ve read before starting out. This blog post has a helpful .pdf file in it you might want to read, also this Family History Quick Start lesson. There’s also a Facebook group called The Organized Genealogist you might want to check out.

I’m sure as I continue digitizing my files I’ll make adjustments to what I’m doing now. The one thing I do know is that looking at this project as a whole, it is overwhelming but I’m going to do a few steps weekly and by the end of the year I hope to be able to say my genealogy files are organized, digitized and easily accessible for research or look-up.

If you’re digital with your genealogy files tell us how you’re going about it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you and welcome any and all tips! We can all learn as we Organize our Genealogy Files.

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4 thoughts on “This week in Organizing my Genealogy Files . . .

  1. Another great tip. My you certainly are very organized. I thought I was, but I see I have a lot to learn. Thank you for sharing this great idea.

  2. Pingback: This Week in Organizing my Genealogy Files . . . | Genealogy Circle

  3. You are the first person I have found that files the way I do!
    I have been using this system for 20 years and love it.
    My only issue (which is what has brought me searching for ideas) is to change my landing file.. The one with “me” I don’t think I like that one to contain files because when I am in a hurry and want to save something to file later, it usually lands there and I forget about it. Also I need it to branch to my siblings and descendants.

    • Sherry – Thanks for stopping by and your comment! I just started this filing system at the beginning of the year. I’m happy with it so far but not too far into it. :) I have my folder set up so that when I open it up I have the “Me” file, a “To Do” file and a “To File” folder where I stick .jpegs or docs to label and save in the appropriate surname file later. If you have suggestions and tips I’d love to hear them. Digitizing my records is certainly a work in progress!

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