Organizing My Genealogy Files . . . an update

Civil War blog reading

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Do you remember a few months back when I wrote a post about going digital with my genealogy files? I was attempting to set up a family history file on my laptop where I could keep scanned family photos and documents. I started this adventure at the beginning of this year. I thought I had a great plan but it hasn’t worked out as well as I thought it would.

My idea was to create one file on the desktop of my computer and name it My Family History. Then when I opened up that file 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. I’ve added to additional folders one for his pics and one for docs.

This system was like stair steps. If I wanted to check a photo in the file of my paternal great grandfather I had to open my own file to get to my dad’s file which led me to my grandfather and finally to my great grandfather. I had to open four files before I got to my great grandfather’s file and then click on his photo file. I found this to be really cumbersome. I realized I quit scanning pics and all my saved documents were being added to my To-Be Filed later folder. I was avoiding working on family files. My digital organization wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do.

I’ve done some more research on methods other genealogists use in the hope I’d find a better system. I’ve heard about a family historian who has three files. The first is her Family Tree Maker where she attaches a scanned document. The second is a “need to attach file” where she keeps her To-Do stuff or need to attach documents and her third file is her “research folder”. She keeps scans there that need more research before storing them or attaching them to another file permanently. All of her scans are tagged with lots of detail. When she’s looking for a file she just uses the search on her laptop. She’s not worried about using an organized system within her files, she just uses “Search” and finds the file she’s looking for.

I’ve also read where some genealogists have a birth certificate file, marriage license file, death certificate file, wills and so on. Again each scan is well labeled so when opening up the birth cert file the researcher just scrolls down to the appropriate file. Continue reading

This Week in Organizing my Genealogy Files . . .

. . . I’ve done a little tweaking to my system I outlined last week. If you remember I created just 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.

I like my system. Each file is like a stepping stone up the ladder of my direct ancestors. Now I did find though when I open a file, let’s say my dad’s file and find his parent’s files inside it my dad’s pics and docs are “loose”. So I’m adding two extra files in my dad’s folder titled pics and docs as seen below.

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. I’ve added two additional folders one for pics and one for docs.

So any person’s file will have four subfolders in it. One for each parent, one for docs and another for pics of the person the file is named for. Now as I scan and save docs, photos, censuses and family histories I’ll save them to that person’s own doc or pic file. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

My S.M.A.R.T. goal meets Genealogy File Organization

#Genchat

#Genchat

My last post here on the blog was about organizing my genealogy files. Just scroll down if you missed it and would like to see what I’m referring to. I wrote this article in November outlining how I was going to organize my family history files/binders, scan it all and have a complete, accessible family history at my fingertips whether I wanted to look through it digitally or by hard copy in binders.

Well my intentions were good but along came the holidays and you know what? I did very little work on organizing my files.

I hate to admit it but I wrote another post in 2012 about scanning and organizing my files and nothing came of that attempt either!

So with a new year I want to do more than try to organize and scan my genealogy files. I want to accomplish it! This time I’m going to make it harder on myself to slack off.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound.

A further nudge in this direction came a couple of weeks ago at #Genchat. Our facilitator Jen Baldwin issued a challenge. Our challenge for the start of 2014 is to write a S.M.A.R.T. goal that relates to our genealogical research in the coming year.

While my goal isn’t exactly research it will help me with research in the long run.

I’m going to commit to organizing and scanning my genealogy files to make my future research easier, successful and more fun. Imagine how accomplished I’ll feel!!

To succeed I’m going to make myself accountable by committing to writing a weekly post on my organizing process. Continue reading

Digital or bust. Is that the question?

*This post originally appeared November 2013 on The In-Depth Genealogist blog*

Laptop - photo courtesy of mmagallan at stock.xchng.com

Laptop – photo courtesy of mmagallan at stock.xchng.com

To digitize your family research or not to digitize your files. Is that a question? No doubt many of you have already answered this statement in your mind. “Why yes I’ve already digitized my genealogy files.” You’ve scanned your pics and documents, your censuses are all nicely attached to the appropriate ancestor on your online family tree and your desk top is clear. Not one pile of papers to be found. I applaud you! I wish I were more like you! Being able to find my last research log (that is when I use one) would be great! Files arranged so they can be easily accessed helps make research more organized and productive.

Hard copy family historians

Then there’s the seasoned genealogists and family historians with bulging, well labeled binders filled with glossy sheet protectors housing documents, copies, photos and old family letters. Theirs is a family history easily shared with anyone who would take a look. It’s visual, tactile and beautiful. I’m drawn to these binders loaded with information and mementos. It’s obvious they were created with a love for this work.

Finally there’s me! I’m a hodge-podge of both worlds. I’m suspended between leaping to an entirely digital format yet still fiercely hanging on to my binders. I dream of an extensive list of surname folders on my laptop stuffed with .pdf documents, photos, etc. easily accessible and always at my fingertips. I’ve attempted a start to this digital system but the attempt has been somewhat feeble. For the most part I’m still stuck in my haphazard system of binders, large and small filled with copies I’ve made at courthouses and libraries I’ve visited through the years.

What do I do?

I know I need to make a change. Living in this intermediate world is not going well. In many cases I have some documents in a binder and others digitized for the very same surname or individual. I’m gathering information from several places before I even begin a research plan. This hybrid way of storing my research does not lead to easily picking up where I left off last let alone mentioning the time I’ve wasted searching for records. Continue reading