Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Organize your Computer Files

How is your genealogy computer files organized? Doesn’t it seem as we start to save stuff to your computer, we give it a name; we let whatever program we are using to pick the place where to save our files. Before we know it, are computer files are a mess and we can’t find anything.

There was a time, years ago when we were limited on the names we could give files. We had to use abbreviations, and you didn’t know at first glance what the file contained. However, we don’t have those limitations anymore, but I still see people giving short meaningless names to files.
So stop and decide how you would like to see your genealogy computer files. Don’t worry about how much time it will take to move all your existing files, just stop and dream what would be your perfect layout. Now how easy will it be to backup your genealogy files quickly and easily. Do you need to rethink your perfect layout?

I have some suggestions, such as create a genealogy folder within your documents folder. This in itself will make backing up easier. Next, think about how you have your paper files. Do you sort by surname or by document type? If you sort by surname, then create a subfolder within your genealogy folder for each main surname you research.  Then under each surname have document type folders, such as pictures, and records you keep for each family.
My brain fights this logical method and thus I created document subfolders under the genealogy folder, and then with-in each document subfolder, I would create surname subfolders if needed. This way, all my Census records are kept together, while all my pictures are kept together. I do have to search and find all the records for one surname if I want to copy and share with a family member. However, I haven’t had many of these requests to change my file system.

Someone asked me what type of records. I create a vital records subfolder and under that folder, I create separate folders for birth, marriage, divorce and death records. Under pictures, I create folders for Individual, Marriage and Group (multiple people in the picture). I create a newspaper folder with subfolders for obituaries, marriage notices, birth announcements, social articles (those short little blurbs that state when your ancestors leave or have out of town visitors.)
Now think about your file naming patterns. How will you save pictures? I like to start with a person’s last name then their first name and maybe a description such as Smith, John _ HS graduation for John’s high school graduation picture. For a marriage picture, I might do, Smith, John and Jane Doe 1882. The year they were married is added at the end. Finally for Census records, I have subfolders for each census year and I label them as: US1850_Wisconsin_Dodge_Beaver Dam_p13B while for a state census it would be: WI1885_Dodge_Beaver_p4A. This way within the proper folder, the files are sorted by state, then county then by town and finally by page. I am able to quickly find my census records that are referenced in my files if I want to relook at the page.

So if you decide to redo your files, then set up the all the folders you think you will need. Then starting today, every new thing you save, put it into the proper new folder.  Also, slowly start moving your existing files to the proper folders. Don’t try to move all of them on the first day. You might want to create a “working” subfolder under the Genealogy folder if you find some files that need to be moved but you are not exactly sure where in the Genealogy layout it should go. You can easily move them later when you examine each file individually, but in the meantime, they will be included in your genealogy backup since they are in your genealogy folder.
Start dreaming and get control over your genealogy folders.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

More Purging

As I was scanning large groups of papers for my genealogy society project, I decided to continue my purging of my files.

I came across some files that were actually useful. My grandmother had a scrapbook of newspaper clippings, birth announcement cards, wedding invitations and even funeral cards. Years ago, I had photocopied each of these pages, so I could have a copy of her scrapbook. Then I proceeded to cut out the articles (from my copy) and started to sort them by family name. I came across a group for my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. I had forgotten that I had these. I was excited because when I had started putting these names into my database, I didn’t always source where I found this information. Now I have something to record and I can proceed to scan the items, and then file them into the proper folder.

In the last few years, I have started to create a computer record of my paper records. This is easy with census records, since they are found online and with my subscription, I can easily save these to my computer. I also like the idea of scanning vital records, because then I don’t have to keep touching the copies that I have. I can just bring up the scan image and review the item. Plus I can attach the copy of the source to my citation within my genealogy program.

I felt extremely productive today, because I was working on two projects at the same time, my huge scanning project and my own purging project. Multi-tasking is great!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Out with the old!

I started a project for my local genealogical society library of scanning and preserving the research of someone's donated works. It entails 3 large boxes of papers and pictures. Someone has already started going through the collection and was organizing the pictures. I decided that the papers could be scanned and then tossed and thus save room at the library.

This project made me reflect on my own research. What would happen to my work when I die? Would it end up in boxes to sit on a shelf at a library or worst in the trash? So I decided to look at all the stacks of paper I have collected. When I moved to Arizona in 1999, I decided to take my research up one notch. I started sourcing my work and started a new file system. In this new file system, only those items that I have sourced are allowed in this file. So what about all the other stacks?

If I haven't taken the time to source them; how important are they? Well some more so than others, but if someone was going to get this collection, do I want them to try to read my dead mind and figure out what's important and what is not? So I have a huge file collection of papers back from 1992 when I use to belong to Prodigy. Does anyone remember Prodigy? It was a dedicated, closed network that predates the World Wide Web. AOL was another such network. Both of these networks did open up to the World Wide Web, but the services they offered on their closed network was only available to their members. They had a genealogy community on Prodigy and I would check out their surname message board and print out messages with surnames that I was researching. Now looking at these pages that are neatly filed by surname, I must re-evaluate how valuable are these. Well lets look at one.

I have a date, time and who the  message was from and who the message was to and the subject of the message and the body of the message. However, if I do find a connection, how would I make contact to either the sender or receiver? All I have is their name and their Prodigy user id. Not much help is this? So this is where I am starting. I will verify that I am only throwing away all these pages of useless messages. Yes I could turn all this into scrap paper, but I don't want to take a chance and have these pages find their way accidently back into my research, so the trash is the safest place for now.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

As the first day of the New Year comes to a close, I was thinking of what I want to do in the upcoming year for my genealogy. I don't want to call these resolutions, but rather goals, perhaps even research goals.

I have several goals, some that involve my research and some involve projects that I have started for my genealogy society.

My first goal is to spend at least 1 day a week doing my own genealogy. I need to put on the calendar my own research. It could mean, just cleaning up my files, or reading up on genealogy to futher my research or actually doing new research. But making sure that I spend one day, and Monday is a good day on my research.

2. To spend at least 1 day a week on my genealogy society obituary project. This is a two part project. One part is separating the individual obituaries from the group scan image. Then creating an index that can be updated to the Genealogy website for sharing. The other part is to create an index on all the obituaries, not just the one's assigned to me to separate. I can get quite a few done in a few hours, so if I spend half my time on the first part of this and the rest on the second part will be great. Most likely Tuesday will be devoted to this goal.

3. To volunteer at my local genealogical society library. I find that sharing what I know, whether it is direct genealogy skills as in researching and finding or my computer knowledge such as scanning, printing, saving, copying, pasting, etc... is very rewarding. I have volunteered my Wednesdays for this goal.

4. Not to over extend myself where all these genealogy project are concerned. I am a newly elected 2nd VP for my genealogical society. I also volunteered to do the newsletter (with the help of others, but I will be the one to actually compile the newsletter.) I would like to have a monthly meeting to gather others to do articles, or talk about subjects for the newsletter. So I see this taking 1-4 hours a month. The newsletter only comes out four times a year. I also volunteered to be the society webmaster which doesn't involve alot of work, just maintaining it. I don't think this will involve more than about an hour or two a month (at the most). Plus I can't forget to do my blog. Of course this can be done any day that I do something interesting for genealogy.

5. To work on a very huge project which is to scan and preserve the research of a desceased family historian whose work was donated to our library. Most likely 4 and 5 will have to share Thursdays. If I am not doing 4 then I will try to work on 5.

Oh I almost forgot that I volunteer to help with the share sessions that are being held twice a month on Tuesday's mornings. So my 2nd goal might not get done those weeks. Or atleast not as much. However, I could work on this goal during the evenings when I am only watching TV.

So I plan on doing genealogy about four days a week, I leave Friday, Saturday and Sunday for my hubby, since these are the days he is off of work. So if he is working, then perhaps I can squeeze in more time, but then again, I do need to clean the house and do laundry once a while. Also, my day is usually only from 7am until about 2pm, which is 6-7 hours, depending on how long eating lunch takes. Plus, once School is out for the summer, all bets are off. I need to be available for my youngest daughter who is 15 and my granddaughter who is 5.

So what are your research goals for the year? They don't have to be so involved as mine. Perhaps you need to set aside one day a month to do your research, or how about one weekend a month. Get a calendar for the year and block out time on your calendar for your research.

Happy New Year!