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.

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