Monday, July 2, 2012

Tip: Strategy for Organizing Documents Found Online

When you've scored your first scanned image of a family history record, you are definitely going to want a copy of it. But, since you are likely to find a number of other documents in your endeavors, you need a way to keep them organized so you can find them later.

I found out the hard way that stuffing them all into one folder with their original file name quickly leads to time-consuming confusion and chaos. Over years of trial and error, I came up with a filing system that works very well for me now. You may want to develop your own system or adapt mine to your own needs.

First, I made a Genealogy folder inside the My Documents folder. Within that folder, I created one folder for my dad's line and one for my mom's line (with their surnames as each folder name). Then within each of those folders I added folders for surnames married into that line, so I have three folders of surnames married into my Norman line. Then within those sub-folders, I continue to add surname folders as needed when I discover a new surname married into that line. Of course, these don't all have to be created at once, but can be done as you go.

Now it's time to save the document. This is my file naming strategy to help my find exactly what I'm looking for easily. First I start with what type of record it is, birth, death, marriage, census, obituary, photo, etc. Then other relevant information that will help me identify it, such as date, name of the person/people the record relates to, etc.

So, for example, I would save a census image as "census_1940_McLennan-Co-TX_Norman-George-Sr.jpg". This way, all of the census records I've found for Norman surnames are listed together, in order of year, then location, and finally head of household. If I find more than one household on the image, I'll separate the names with another underscore.

I handle death certificates a little differently. For example, death-cert_Norman-George-Sr.jpg, since all I need to know is who the death certificate is for in order to determine if it is the one I'm looking for. It is the same with obituaries, obit_Norman-George-Sr.jpg

Of course, this isn't the only way to manage the genealogy records you find online. I would love to hear about folder system and file naming strategies employed by others, as I am always working to better organize and structure my finds. Please leave a comment to share your own system.

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