Monday, October 6, 2008

Is This My New Computer Genealogy File System? - Post 1

I have been saving computer files on my computer for over 25 years now, and what a mess it is! Every once in awhile I "re-organize" and (hopefully) "improve it." However, I'm still dissatisfied. I have a hard time finding a specific document, correspondence, web page, photograph, report, etc.

I would like to have as much of my genealogy documents (images, reports, web pages, emails, etc.) organized on my computer as possible, and backed up to an external drive and an outside site. My goal is to eliminate about 50% or more of the paper files in notebooks (which I rarely consult) - most of them are photocopies from books or periodicals, or computer printouts.

Currently, my computer File Folder heirarchy, as it pertains to Genealogy, looks like this (reduced for clarity) in My Documents on my hard drive::

* genealogy - has these file folders in it:
** correspondence - letters and email - all surnames and localities, a hodge-podge.
** databases -- Family Tree Maker files and GEDCOMs
** education -- file folders for books, articles, magazines, chats, newspapers, etc.
** forms -- form masters
** funnies -- humor collection - mostly old stuff
** localities -- file folders by country and/or state
** randys ancestry -- file folders for seaver data, carringer data, leland data, kemp data, richmond data, census, newspaper, research problems, elusive ancestors, interviews, journal, lists, pedigrees, revwar, sources, reports, etc.
** research reports -- file folders for client/colleague files by name
** societies -- file folders for CVGS, SDGS, CGSSD, NGS, NEHGS, etc.
** software -- file folders for FTM 2005, FTM 2008, Legacy 7, RootsMagic 3, TMG 7, PAF 5, MyHeritage, FamilyBuilder, FamilyTreeLegends, Gensmarts, etc.
** surnames -- hundreds of surname file folders with stuff in them
** talks -- presentations and handouts in MSWord or PowerPoint format, filed in folders by title, date and society
** websites -- screen images and Powerpoint files from genealogy web sites, filed in folders by web site name.

I've been working with this "organization" for several years now and am ready to try something else, at least in the Surname and Randy's Ancestry areas.

But what to try? I toyed with the idea of making "family files" for each couple in my ancestry, ordered by ahnentafel number. I made folders within each family for each record type. After populating some of them with data from the current files, I decided that method was too cumbersome. I would have to search for the couple every time I had something to file for them. I abandoned the idea.

I read Leland Meitzler's handout for the 2008 SCGS Jamboree and thought that it sounded like an organized method, but I didn't like his use of initials for the couple (e.g. FSBC would stand for Fred Seaver-Betty Carringer) in a given surname file.

I watched Ben Sayer's Creating a Genealogy File System on Your Mac videos on the MacGenealogist site and liked the simple concepts but not the specific application (last name, first name, years).

[RANT ON] I searched in the maddeningly slow Ancestry Learning Center for "Computer Data Organization" articles and never found one I liked, out of the 62 offered. It took almost 30 minutes to check all 7 pages of titles and about 8 articles. The "new" Ancestry has too many gadgets and Javas and Flashes going all the time - it takes 30 to 45 seconds to load the damn page - and all I want is a friggin' text article. [RANT OFF] Ummm, sorry, where's my meds?

If you have a really neat computer data management idea, please let me know. Give me some URLs to read and I'll be a happy camper. I'll probably download it to my education file folder (now where do I have that?).


wendy said...

Randy - during the genea-blogger games, I got my computer files somewhat better organized - at least for me. In my "genealogy" folder, I have it broken according to specific surnames. Then I have a file of all death records (mainly death cert. images), Census, maps, military, forms, that sort of thing. So far it's working ok for what I need. Good luck!

Colleen said...


My genealogy file folders are organized in the following hierarchy:

Ancestry (main Folder)>Census>Documentation (split into Vital Records and Correspondence)>Military>Locations. Each of these folders has a subfolder with the main names I'm researching.

Now, I'm going to have to check out GeneTree.....

Geoff said...

There are 4 good organizational systems described at

Ben Sayer said...

Randy, when considering filing, I've found it useful to consider the ways I might look for the item in the future. After all, that is what it's all about. How do you want to be able to retrieve the data? That ought to inform your decision regarding how to store it.
I'm very interested in what approach you end up adopting and why.


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