Genealogy Do-over: Establishing File System Foundations

genealogy do-over
Is anyone else hyperventilating a little bit? *breathing into a paper bag* I feel like I just left my first-born at daycare for the first time. Monday morning I was over on a web chat and mentioned that I was going to call my “do-over” more of a “spring cleaning” but the more I look at my cobbled-together database the more I see that I do need to just start fresh. I have sources that lead nowhere and sources that only show information was found in a census without a link to the online image containing said information.

I never bothered to learn how to properly do sources with my FamilyTreeMaker2010 software. The only two sources I cited were a book published by a genealogical society and a hand written genealogy book from my second great-grandmother, both are in my grandmother’s possession. I wrote those sources out in full bibliography style in the notes section of each person to which they applied. I had no idea how to cite birth, census, draft, or death records. Those types of sources were never covered in school.

For Christmas I bought myself RootsMagic7. Not that I think it’s better than other genealogy software, but I like that I can get “light bulbs” from FamilySearch and MyHeritage. I’ll keep FTM2010 for as long as it holds up just for another set of easy hints. Of course it’s all those hints that had me fall off the do-over wagon. I’ve been itching to research for the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge. It’s probably a good thing that the ancestor I’m working on is such a challenge.

But I digress, I’m doing the full do-over. And I promise to be good from here on out. No research until it’s allowed.

Things I’ve done:

  • I have set up my digital file system. Inside my genealogy folder I have a Documents, Pictures, Resources, Templates, and Work in Progress folder. Documents and pictures are self-explanatory. The resources folder is for the digital books I’ve downloaded. Templates is for the untouched research log and census master log. The work in progress folder will have individual folders for each person within a group that I’m researching.
  • I have settled on a file naming convention for the records I’ve downloaded. This I picked up from Diana Ritchie at the do-over Facebook group, “Persons name then the year that person was born and then the year of the document and document type: LastFirstbxxxxYYYYDeathCert”. I’ll list females by their maiden name. One do-over group participant mentioned listing married names after the maiden name, but I have one person I’ve been told may have married 8 or 9 times. That would be one long file name! Not all the marriages were formal documented types, but still. For the people I don’t have a birth year listed I tend to have an approximate year so for those I instead of “b” I may do “bAbt” or I may use death date.
  • I also found a naming convention for photos that I like – suggested by another do-over group member, Emily Moore.
  • I bought a couple of file bins, hanging folders, plastic sleeves, and labels so that I may organize the minimal hard copy documents in my possession which currently live in the envelopes used to mail the items to me. I’m not color coding anything. I’ll go with the excuses – what if the descendant I leave this all to is color blind? The real excuse being that it would irritate me to no end if I chose colors that will become hard to find or discontinued and I wind up buying new colors that are close to the original but not close enough.

Work still in progress:

  • I’m learning my new database tool, RootsMagic7. Specifically watching a video called, “Sources, Citations and Documentation with RootsMagic”. It’s about an hour and a half and I seem to only get 15 minutes at a time to watch it, but that’s ok. It gives it time to gel.
  • I need to take a close look at the research log and census master logs as they were created by others for their needs and the census one is customized to England. I’ll probably keep that and label it for that country, and customize a copy for the United States.
  • I’m still stumped with how to handle a naming convention for census records. I really like the idea of going into a folder and being able to see, by the naming convention, all the records listed for a given person, but to make 12 copies of one digital file for a large family seems ridiculous. In my tree there is at least one instance of children from a family being split up between aunts and uncles. That makes it difficult to keep just one record under the head of household and still keep track of children separated from their parents.

6 thoughts on “Genealogy Do-over: Establishing File System Foundations”

  1. Looks like you have a great start Erika! I’m sure by the end of the 13 weeks we’ll be aces at genealogy research! 😉 Cheers, Diane

    1. Cool Thank you! 😉 I don’t think I did mention backups. I should have as that’s really important! I’ve switched to RootsMagic which asks every time I shutdown if I want to do a back up, and it gives an option to back up with dropbox. I’ll be linking those up soon.

  2. Erica, Nice post! Rather than creating duplicate digital files for census records, you might consider using shortcuts. That would enable you to have 1 digital image and numerous pointers to it. The downside is that, in the event that you reorganize your files, some of the shortcuts might break. Good luck!

    1. Debbi, Good idea. Hopefully I have I’m organizing things in such a way that it’ll stand the test of time and not require reorganization. Shortcuts could solve my dilemma. Thank you.

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