The billions of names preserved in microfilmed records in the Granite Mountain record vault of the Mormon Church in Utah are being reorganized and converted to digital images that can eventually be viewed online on the FamilySearch website. In as little as 10 years, much of your genealogical collection may be at your fingertips; a genealogist’s dream come true. This gigantic company makes organizing our own digital genealogy archive pale in comparison, but our archive is no less important.
How difficult is it to locate a particular file on your computer of all the digital family records that you have collected? Did the file name start with a last name, date, or event? What folder did you save it in? What was the file extension? Organizing the paper files we collect when conducting genealogical research so that we can easily find them later is quite difficult, but doing the same with our electronic files can be overwhelming if you don’t have a plan. Our hours of research become almost useless unless our digital records can be easily searched and retrieved. As more of our sources and documentation are stored in digital files on our computers, getting organized becomes increasingly important.
To manage genealogical records, we want a system that allows us to archive our files in an organized way so that we can easily back up and retrieve files quickly when needed. So keep these ABCs in mind as you organize … FILE | BACKUP COPY | TO CALL.
Elizabeth S. Mills filled 885 pages in her most recent book, Evidence explained, to show researchers how to properly document the sources of your family genealogy. She went into exact details on every imaginable sheet of paper that you might want to document. Consequently, the format for documenting genealogical sources is well established,
The same is not the case with your personal computer. It is entirely up to you how your files are organized; you are free to create any file system that works for you. Nobody cares as much about your information as you do; this is a challenge. Scanners have made it possible to easily convert paper documents into digital files, thus opening the floodgates to millions of digital documents ready for download from genealogy websites. Consequently, we can suffer a digital overload. Here are some suggestions to get you started thinking about how you want to organize these images, census records, vital records, and more. that you have collected for easy retrieval when needed.
The speed with which digital formats and technologies become obsolete is legend. There are dozens of different personal computers and operating systems and all of their different versions. Then you have a large number of genealogy software programs, so you could also take a lengthy book to describe how to set up a personal computer filing system to archive your valuable genealogy files on every computer, operating system, and software program. different software. But let’s keep things simple and talk about the generalities that can be applied to whatever computer, operating system, or genealogy software you are using.
Backing up your genealogy database is an important part of managing your files. You should have a backup to your built-in hard drive, a separate hard drive or USB drive, and at a minimum off-site location. By storing all genealogy-related files in one location on your computer, it will be much easier to quickly locate the research, and most importantly, it will be easier to back up your files.
Once a file system is in place and your genealogy software links to the files, it can be difficult, though not impossible, to rename the file or move a file. Therefore, it is important to think a little about how to name your folders and files; preferably before you start. After the fact, it is still possible, although it will take a long time and will be tedious. You not only want to organize your computer for today, but also think ahead when other researchers may be trying to find a file many years after you are no longer around to explain it. The longer you put off reorganization, the more difficult it will be to do later; it won’t be easier.
Most genealogy programs do a good job of keeping track of files used as sources, but it will depend on how carefully that file is documented. When you can’t find a particular file through your genealogy program, you want to be able to search your file in three or four different ways for last name, year, location, and so on. Unless you’ve been following a plan for naming files, this search can be very frustrating. The key to naming directories, folders, and files is to think about how the files will be sorted when you search.
If you’ve been telling yourself that you need to get organized, you’re not alone. In addition to the Mormon Church’s Granite Mountain Records Vault project, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has also begun a multi-million dollar reorganization project to ensure electronic records are searchable and accessible. , not just now but for years. come. NARA is working to create a central inventory of all its files.
If your files are strewn all over your hard drive, it’s time to start your own genealogy file and start rearranging. But before making any changes, you must MAKE A BACKUP of all your genealogical data … this cannot be overstated … BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP.