Five years ago, I posted the ongoing adventures of trying to get all my paper organized. At the time I thought I was going to do great! Well, five years later, I no longer use those crates, hanging file folders or even that blanket or bed frame. I guess it was a clean sweep!
My paper organization held up for quite awhile. I filed things accordingly, but eventually there was just too much paper! Every time I would go to look for something the sheet protectors would slide all over the place, there was no rhyme or reason to any of it. One day, when I was feeling particularly cranky with it I just took everything out of the crates. I loaded up some empty binders and that’s where everything currently sits.
What has been working wonderfully for me, is my digital organization. As you can see from above, I have a whole hard drive dedicated to genealogy. It’s mounted right in my computer and it’s there for me whenever I need it. When I bought my new computer after the previous trauma, it had 4 spots to mount hard drives in. Like any computer nerd, I immediately purchased a nice big one for all the cool stuff I like. Then I formatted another hard drive I had and I dubbed it my Genealogy Drive.
If you followed along on my blog before, you know that I spent about 3 years doing my Family File Cleanup Project. My family file isn’t in such great shape after the emergency computer switch and it’s aftermath, but my organization is still in place. That has turned out to be a huge blessing as I cleanup one more time.
One of the big parts of the project was that I was assigning ID numbers to every ancestor. I was using RootsMagic and Family Tree Maker at the same time and using whatever number was given by RootsMagic. By the time I switched computers, I was exclusively using Family Tree Maker again using the reference number option in that program. Mainly I was probably just tired of switching back and forth. The priority for me was trying to keep my online tree updated at Ancestry for new DNA cousins.
What is my blog without drama though? Family Tree Maker just continued to crash on me and eventually did the unforgivable and corrupted my main family file. Luckily for me, I was already trying out Legacy Family Tree software and loving it for about six months before this final betrayal. Doesn’t everyone use every kind of software just for fun? Or maybe that’s just me? Once the corruption happened, I just shook my head and stopped loading Family Tree Maker. I was officially DONE. The great thing is that I was even able to renumber Legacy’s RIN numbers to match the ones I already had in place as Person/User IDs in Family Tree Maker.
All my hard work was for a good reason, you see I use those numbers to organize all my computer files. Every single digital record gets organized by that number. It is easiest to show my folder structure below in screenshots. The only folder that really needed a sub-folder structure was the Media folder.
I know that looks overwhelming when you first look at it. How do I find anything? When it comes time to need something, I just go to my Genealogy Drive, type in the ID of the person I need and let the computer do the searching.
I started off with 4 digits because honestly… I didn’t think that far ahead. So in my head, I know that I used a 4 number structure for all numbers under 9999. My numbers only go to 3783 right now, so it’s not an issue I want to worry about right now. I also have a set of abbreviations that I use when naming my files. They are pretty self explanatory:
TS = tombstone
DR = death record
BR = birth record
SSC = Social Security card (because yes, I have the original ones for Llewellyn and her husband!)
SS5 = SS-5 application forms
MR = marriage record
MR2 = 2nd marriage record
Last and certainly not least is my OneNote. When I was previously blogging, I was still trying to make this program work for me. I am still working on what exactly I am using OneNote for but the core of the organization is set. A lot of what I was going to use OneNote for, Legacy and most other genealogy software programs already do. The page you see above is my index page. OneNote also has a search function, so I could use that to find what I need, but I am an overachiever. I made these index pages. This just shows 1 through 100. Of course, I have the most living people in this section so I had to blur out everyone to make this easier to follow. Just look there at number 49, Lllewellyn. That is a link to Llewellyn’s section of OneNote.
OneNote should probably be it’s own post, but since I’m still developing it I’m not sure. I’ll just go over my favorite parts. I’m working on timelines for every person of my tree, so at the beginning of their section is that. There is also a Family Group sub-page, where I just link to the family members OneNote sections. If I wanted to, I could also add links to their individual pages on my moore-mays.org website. Then there are three section groups: Logs, Sources, To Do. Logs is pretty self explanatory. I use that as my research notebook. I leave little notes for myself. Screenshots of things I want to come back to. Things like that.
The Sources section is a place for me to analyze the variances in each main fact. Llewellyn’s birthdate moved from 1898 all the way up to 1902 depending on which record you looked at. This was a way for me to distinguish which records are closer to the event that is happening, so they are more likely to be accurate. Which records are hearsay (basically census ones and family records), and which are from official sources that are more likely to be backed up with official evidence. Suppose someone joined the military, they would have had to show a birth certificate (I might be wrong the further back it gets), so that would hold up better than a census record.
My absolute, can’t live without it favorite is the To Do section. This was my only must have when consulting with my sister about how to set this whole thing up. I wanted to be able to know at a glance who I needed to look for in what. Hopefully eventually I will be able to. It’s basically a checklist of which records to use to find a piece of information. If I was having a hard time finding a birthdate for someone, I could look at this checklist and see which records I don’t have that might have the information I’m looking for. The list changes depending on which fact but like I said it’s a process! 🙂 To make things easier on myself, I made a blank template copy. When I setup a new folder, I just copy the pages over and customize each page as needed. I’m just starting to get setup though so this will probably grow more as I find out about more types of records.
Oh, one last thing:
Here is what I see at the beginning of my Notebook. A nice, easy to use cheat sheet for Census records. In my dreams I’ll eventually have one for birth, marriage and death records also. I made this list in desperation when I went through a
broke long period of time without an Ancestry.com membership. I wanted to see where I could still find records if I needed to.
In sub-pages I have an attached Excel spreadsheet that easily allows me to add, sort, and edit my list of people Missing in the Census. I only thought to show this as an afterthought because I’m trying to use the genealogy software To Do lists for this now.
So there’s the long of it. My current digital organization. Kevin might be sorry he asked to know now! This is my process and by no means the only one. Everyone should definitely test out what works best for them. This probably won’t work for very large files but maybe it can help give an idea of what all One Note can do. I’m not even using half of the features that I know are available.
How is your digital file system? Is there anything you think I can do to make this more efficient?
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the software companies or Ancestry.com. I was not compensated by anyone to write anything on this blog. I just love talking about this stuff. 🙂