My Current Digital Organization


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.

the drives on my PC

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.

The index page of my Legacy software, showing the matching numbers

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 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 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 I was not compensated by anyone to write anything on this blog. I just love talking about this stuff. 🙂

Battle Plan

One thing I’ve learned about myself is I work much better when I have a plan… except not much of one. Too much planning can make me doubt myself. So after a very weird, unproductive few days I had to make a plan. Don’t ask me about all those files from yesterday, some are still there, some aren’t.


Plan Step 1: I booted up a RootsMagic file that had all the names in it and turned on the ‘Reference Number’ option. So I could view who was what number.


Plan Step 2: I went to a random number generator and told it to give me 7 random numbers between 1 and 4215. 4215 being the number of people in my big database.


It gave me these numbers.


Plan Step 3: I matched up the numbers with names from the RootsMagic file. (Note: There may have been a way to get ID numbers in FTM but I didn’t know how/try to do it.


Plan Step 4: Since I want universal reference ID’s between all mediums (RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker, my website), I add a new Reference ID into each person on Family Tree Maker.


Extra Step: I added the Ref ID into my view on the Pedigree tab on Family Tree Maker. This is a one time only step which is why I didn’t add it as step 5.


What will I do with these people you ask? One of biggest things when I sit down to work on my big file is where to start? Well I’ll start with these random people. I’ll research these 7 people until I’ve exhausted my online sources or patience. Then I’ll pick some more random numbers. In regards to my start over files, I’ll still slowly work back on those but I want to take the time to send away for records as I go too. Which means it will take some time. This gives me something to do… like spend a day lost in the census.

Extra: I only chose to do this in FTM because I have already been adding census information into FTM this week.

So there is my battle plan, whether it makes sense or not. Now we’ll see if I get anywhere!

I made the plunge…

For better or for worse, I went ahead and just deleted my “old” Mays family tree from my website. It started as just deleting the living individuals. It evolved into a small rebellion on my part. People who have visited this site since it’s inception know how many times I’ve deleted everything and re-added everything. Not to mention when I’ve accidentally broken the website coding. This is how we learn though right? Well, I just forced myself over the ledge for the betterment of my family website.

Some may not like that I put all my research and documents out there for the data loggers and research thieves out there. I don’t mind though. As long as I’m not harming anyone living, I don’t see a problem with it. It’s amazing how much my genealogy world has widened just by reading blogs by other genealogists. I’ve always had all my information out there for the world to enjoy and yes people use a lot of what I put out there. I don’t mind though. It’s such a good feeling to be able to help someone in their own research. My family from all over enjoy being able to see all my research, especially since we usually only see each other once a year at the reunion. I don’t exactly carry the whole of my research with me. Sometimes some pictures, but usually only my laptop.


Family File (Before)

So I’m slowly adding a person at a time to the website and citing all their sources, while I also enter them into my program. Another plunge I made was I finally purchased the full version of RootsMagic. If I am a little short of my September Ancestry subscription goal, so be it (I don’t think I will be though)! I’m sorry but I just couldn’t get the sources to be a neat and manageable in Family Tree Maker. The way is there, but I just couldn’t get over the ease of RootsMagic. This by no means suggests I’ll forever give up one program for the other. In the case of building my “official” Family File though. I’m doing it in RootsMagic for now.


Family File (After)

The after picture shows you the real impact of this undertaking. In my old file I had 25 sources and 162 citations for 4171 people. With just 31 people in this tree, I already have 15 sources and 79 citations. That’s half of what I had in my old file and I’ve only added 8 families. This is probably the best thing I ever did for my family tree. Now I just have to figure out the best way of preserving the records and photos I have. One thing at a time though. Today the plan is to add some more census records and to search through the Kentucky Death Records.  I love how much enjoyment I can get from an evening spent with a nice cold Ginger Ale and my fluffy pajama pants, going through Census records. In fact I think the Census records are by far my favorite thing in the whole wide world.

My Tools: Windows Live Writer

The other day, I posted about the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. What you didn’t know was that I was playing with a blogging program while I was typing up that post. It was tons of fun, and I decided that I will use it more! I’ve had it on my computer ever since I tried it for Great Grandma’s Journal transcription. I forgot all about it until this weekend. Then I got curious about how it could work for what I blog about now. Well color me surprised! There’s a lot packed into this program! It’s called Windows Live Writer.


I liked being able to see what it would look like with my layout. Depending on your blog layout, you will see more or less here. I just like seeing how it would look on my background.


It’s as easy and point and click to insert images and links!


Even entering tables is easy as pie! Tables aren’t exactly popular among coders anymore, but for beginning webmasters, they are a layout dream. I used tables on all my layouts up until the last year or so. In fact, I still use tables on my index page on Moore Mays. It is sometimes easier then making sure that each browser will interpret your code the same. Trust me, the more complicated the code, the more hassle it is. Tables are a nice simple layout option.


I had the most fun playing with the image effects. You should have seen my face when I had instant rounded corners! I love rounded corners. I actually was trying to round the corners of everything in the beginning of this blog. However, to get the transparency I wanted, I had to save files as .png. That made the file size MUCH bigger than I liked.


The watermark feature was interesting too! Yet another Photoshop shortcut. I love those by the way. I don’t usually put watermarks on anything, because I’m not real worried about photo theft. If they want to get it, they get it. If you get my drift. I like how I could just add a little MoaG watermark in the bottom corner though. It made the pictures a little more personal to me. I won’t be in the habit of doing that but maybe on pictures I take on trips and post here, I will make the effort. So they are a bit more special.


Another favorite button of mine was the little Preview button at the bottom. This shows you EXACTLY what your post will look like once it’s posted. I like to use this often so I can make sure I have things laid out properly.

blog-132 blog-133

There is also a Source button there to show the raw code if you like that kind of thing. Along with the Source option, there is spell check! I don’t know what I would do without spell check so thank god for that!


You can do most everything in this program that you can do on your blog. Depending on the blogging program you use, maybe even more!


Including opening posts from your online blog! You can make some minor changes, I haven’t completely tried it yet. You can’t add the effects to pictures already posted though. I tried to get my rounded corners back in my first post and it didn’t work!

Overall, I’m really enjoying playing with this program. I can’t wait to find out what else there is to it. Definitely worth a download at least!

Finally Moved In

I finally feel like I have moved back into my domain. Over the past week, I’ve been working on a new website for my Uncle. This gave me the motivation to dig around in the coding for both this blog, and the main site. Well, I’ve finally got a fairly uniform looking website! I could have added the side menu from the website here too, but felt that wasn’t necessary. The buttons at the top of the page will take you where you most likely want to go on the main site. The buttons are the same on both sites. Though I may change the order of the buttons a bit later today. Just to satisfy my need to change my mind. 😉 main site blog site

I won’t lie to you, there are a few things I might still tweak. They are only cosmetic things in the big picture though and you likely wouldn’t notice them. I hope everyone who visits this site enjoys it as much as I do!

New Beginnings

I had some trouble sleeping last night, so I was thinking about some things I could do to improve my website. I’m still trying to work on blog stuff. Just need to learn the code first!

One of the things I decided about my site is that I can add new “trees” manually. I usually just import GEDCOM files into the site. That works great, if my GEDCOM file was in shape to be imported.

The second thing I realized was there is no reason I need to have “living” people information on the site. So what I’m doing, is I’m starting from my 4 Grandparents. Those lines are going to have their own “tree.” I’ll add one person at a time, sourcing every speck of information I put in, uploading a photo or two for people I have photos for, etc. This allows me complete control. There may be some double and triple people at points in time, because I’ll only be deleting people from the “old tree” once I have them completely sourced in the “new tree.”

For those who don’t visit that part of my site, this won’t mean anything to you, but I’m excited just thinking about it. I sometimes really hate that I don’t spend enough time concentrating on a single person. Not anymore! This will also give me a chance to send for records of those I need. My file is such a mess right now, I don’t know who I have records for and who I don’t. So that’ll be great.

The last benefit of this method for the site is that I can do the same thing in RootsMagic and Family Tree Maker. I’m still determined to have both programs do the same things. I just have to figure them out. I might even be able to purchase the full version of RootsMagic in a few months. I just want to make sure I have enough for my renewal in September. I should have it by then though!

I might even consider putting up a public tree, once I have things under control on all my other programs and sites. I don’t know, I’m still flip flopping on that 😉

My Tools: TNG Sitebuilding Software

Most times when I get questions or comments about my main site, people want to know what I use to handle the large amount of information that is on my site. First thing I have to say, this method is not for people who don’t have a basic knowledge of how to work with MySQL databases. By that I mean, you must at least know how to create one, or have someone who can. Once that is done, I don’t think you need any advanced knowledge. That’s the beauty of this software.

The software is called The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding. It is written by a guy named Darrin Lythgoe. I have been using this software with little to no problems for at least a few years. Once you set up your database, there is a readme file that guides you through all the other installation steps. It’s very painless!

Once you have everything installed, this is what you are left with. Your canvas couldn’t be any blanker! What I love about this is it’s very easy to just take over from this point. I have always tried to customize straight from the beginning but I never took the time to make sure I had everything proportioned correctly, or that I was going CSS class by CSS class to make sure all my text was still visible.

If I just lost you with that last sentence, don’t be intimidated! You don’t have to know any of that if you just want a simple site but aren’t exactly sure how to go about it. There are 8 pre-built templates that are available for download at the site fore you to use.

In the course of this site, I have used template 2, template 4, and template 8. I always try to customize it to my own tastes, but like I said, you don’t have to if you don’t know how! These files are just quickly uploaded and ready to go on your site!

This is my first fully customized layout using the TNG software. To achieve this, I made my own images and only had to modify less than five pages. I only had to modify 1 CSS file, the index page, and the header and footer files. All I really had to do to the header and footer files was to copy and paste my “layout codes” into them. Then I was done. For anyone who does website coding but doesn’t know much about programming, this is perfect.

The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding

My current “project”

I’m currently in the process of cleaning up my hard drives and my family file.  While I do this, I’m also checking out RootsMagic Essentials. I kind of fell in love with it to be honest. It’s making my source citations so much easier to manage! I’ve been a long time Family Tree Maker user, there’s no doubt about that. Before Family Tree Maker, I used something called Ancestry Family Tree, I think… I don’t exactly remember the name, but I know it was free and it’s no longer available. So I’ve watched Family Tree Maker evolve. It’s a snazzy little program now.

I really enjoy the layout of the ‘People’ tab and the family section. It’s so easy to navigate.

Roots Magic isn’t as snazzy. It’s a little harder to navigate through the families. The main complaint from me is that the Pedigree and the Family listing are on two different tabs. It’s such a little thing, but it’s one of the things that bugs me the most. I’ve become so accustomed to it on Family Tree Maker. Not having it now, it’s kind of frustrating, but I realized it wasn’t as important as the big pro I’ve found with RootsMagic.

This is the source citation page. The yellow section is for the “Master Source.” I like that on this I can keep all 1860 Morgan County, KY census citations on one Master Source. Then I can go into more detail in the green section. This is what I mean by cleaning up my family file. I very much prefer this citation method.

This makes for a very clean Source List. There are probably even more bells and whistles but I can’t do those because I spent my extra money on upgrading my Family Tree Maker. It was before I knew about RootsMagic 😐

In Family Tree Maker, it’s not as easy to do the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, I could be completely missing it.

There is this screen, but when I try to add the details on this screen, it stays attached to the Master Source. Which would mean I’d have to have a “Master Source” for each household. With 4000+ people, that can really add up and make for a very messy Source List.

This is the Source List of my current Family Tree Maker File. I’m sure that Source Citations screen in the middle is for something, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out how to do what I want in Family Tree Maker. I’m sure if I bought the Family Tree Maker manual they’d be happy to tell me, but I just can’t throw anymore money at this, especially when I figured out how to do it in RootsMagic within the first hour of using the program.

I’m still using both programs. I’m determined to figure out the source citation process in Family Tree Maker. It’s got to be easier than I’m making it.