Friday, May 20, 2011

Fling it in the folder - my digital filing system

In a couple of previous posts I have alluded to my digital filing system and, in a comment on one of those posts, Sharon Brennan asked me "Can you describe your filing system??

I have hesitated in doing so because my system is neither scientific or complex. It is a simple system that works for me. Having trained in Librarianship many years ago I am in the habit of putting things in alphabetical order so this is the simple basis of my system. With digital systems I prefer a flat structure to one that is deeply hierarchical requiring lots of drilling down to access information.

I have already spoken of my scanning station and my commitment to scanning all the bits of paper I have related to my genealogy obsession. I have also talked about what I do with conference papers.

My system is to "Fling it in the folder". I have a series of folders set up on my hard drive, each file I have, irrespective of format, goes into the appropriate folder or sub-folder. All my image files are additionally tagged with Picasa software.

I do not worry about linking Places in that folder to People in that folder or creating other similar relationships between files (but I guess I could hyperlink them if I felt the need at a later date) as my genealogy software manages that for me.

The folders are:

Most of the labels are self explanatory but some need clarification.

Correspondence contains genealogy letters of a general nature. Those about a specific surname or person are filed in the Names folder.

Curry All  stores files about the Curry surname in Australia ready for when I have the time or inclination to conduct a one-name study.

Geniaus Backup  is a backup of my family site files ie templates and design. I don't need to back up the data as the backup is my TMG database and its backups.

Geniaus Talks is the home of my talks and presentations.

Names is the biggest folder. It has some sorting folders that are prefixed with 00 and then a folder for each surname in my database.

Within each name folder is a series of documents and folders. Each file name is in the format:
Lastname, Firstname DoB File description.

Once I have more than three or four files for an individual he or she gets a folder labelled with: Lastname, Firstname Do.

Odds & Sods is just that. The place where I fling  graphics, cartoons and other ephemera.

Our  Diary is peculiar to me. It contains an Excel spreadsheet that is my digital diary; the folder also contains other documents such as invitations, programs, tickets that are hyperlinked from the corresponding entry in the diary.

This diary from the day of my parent's marriage has been constructed over the years from documents, printed diaries, old calendars, receipts, certificates, recollections, newspaper clippings and by uing photographs as prompts. I  presently use Outlook for my diary and periodically export this into the Our Diary spreadsheet.

The Headings for this spreadsheet are: Day, Date, Time, Details, Source 1, Source 2, Source 3.

Places is similar to names but contains folders with maps and information about the places of my ancestors. Thes include, Towns, Houses and Chruches.

Presentations has been explained in a previous blog post,Where do you put them? Conference Papers

Research Log and Plans does not house my master research log(that is a Google Docs spreadsheet) but the smaller logs I create when I am going to visit a particular repository, resource or place eg The National Archives, The Family History Library, or The National Library of Australia.

TMG and TNG are where one finds files relating to my two genealogy software programs. These folders do not have family data.

I keep and tag all of my bookmarks in Delicious and use Picasa to tag and organise my photographs. Librarything is my program of choice for organising my books.

Perusing this list I am reminded of one other folder - Genealogy - Scans to sort. This is where my scans live until I file them. For consistency I think it will be renamed.

Phew! That was a post and a half - hope it answers your question, Sharon.


Sharon said...

Thanks for that Jill. Mine is similar. I agree that a the filing system needs to be flat. I still need to organise my images more efficiently. At the moment they have their ID number first, then details of file. Any family related image has their family ID first. I'm still trying to work out if I like this idea or not.

Judy Webster said...

My digital filing system needs to be improved, so I will take note of your tips. And I've just ordered a copy of Sassy Jane's Guide to Organizing Your Genealogical Research Using Archival Principles.

Philip Trauring said...

I use a very different filing system, that is anything but flat. I wanted to insure that even without my genealogy program that I would be able to find and access my data. I thus set up a system where I start with folders for the 8 surnames of my great-grandparents, then underneath those I start a folder of the oldest-known-ancestor, and add folder for children and continue. This means that it always possible to find the exact folder for an individual (or couple) in my tree. In each fold, in addition to any children folders I add folders titled Photos and Documents to put specific files about that person or couple. This works out very well since every photo or document I come across has a specific place. If I haven't yet added a folder for the person whose document I find, I know exactly which folders to add to get to that person, and add them before adding the file.

A full description is up on my blog:

There is also some discussions in the comments worth reading.

Tanya Honey said...

Thank you, some good tips here.

I am still trying to figure out what works for me, filing is not my strong point, and am going to try out some of the things you do. I think I'll be looking for the book Judy has ordered too!

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Thanks so much for this post Jill. I am in awe of your organizational ability AND most importantly your consistency!

My downfall is how I feel on any particular day... for example I struggle with should I create a file folder called PEER with subfolders for each child or should I create one folder for each child right off the bat.. I keep changing my mind!

Love your ideas and am going to sit down and map out what I want for my "stuff"

Jennifer said...

Very interesting. I never thought of putting the "00" prefix to keep certain folders at the head of a file list. I use a very similar name-based filing system, but have struggled with the more "general" files. Nice suggestions on that.

Here's a question for you: do you double-file those cross-surname files? (such as marriage docs) Or do you standardize to the male surname as others do?

GeniAus said...

Thanks,all for your comments.

Jennifer, I know it takes up space but I usually double-file those cross-surname files (marriage/divorce particularly) so that I have everything about a particular person in one spot. The exception so far is Census reports but that may change!

Judy Webster said...

A few minutes ago I received the e-book Guide to Organizing Your Genealogical Research Using Archival Principles. I've only had time to read a few pages and glance at the remainder, but my initial impression is that this 40-page PDF e-book is absolutely brilliant.

GeniAus said...

Phillip, I just retrieved your comment from "Spam". Thanks for your comments and link.

I think the best system is whatever works for you.

I am fortunate that I have my family history data on my phone and tablet in my handbag so I'm able to get away with a simple system.

Patti Browning said...

Quick question about the "Names" folder...

When dealing with woman who marry, do you put her documents in her husband's surname folder, or her maiden name?

Nancy said...

Oh, filing gives me such a headache! I want to be organized and I try to be organized but.... So, I think my system is similar to yours but my system is not quite as refined. I'll have to reread your post when I have time to sit down and rethink organizing my files.

I noticed that you have a file for Bartley. Are they Pennsylvania Bartleys? If so, our lines may run together some generations back.

Thanks for this post.

GeniAus said...

Patti, I always file a woman's documents under her birth or maiden name. I usually put a copy of marriage/divorce records under each person's name.

GeniAus said...

Nancy, the Bartleys I have are from a collateral line in Tasmania, Australia who came from Gloucestershire, England.

lebjohnson said...

I'm a professional database manager and have found for lots of data, flat works extremely well. The system I manage was designed with folder within folder with in folder, etc. Eventually nothing could be easily found. We are now simplifying.

For my own genealogical data, I file by last name of the most important family (usually male line, but not always) and dump everything in there. If I have a lot for one person or specific family, he, she or they get their own folder in the main folder, but I never folder inside the second one. This is my KISS version and it works well for me. I think filing versions are very idiosyncratic because they reflect the way we think about the world. I do have tubs of paper that need to be scanned into this system, but it's so much more exciting to do research than digitally refile old. :(

GeniAus said...

Exactly, One of the things that sticks with me from my IT Managemant days is that any more than 3 clicks to get somewhere is too many.

Julie Goucher said...

My computer & paper filing system leaves a lot to be desired, and really does need a over haul. A very interesting post and I shall re read before filing battle commences!

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