Nov 03

Do You Know Where Your Files Are?

As we progress through our family history research, e.g. from beginner, novice, … advanced, we often find ourselves shifting from one filing method to another. As the storage space in my small mountain home becomes more of a premium, I find that digital is really the way for me to proceed. Consequently, I continue to spend hours scanning paper files, reports, documents, and photographs, so that the material is digital. I’m a tactile person, so I still like, paper. Yet, there are reasons beyond storage for digitizing—sharing, backup, and easy access.

Once the records are digitized, we need to face conjuring an efficient and flexible filing system. I’d like to share what works for me.

When organizing my computer files, I’ve found it helpful to use a scheme based on surnames (females are filed under their maiden name) and thereafter by ahnentafel numbers (ahnentafel number is German word meaning “ancestor table”).  Children of my direct ancestors are given folders under that ancestors ahnentafel folder.

Research notes, resources, documents, etc. for my personal ancestry are filed in a main folder that I call, “Research – Personal.”  The first set of subfolders are tiled by record type, such as cemeteries, communities, etc., that pertain to more than one surname. In order to make this system efficient, it is important for me to scan or download digital images as records are located and to file them in the appropriate folder.

My “Research – Personal” files are stored in DropBox so that the files are always current, no matter which computer I’m on when revisions (or additions) are entered.

Figure 1 illustrates some of the file folders found under my main research folder called “Research – Personal.”

Figure 1

This file scheme allows me to quickly determine what records I’ve located and what records I need to look for in the future. This method, also, assists me when constructing research plan. Of course, other research tools are also considered when formatting a research plan.

Let’s look inside the “Family – Perkins” folder—you’ll see files prefaced with ahnentafel numbers (Figure 2).

Figure 2


Figure 3 is a snapshot of the files under folder “#0012 Perkins, John Butters.”

Figure 3

In Figure 3 ”0012-01 Perkins, Charles” indicates that Charles was the first child of John Butters Perkins, “0012-02 Perkins, Etta Belle” indicates that Etta Belle was the 2nd child of John Butters Perkins, etc. Files for Etta Belle’s marriage and information regarding her children are readily found in her folder.

Figure 4 illustrates some of the digital files stored under #0012 Documents”—#0012, John Butters Perkins was my great grandfather.

Figure 4

Figure 4 illustrates that I have very few digital images for documents that relate to great grandfather John Butters. All I’ve digitized are the front and reverse side of the State of New Hampshire’s copy of his death certificate and some images of his tombstone in Mount Hope Cemetery [Loudon Village, New Hampshire]. Many years ago I abstracted information that I found on the state copies of the birth and marriage records of John Butters Perkins, but now that the digitized images are on FamilySearch, I can obtain digital images from their website.

Obviously, I also need to obtain images of census, deeds, probate, etc. which provide additional evidence for John Butters Perkins.

So if you have difficulty finding your digital files, this scheme may work for you, or perhaps you’ve devised another.

© Linda Woodward Geiger. All Rights Reserved.