Monday, May 28, 2012

Sorting Family Tree Digital Files

An integral part of storing your files/photos should be, if possible, making digital copies of all your documents and photos.  To assist me with this I enlisted the aid of my (sometimes willing) husband. We had invested in a good flat bed scanner about a year ago and have found it an invaluable resource. As I sorted all the documents and photos into Family Groups, Steve scanned the documents, ready for me to later label and sort into folders.

There are a number of good reasons for making digital copies which include:
  • Security:  in case of loss due to water damage, fire or misplacement of a document
  • Online Resources:  for attaching to your online family tree or blog, an easy way to back up your research.
  • Sharing: for sharing with other family tree researchers 
  • Time Management:  it is a good way to have all your files at your finger tips, you are able to check out details quickly and without fuss.  It is much easier than going through folders, boxes etc for the hard copy for the record.

The  dilemma again arises on how to file them so they can be easily found. 

Trying to stick to my KISS philosophy, this is the method I have chosen.
As each document, photo or newspaper cutting is scanned I name the file with DC, BC, MC, newspaper, census etc, then the surname, christian name, and date if known.  eg.  Death Certificate for my grandfather would have the file name:  DC.Shepherd, Malcolm Michael 25.06.1932. 

Of course the system you use is a personal choice and you need to choose your own approach and make it consistent for all your files.

The next step is to set up your files within your Family Tree Digital File.  I have chosen to organise my digital files in the same manner as I set up the files for the hard copies.  (see my previous blog , Time to Go Shopping.  All the folders on the computer corresponded with original files of photos and documents. i.e,. Four main folders  in the names of grandparents eg. Shepherd, Herbert, Smith, and Hewson  (see diagram above).


Once these files are set up I set up a file within each of these folders for the family groups of my great grand parents.

 eg:  Hewson is divided into Hewson and Keable and Shepherd is divided into Shepherd and Lee.

Then within each of these folders set up files for the documents for that section of your family group, eg: Births, Deaths, Marriages, Newspaper Articles, Military etc. 

 See the diagram to the right as an example of how your folder setup could look.

Again these folders are a personal choice and will correspond to the type of documents you have to store.

One final note:  Yes this is quite a daunting task! However if you take the time to set up a workable system and slowly work your way through your collection of data, you will be rewarded with a manageable collection of family tree files that can be easily accessed and shared with other researchers.

Also, as you discover new information or others share photos or documents with you, they are easily filed away.

If you find this system of use let me know, or if you have any suggestions to improve my system I would love to hear from you.