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Digital Organizing

Digital Organizing

You’ve been scanning away. Time to organize. If you follow the outlines of this flexible system you will always be able to find your digital documents. Pictures are a separate topic.

I use an external hard plugged into a USB port for my genealogy. It keeps my genealogy all in one place, can be easily removed and taken with me if needed and – this is important – it gets automatically backed up with my offsite backup procedure. It also makes it easier to create your own filing system because you don’t have to fight with your operating system’s idea of where things should be filed.

Name your people files in the following manner: birth surname, first name, type date location. An example: Downing William census 1860 Chester.pdf. I suggest you stick to surname then first name. If you want a different order for the other information that’s fine. There is no right or wrong. You are the one who has to find the documents later. Just be consistent.

The key, at least in my experience, is to be consistent. Consistency trumps just about everything. If you use a numbering system the number should be the first word in the file name. I don’t use a numbering system. It’s just one more thing to organize and remember but if a numbering system works for you do it.

Make eight directories, one for each birth surname of your great grandparents. Keep in mind that if you are doing this for your children that would 16 directories. Put everything pertaining to that ancestor in that folder. If you have a lot of information on ancestors prior to your great grandparents you may chose to make a separate directory for additional surnames. It doesn’t matter how many directories you make. This is digital. You have the room. Do what works for you.

I hear you. What about great grandmother Jane who was born a Smith and married a Jones? Put her in Smith. If you want to put a copy in Jones go for it. It’s digital. Duplicates aren’t an issue.

Also make directories for cemeteries, census, birth, marriage, death, land, etc. If you collect funeral cards make one for those. My census file has subdirectories for each federal census. A copy of all census documents I have is in that directory. Another copy of the individual page is in the appropriate surname directory. For documents in these files the name might be 1880 Census Illinois Logan Laenna.pdf. Illinois is obviously the state, Logan is the county and Laenna is the township. Using spaces between words makes it easier to find them through a digital search if needed.

Get the idea?

Now go to http://www.voidtools.com/ and download the free Search Everything. If you goofed in spelling but you included all the elements you can search on any one of the elements and find the file.If you misfiled it you can still find it. Search Everything only searches files on your computer, including the drives attached by USB. It will not search network attached storage or home servers.

Books – Will It Happen?

Books – Will It Happen?

Going Digital 2

I had to remove all the books in my office so new carpet could be installed. It was a back breaking task that took several days. Along the way I noted, despite several moves and heavy handed weeding out, there were still books I don’t need. I made piles of them. Now as I place the books back into the bookcases I am attempting to sort by subject and do further weeding. Since my dogs do not object to the disarray I can afford to take my time going through the books. Unfortunately I have a list of books I still want to purchase…

Books undoubtedly take up the most space of all my “necessary” paper. Obviously I have a computer which can play audio files including books and podcasts as well read many file formats. I also have Palm LifeDrive which can play audio books in several formats as well as read files in four or five formats — making the available library of books and articles portable. There are many other devices that do that including some cell phones.

Several years ago through a promotion I got a copy of Val Greenwood’s Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy in pdf, all 660 pages in the palm of my hand. A friend read parts of her copy on a plane during a long flight. I’ve read a bit while waiting in a doctor’s office but, frankly, I don’t like reading on a 2 1/2″ by 3 1/2″ screen all that much – and that’s a larger than normal screen. Recently I purchased a 22″ monitor for my laptop. That’s more like it.

This year I purchased Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained in pdf. I confess, it is still no joy to read on the LifeDrive but it is incredibly handy to have that book with me while researching. And it is word searchable. Next June I am taking her course at IGHR so, after I registered, I bought the book too. In that scenario it is probably easier to have the book.

A couple years ago, as a project for a genealogy society, I tore apart some reprints they had made of old public domain books, ran them through a high speed scanner at a law office in Chicago, converted the output to pdf and made it word searchable. [This now doable in one step.] The final document was burnt to CD. The society now sells the CDs and doesn’t waste space or money storing books to sell. They can literally print a book on demand. Digital books are attractive to sellers because they don’t represent an investment in storage space or paper.

There are many already digitalized books online, often free to download, of interest to researchers. Google Books is a treasure chest of such books. And the word searchable benefit is hard to top.

Having the digital book — and you can easily keep the whole book, not just a few pages — on your computer means you never having to kick yourself for not looking up one more thing when you had the book in your hands 10 years ago.

Until your library is digital list your books on LibraryThing so you know what you have. I’m using a printout of my LibraryThing books to make sure I have all my genealogy books together as I put the office back together. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I still have more books than space in the bookcase assigned to genealogy.