Approaches to Organization of Computerized Genealogical Files

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By Amanda Forson, World Vital Records, Inc.

1. The first approach is a prelude to the second. For the first approach, researchers have only their own GEDCOM files to worry about, and their own documents, information, etc. This is the approach for someone who is new to genealogy.

2. The second approach is for someone who is picking up where someone else left off, be it a family member, a professional researcher, or a genealogical correspondent. This approach may contain more leads, but also contains possible mistakes. Mixed-bag results, this approach eventually blends with approach A after a few steps.

Both of these approaches arrive with the assumption that home materials are in a known location, accompanied by a fresh resolve to get started on genealogical research.

From assumption “A,” type in all the known information into a personal genealogical database program. Save this information under the file heading, Genealogy. From here, enter approach “B” tactics: Karl Swenson*, loyal newsletter reader from Orem, Utah, suggests two subdivisions of files: Correspondence and GEDCOM’s. From here, he suggests subdividing the files by surname.

For my personal files, I have the GEDCOMS listed underneath particular larger-surnamed family lines according to how I look for their information in my overall pedigree chart. If, for example, I am looking for information on my father’s side, then I am not going to look for my mother’s great- grandmother’s information under that particular file name. I have found no proof or hints that my mother’s side and father’s side relate outside of their marriage, so it is unlikely that the two lines would overlap.

My personal email provider is accessible from any computer, and so I keep personal genealogical correspondence also listed by surname within the email provider. If I sent out more snail mail correspondence, or saved it to my hard drive, then the division for correspondence within my computer folders would make good sense. As it is, I try to keep pictures and documents separated in their own folders. Currently, I do not have enough pictures and documents scanned to necessitate a large amount of extra folders for the contents that currently fit under “Personal Family Documents.”

If there were more than 200 pictures or documents, then further organization would be necessary. More information is more useful, but also requires further organization. Whenever I receive new information for my files and the information seems large enough to merit a new folder, it becomes created. This habit keeps me from future frustrations when trying to find particular information as everything fits into its slot as soon as I receive it.

Others use other formats in organizing their family files. This is not an exhaustive study, but a tip for helping those stuck not knowing where to go or how to compartmentalize an ever-expanding array of possible data that comes with good research methods.
*Name used by permission.

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