A reader sending an inquiry said, “I look forward to the column and read where you discussed organizing paper files. My files are almost all digital. Can you give me pointers on organizing digital files?”
When setting up and maintaining digital files, the No. 1 rule is to back up your files before you begin reorganizing. Secondly, you should review your files and delete files are no longer needed. Then start your organization by deciding on a structure for your digital folders. Remember, the key to successful organization is consistency.
The most common places to find files on a computer are in the documents, pictures, download files, and your genealogy software program. After locating the files, you must decide how you want to keep track of the files. If you use a combination of paper files and digital files, you should arrange your digital files in the same way you arranged your paper files.
One method you may want to consider is the Log file. A Log file is when you do not want to copy or move your files from various locations on your computer to a more central location. The log file will need to have the file name, including the extension, the date, location on your computer, a brief description of the file, names of primary individuals or geographical areas in the file, physical location of the original document or photo. The best program for the log file would be a spreadsheet or a word processing program.
Another method of keeping track of your files takes longer to set up because you will be moving the files from various locations on your computer. However, it may be worth the time in the future by the ease of locating the research quickly.
For example, the basic file would be called Genealogy. Sub-files will be organized under the Genealogy file using surnames, by couple or family. A sub-folder could be called SMITH. All items specific for the Smith family would be filed in that folder. When your sub-folder becomes too large to manage, you can create additional sub-folders using the first name. Other sub-files could be by type such as birth records, wills, or census records. A census sub-folder could be titled Smith_Census. This file would contain all the censuses for the Smith family. The census report is listed by family; therefore, it would not be necessary to copy the census and file in each first name file folder. A benefit of maintaining digital genealogy files is all files can be available on all your devices when you have an app with a synchronization service.
Finally and most importantly, to protect your files, use at least two different methods to back up your files. Most files back up to a different section of your computer designated by your operating system. If your computer crashes, you may or may not be able to retrieve your files. You should always back up your digital files to a USB drive, a portable hard drive or DVD and place the backup away from the building where your computer is located.
If you have a question for the Augusta Genealogical Society, email it with “Ancestor” in the subject line to AugustaGenSociety@comcast.net.