02 February 2017

Case Study on "Haven't I Seen You Before?"

This post is about the importance of being fully organized and supports my earlier post, "Haven't I Seen You Before?". I've seen countless articles about how best to file your paper documents and binders and photos, but I have extremely few paper documents. They're in one manila folder.

On the other hand, I have ten of thousands of digital documents—primarily jpg files. Early on, when I was going gangbusters and grabbing hundreds of census sheets, ship manifests, draft registration cards, and more, I realized it could be difficult to get back to the right jpg file very easily.

So here's what I did:
  1. I named each file using a standard naming convention such as LastnameFirstnameYear.jpg. For a census sheet or a ship manifest containing a whole family, I used the name of the head of household, such as SavianoAntonio1898.jpg.

  2. I placed each type of document into a folder with an unmistakable name, such as census, draft registration, immigration, certificates (that's for birth, marriage and death).
  3. When I import a jpg into Family Tree Maker software, I fill out the properties window as much as possible. I use a standard title (e.g., "1898 immigration record for Antonio Saviano and family"), enter the date on the document (in my preferred standard of day (numerical) month (first 3 letters) year (4 digits)), and click the checkbox for the type of file (including vital record, photo, military, census). Finally, in the description section I state which line number(s) to look at, and enough details to allow anyone else to find the original document themselves (such as the name of the collection, the roll number, and image x of xx on ancestry.com). Sometimes this is handy for me to have, too. For example, if I have a family that I think lived on the same block as another family, but they're not showing up in a census search, I can retrace my steps to the first family's census sheet and start paging through until I find the other family.

  4. documenting an image's properties
    I created my super handy document tracker spreadsheet (download one for yourself) and update it every time I find a new document. Each line has one person on it, lastname first so I can easily sort them all alphabetically. The columns are for the different types of documents, like censuses and ship manifests. Each time I add a new jpg, I mark the proper column with the document's year. So if I have the 1910 and 1920 census for someone, both of those years go in their line, and it's obvious that I do not have 1930. I currently have 1,380 lines, but I think I haven't added the tons of people documented in my Basélice research project.

  5. Every so often I copy these files to another location, like my own website server. I don't have to recopy them all—I just have to upload the ones dated after my last backup.
If you can get this organized, you will find it easier to gather more complete information on families, and your tree will be fortified by excellent sources.

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