Showing posts with label filing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label filing. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Your All-in-One Family Tree Clean-up List

Use this checklist of 7 tasks to scrub your family tree clean.

I want to help you make your family tree better and more professional. That's why I've been writing these genealogy articles twice a week for more than two years.

Today we'll look at 7 types of family tree clean-up tasks. Together they can improve your tree in so many ways.

1 Names

Does every name in your family tree meet your standards?
  • Maiden names. It's a genealogy best-practice to record women using their maiden name. Let them have their own identity.
  • Unknown names. When you haven't discovered someone's first or last name, consider recording it as _____. This makes it clear you haven't yet filled in that blank. Credit for this goes to Ancestry.com expert Crista Cowan. I used to use the word "Unknown", but someone misunderstood that. They thought I meant no one ever knew this name. As if the person was living under an assumed identity.
  • Names only. Some people will record a person's name as Grandma Johnson, or Jane Dad's great aunt. If you put notes on people's names, you're not helping relatives and DNA matches to find you.
  • More than one name. I insist on recording everyone's birth name. I'll add other names (nicknames, Anglicized names, and legal name changes) as a second name fact.

2 Places

Make sure the place names in your tree follow a consistent style. Family Tree Maker organizes your place names when they're written the right way. It's easy to click a country, then a state or province, then a town, and find a place. And with a click you'll see every name associated with a place.


Once I saw how nicely Family Tree Maker organizes place names, I cleaned them all up.
Once I saw how nicely Family Tree Maker organizes place names, I cleaned them all up.

3 Media Files

Remember when you first got started in genealogy? I know I was downloading census sheets and ship manifests as fast as I could find them.

All those media files need a facelift. And it will make them believable and valuable as evidence of your ancestor. Here's how I mark up each document image in my family tree:
  • Write a caption. Start with a year to force media items to display in date order. Make it clear what each document is.
  • Add the date. Documents will almost always have an exact date on them. Add this to the date field.
  • Choose a category. Family Tree Maker lets me pick a category from their list, or add custom categories. Now I can sort my thousands of media files by type.
  • Describe everything about the document image. I add enough information to allow myself or anyone else to find the original image again. That includes line numbers on the page, a description of the document collection, and a URL.
  • Add a note. There is a notes tab for each media item in Family Tree Maker. You can type any information in there. Maybe you need to record who you wrote to to get this image.

4 Sources

I like to keep my sources simple. But I've been adding more and more detail to them.

I use a simple title, like "1900 U.S. Federal Census". A short title doesn't clutter up the person view in Family Tree Maker.

I copy the citation details and citation text from the collection. For example, for the 1900 U.S. Federal Census:
  • The citation detail is:

    Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.
  • The citation text is:

    United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls.
  • The web address where you find those details and can search this collection is:

    https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7602
Having a neat, tight list of sources makes them easy to maintain and make better.
Having a neat, tight list of sources makes them easy to maintain and make better.
I like that I can click any source in my tree and see every person and fact that's associated with it. I have a goal to get rid of secondary sources—like other people's trees. I need to replace them with primary sources. My source list makes it easy to find the facts I need to work on.

For more on this topic see 6 Easy Steps to Valuable Source Citations.

5 Filing

People seem to worry a lot about their document filing systems. Don't overthink it. Keep it simple and logical. Remember that you may pass your work on to a loved one some day.

What's logical to me is a folder for each main type of document:
  • census
  • draft cards
  • ship manifests
  • birth, marriage, and death certificates, etc.
I name my files, in general, LastnameFirstnameYear. Here are some of my file names:
  • RignaneseMatteoNaturalization1944-p1.jpg
  • CiottiMariaTeresaConcettaBirth1848.jpg
  • CoccaAngeloAntonioMontaganoMariaBenedettaGenerosa1stMarriageBanns1833.jpg
  • LucarelliGirolamoWW1.jpg
Because I follow a pattern, it's easy to see what a document is.


6 Backups

How fatal of a heart attack would you have if all your genealogy research disappeared?

Spread things out, but keep them at hand. Use your computer drive, external drives and cloud storage.

Make a backup plan for your genealogy files and stick to it. Remember that two backups are better than one. Many of my files synchronize to my cloud storage the moment they change. For everything else, I make a backup every Sunday morning. Without fail.


7 To-Do Lists

It seems like everyone has their favorite way of keeping to-do lists. Post-It Notes, a special notebook, EverNote. I'm fond of keeping a single text file open on my computer all the time. It's called Notebook.txt. That's where I have my:
  • Genealogy To-Do List
  • 2019 Genealogy Goals List
  • List of important families to work on
  • List of files and folders to back up each Sunday
  • and more
I don't care how you do it, but find a way to keep track of :
  • what you want to do next
  • what you were doing when you stopped for the day
  • what you'd like to do when you have the chance.
For more on this topic see Start Your Rainy-Day Genealogy List.

That was a lot. And it's a lot of work. But chip away at these ideas and your family tree will grow stronger from your effort.

Make these tasks into a to-do list and tackle it one bite at a time. It's worth it.

Please take this 3-question survey to help me make this content better for you. Thank you!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

3 Rules for Naming Digital Genealogy Documents

These 3 logical rules will add tons of value to your family tree and every document in it.

I'm a natural-born organizer. My strict computer file organization is easiest to see in my thousands of genealogy image files. Thanks to my 3 rules for naming and storing digital genealogy files, I can locate the original copy of any image in my tree in seconds.

It's worked so well, that what happened to me on Sunday was shocking. I was following my rules, but the correct filename was already taken.

It seems I have 18 people in my family tree named Giuseppantonio Pozzuto. Two were born in 1814. When I tried to save an image file as PozzutoGiusappantonioBirth1814.jpg, my computer asked if I wanted to overwrite the existing file. No, I didn't.

To get around the problem, I added Giuseppantonio's father's name to the file name: PozzutoGiuseppantoniodiDonatoBirth1814.jpg. I use "di" as shorthand. In Italian, it tells us Giuseppantonio is the son of Donato.

That's the first time my genealogy file naming rules hit a snag. Ever. That tells me it's a solid method.

Here are the rules:

1. Folder-Naming Format
  • Keep your genealogy files in one top-level folder. I named mine FamilyTree. It's synchronized with OneDrive, and I make a weekly manual backup, too.
  • In your main folder, create a separate folder for each major type of document you'll collect. Name them as simply as possible so you'll never forget what's in each one. For example:
    • census forms
    • certificates (for birth, marriage, and death records)
    • city directories
    • draft cards
    • immigration (for ship manifests)
    • naturalization
    • passports
    • photos
    • yearbooks
  • Make as many folders as you need. Now everything is centralized.
Simple, logical file folder names remove any confusion.
Simple, logical file folder names remove any confusion.

2. Image-Naming Format

Inside each of your folders, follow a consistent, simple format.
  • For census files, the format is LastnameFirstnameYear.jpg, using the name of the head of household. Example: KinneyJames1920.jpg
  • For ship manifests, the format is LastnameFirstnameYear.jpg. But:
    • When there are 2 sheets to a ship manifest, the format is LastnameFirstnameYear-p1.jpg and LastnameFirstnameYear-p2.jpg.
    • When there are 2 people on the manifest, you have a choice. Either duplicate the file, 1 for each person, or double-up the names. Example: BaroneNicolinaPetriellaDomenico1891.jpg.
  • For draft registration cards, the format is LastnameFirstnameWW1.jpg or LastnameFirstnameWW2.jpg. These cards have 2 sides, so they need page numbers. Example: MaleriEnsoWW2-p1.jpg and MaleriEnsoWW2-p2.jpg.
I keep all vital records together in one certificates folder. Because they're together, they need more detail in their file names. Why don't I separate them into birth, marriage, and death folders? I prefer being able to see every vital record for a person in one place. It's a personal preference.

The simple rule for certificates is LastnameFirstnameEventYear.jpg. Double up names for marriages, and use page numbers when needed. Examples:
  • BasileGiovanniBirth1911.jpg
  • BasileGiovanniPillaAssunta1stMarriageBanns1933.jpg
  • BasileGiovanniPillaAssunta2ndMarriageBanns1933.jpg
  • BasileGiovanniPillaAssuntaMarriage1933-p1.jpg
  • BasileGiovanniPillaAssuntaMarriage1933-p2.jpg
  • BasileGiovanniDeath1942.jpg
Having separate folders helps you avoid problems with duplicate file names. I have a census image named IamarinoPietro1930.jpg and a city directory image named IamarinoPietro1930.jpg. But because they're kept in different folders, there is no conflict.

Always follow the same pattern when naming your document image files.
Always follow the same pattern when naming your document image files.

3. Image Comments

You can add important facts to an image file when it's in a folder or in your family tree software. Take the long view. When you return to a file years later, or when someone takes over your genealogy research, these extra facts will be worth a fortune.

In your file folder, right-click an image, choose Properties and click the Details tab. (I'm not a Mac person, so I don't know what your choices will be.) Add a plain-language title and detailed comments. When you import the image into your family tree software, your added facts will come along.

I give my images the exact title I want to see in Family Tree Maker. I lead with the year so the images are listed chronologically. It's a very simple format: Year, type of document, person. Example: "1911 birth record for Giovanni Basile".

You can add a lot to the Comments field of the image's Details tab. I add enough detail so anyone can find the original source of this image. Example: lines 12-15; 1940 United State Federal Census; Connecticut > Fairfield > Bridgeport > 9-97; supervisor's district 4, enumeration district 9-97, ward of city 8, block 421, sheet 12A; image 24 of 33; https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2442/m-t0627-00532-00508

I don't add a date to the image's Details tab because it can't accept the date format I use in my family tree: 5 Feb 2019. Instead, I add the event date to the document image within Family Tree Maker.

These 3 rules have served me well. I hope they'll help you avoid confusion, find files easily, and fortify your family tree.


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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Plowing Through My 2019 Genealogy Goals

It isn't to late to set some goals for the year. Set reachable goals and reap the benefits.

Goals give you a purpose and direction. It can be fun to let your genealogy research lead you wherever it wants. But goals lead to more productive research.

I set 7 genealogy goals for 2019. The first 3 are finite goals. They aren't "I hope I can discover…". They are "do this task until it's finished".

Here's where I stand with my first three 2019 Genealogy Goals:

1. Log the first five years' worth of birth records from each town into spreadsheet

This one is done! I want to create a digital, searchable database of every key fact from 1000s of documents. I downloaded birth, marriage, and death records from my 6 ancestral Italian towns. They start in 1809, and some go into the 1940s.

Because it's an insanely big project, I broke off a chunk—5 years of birth records—to encourage myself to get into it. I'd already transcribed a good amount of the 1809–1813 births, so this wasn't an accurate test of how long the whole project will take.

But the benefits are real. After I finish the next 2 goals, I want to work on the 1814–1818 birth records. That eagerness to continue is exactly what I was shooting for.

2. Search for all missing census forms in my document tracker

Dive in and start those goals. Look what I found in 3 sessions.
Dive in and start those goals.
Look what I found in 3 sessions.
I'm going through the alphabetical list of people in my document tracker spreadsheet. I'm focusing on which names have a missing census form in their "Need to find" column.

Right now I'm into last names beginning with C, and it's been a very satisfying three days. I've added a lot of missing documents to my family tree.

Sometimes while searching for a census form, I can't help but see the death record or marriage index that I was missing. So I'll grab those while I'm at it, too.

The important thing to remember is to stick to your process and handle each document carefully. My routine when finding a new document image is to:
  • Crop it in Photoshop if needed.
  • Rename it using the style I've developed. My file naming rules make it easier to find any document.
  • Add it to the family tree record of each person named on the document. That means each family member on the census form gets a copy of the census sheet in Family Tree Maker.
  • Add each fact and the source citation to each person. Each family member will get a Residence fact based on the census image. Those with a job will get an Occupation fact, too. And all facts get the proper source citation. Other facts can include immigration year, naturalization year, birth and marriage years.
  • Update my document tracker spreadsheet. This is my inventory and to-do list rolled into one. It's important that I keep it accurate.
One thing I decided after starting this goal was to be reasonable. If several search techniques don't get me the census I need, I will move on. The important thing is to make a good effort.

You can add notes and a title to every document image you collect.
You can add notes and a title to every document image you collect.
3. Enter every Pozzuto baby from Colle Sannita into my family tree

I started this goal last year. A DNA analysis method pointed me to a specific last name from my grandfather's hometown. Someone with this name is highly likely to be a direct ancestor for both my parents. Their DNA says they are 4th to 6th cousins. My true goal is to find my parents' connection by analyzing these babies.

I'm working my way through my downloaded collection of vital records from Grandpa's town, adding each of these babies to my tree. I add their parents and try to ID their grandparents. If they aren't connected to anyone in my family tree yet, I give them a profile picture that says "no relationship established". If I find their connection later, I'll be sure to remove their relationship graphic.

It's still January, and I'm having an insanely productive genealogy year already. I plan to bounce between goals 2 and 3 to avoid boredom. That'll make me feel like I'm accomplishing more, too.

It's still January, and it's only January. Have you set your 2019 Genealogy Goals?

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Friday, January 11, 2019

10-Minute Genealogy Tasks You Can Do

With these options, you can get a lot of genealogy research done in 10-minute blocks here and there.

Some more sleep would be nice. But I've been getting up really early each morning with one goal in mind: Do something productive.

Two mornings a week, posting this blog is the only thing I do. On the other mornings I try to see how many genealogy tasks I can complete before it's time to get dressed for work. It turns out, there are a lot of genealogy tasks you can do when you have only 10 minutes or so. Here are my top 5.

1. Search for a Missing Document
No commitments! See how much you can get done in only 10 minutes.
No commitments! See how much you can get done in
only 10 minutes.

First, pick a common type of document, like a ship manifest or a census.

Next, choose a particular family from your tree that's missing that document. Even if you've searched and failed to find it before, try again. Use the different search tricks (see 3 Tricks for Better Genealogy Search Results), like searching for the family by their first names only.

Even if you gave up on finding this missing document long ago, indexing systems can change. The document may become easier to find. Last month when searching for something else, I found my grandparents' 1925 New York State census sheet. Somehow, it had never come up in all my years of doing family tree research.

2. Scan Paper Documents and Photos

You may have some paper birth, marriage and death records in folders or binders. If you don't have a digital copy too, you can't add the document to your family tree software.

Gather a bunch of these paper documents and scan them as high-resolution images. No scanner? Your phone or digital camera will do.

No matter which device you use, take the document out of its shiny sleeve or glass frame. If you're not scanning, take the picture straight on and avoid shadows. There's a handy app called CamScanner that straightens out your image and makes it the best it can be.

3. Fill in Missing Sources

Some of the earlier facts in my family tree came from family members. That's really not reliable.

Revisit the branches someone else told you about or helped you with. Search online for documentation and reliable sources for as many of these facts as you can. Then add those new sources to your tree. (See 6 Easy Steps to Valuable Source Citations and Trust But Verify Your Relative's Family Tree.)

4. Annotate Your Images

Have you ever tried to re-find a census sheet online because you need to see the next page? It isn't always easy to find a document again. A misspelling may have made it tough to find the first time. Imagine having to go through that again.

Save yourself the aggravation and ensure the long-term provability of your facts. Add enough information to the document images in your family tree to allow you, or anyone, to find the original file again. Include the collection it's from, the microfilm reel number, the page number, the image number, the URL. The more facts you include, the more traceable the document will be.

For instance, I added the following note to the image properties of a ship manifest. When you attach notes to the image file, you'll import the notes into your family tree along with the image.

1957 travel record for Silvio Tagliamonte and Lillian Iamarino
lines 4-5; New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957; Roll — T715, 1897-1957 — 8001-8892 — Roll 8854; image 716 of 1197
https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7488/NYT715_8854-0716


5. Put Odds and Ends into Your Tree

Ancestry.com has a feature called a Shoebox. It's a place to save items you may need, but right now you're not sure you need. I have a similar way of saving things I gather. I have a folder on my computer called "gen docs". It has sub-folders for photos, census forms, ship manifests, and much more.

If you have a catch-all system too, your 10-minute task is to start digging into it. Annotate the image files and add them where they belong in your family tree.

Are you a morning person? Clear-headed and ambitious. Or are you a night owl? Ready to conquer the world while everyone else is in bed.

Whatever time of day your brain is locked in and ready to go, choose one of these tasks. How far will you get in 10 minutes?

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Friday, November 30, 2018

4 Keys to Make You a Better Genealogist

Even 1 key will get you going. All 4 might unlock a ton of treasure.

If you could pick only one, which of these family tree accomplishments would make you a better genealogist?
  1. Perfecting your file, folder and document ORGANIZATION
  2. Cleaning up your FACTS AND SOURCES and doing them right from now on
  3. "FINISHING" your research on individual family groups
  4. SHARING your findings with relatives
Let's take a look at each one so you can decide. And once you do choose one, you've got your 2019 Genealogy Goals in your sights.

They're not just shiny objects. They are the heart of solid genealogy.
They're not just shiny objects.
They are the heart of solid genealogy.
Organization

How quickly can you locate your maternal grandparents' 1940 census document? Your great grandfather's ship manifest? Your great uncle's World War II draft registration card?

If you don't know exactly where to look and exactly how you would have named the file, you may need an organization upgrade.

Create your organization style, and stick to it. Almost from the beginning, I decided:
  • how I wanted to name my document images and
  • how I wanted to organize those images in file folders.
I'm 99.8% digital; so little paper that it's in one manila folder.

I name my folders, all within my FamilyTree folder, for the type of document:
  • census forms
  • certificates (that's all birth, marriage and death records)
  • city directories
  • draft cards
  • immigration
  • passports, etc.
I name my document images for the person (or head of household, if it's a census) and the year: LastnameFirstnameYear. The file names can get very long for a marriage, where I include both the groom's name and the bride's name, plus the year. But then the file name is very descriptive.

This system has worked incredibly well for me ever since I started this crazy hobby.

Facts and Sources

As you work on your family tree year after year, you may find you do things differently than you did before. Hopefully you're doing them better than you did before.

If you want others to recognize your family tree for the good work it is, fix your facts and sources.

Revisit your earliest work and put in the sources you skipped in your excitement. (See 6 Easy Steps to Valuable Source Citations.) Add annotations to your document images within your family tree. (See How to Increase the Value of Your Family Tree Images.)

Finishing

Yes, I know all the jokes and memes. Genealogy is never finished.

But you can finish gathering all the known documents for a given family. Pick a particular nuclear family—like your grandparents, your mother and her siblings.

You can finish your search for their:
  • census forms
  • birth, marriage and death records
  • immigration records
  • military records
Your family tree probably has lots of nuclear families you didn't finish working on. Why not finish searching for their key documents now?

As you "finish" each family unit, you can consider moving on to this next goal.

Sharing

Imagine your mother and her family again. You've got as many documents for that family as you can get.

This would be the perfect time to create a booklet or a scrapbook about them. Write their story, based partly on the documents and facts you've collected. Put something together and share it with your loved ones.

I wrote a brief life story for my grandfather recently, and it made my mother incredibly happy. (See 5 Steps to Writing Your Ancestor's Life Story.)

If one or more of these ideas hits home for you, why not make it happen in 2019? I haven't finished annotating my document images (Facts and Sources), so I definitely want to do that. I'm also very eager to finish some families, or at least finish gathering all the census forms that I'm still missing.

I want us all to be better, more thoughtful and accurate genealogists. These 4 keys can definitely put you on your way.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

How to Back Up Your Family Tree Files Automatically

This one decision is my biggest genealogy time-saver.

Last December I wrote my list of genealogy goals for 2018. I'm making progress, but at least 2 of my goals will spill over to next year's list.

My genealogy files are backed up  instantly, automatically.
My genealogy files are backed up
instantly, automatically.
That's why I'm so happy, week after week, about my decision to back up my family tree files automatically. Well, automatically and also manually, because two backups are better than one.

There are free storage options and paid storage options. I'll list several of them below, but first: Automation.

I've decided to use my Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage for my genealogy files. All my files are still stored locally on my computer. But they're mirrored and continuously backed up to OneDrive.

Continuously backed up means:
  • My document tracker spreadsheet is always saved on my computer and the cloud.
  • Each census sheet or birth record I download to add to my tree is backed up to the cloud at the same time.
  • When I work in Family Tree Maker and make a backup file, the tree and the backup are also saved on my computer and the cloud.
I don't have to take an extra step to back them up. But, I also have an external, 1 Terabyte drive. Once a week I look at all my genealogy folders on my computer, sorting them by date. I copy anything with a newer date than my last backup to the external drive.

My OneDrive files, accessible to me online, anywhere.
My OneDrive files, accessible to me online, anywhere.

It's fast, efficient and safe. Plus, having your files online, in your password-protected storage area, means you can access your files from anywhere.

I like syncing a portion of my computer with OneDrive because the files are still on my computer. They'd still be there even if I had no internet access.

Here are several options for online storage that you can use:

OneDrive

I'm a monthly subscriber to Microsoft Office 365. I need it for work, and the cost is low enough that I'll keep subscribing even after I've retired. My subscription includes 1 Terabyte of storage space. Even with all my genealogy files on OneDrive, I'm only using a tiny portion of my Terabyte—about 182 GB. You can get 5 GB of free storage space or 50 GB for $1.99/month. Visit OneDrive to learn more.

Google Drive is another automatic backup option.
Google Drive is another
automatic backup option.
Google Drive

You can also use your free Google account for automatic backup. Google Drive lets you synchronize folders with your online storage space automatically. It works with your Windows or Mac computer, and your Android or iOS device. Google Drive gives you 15 GB of storage for free. For $1.99/month, you can buy 100 GB of storage. Visit Google Drive to learn more.

iCloud

Do you have an iPhone or iPad? If so, you have 5 GB of iCloud storage. You can access it from your computer as well as your devices. That's not a lot of space, but you can pay for more storage. The cost depends on your country and how much space you want. Visit iCloud to learn more.

Dropbox

Free storage with Dropbox is limited to 2 GB. You can buy 1 Terabyte of online storage space for $9.99/month. I like to use Dropbox for file sharing. I've posted fill-in-the-blanks census sheets there and other PDFs to share with specific people. Visit Dropbox to learn more.

Your Internet Provider

If you have an internet connection in your home, your service provider may offer you some free storage space. Check with your provider.

You can see that the paid plans are very competitive with each other. With OneDrive, I'm basically paying for that 1 Terabyte and getting Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more for free.

No excuses now. Even if you split your files among different free storage spaces, it's time for you to create your back up plan.


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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

How to Tame Your Jumble of Genealogy Leads

As time passes, you'll find you have more genealogy leads than you can follow. More irons in the fire than you can tend to.

It's getting to be overwhelming, right?

Hold on a sec. Take a breath and think about why you're researching your family tree. If you expect to reach the finish line one day, take a look around you. Genealogy hobbyists work on their trees for the rest of their lives.

And we love that!

Don't let the amount of leads—or the amount of brick walls—stop you from loving this hobby. It's the searching, the leads, and the discoveries that give us the joy. Every step of the process IS the fun.

A well-organized email collection will help you follow genealogy leads.
A well-organized email collection
will help you follow genealogy leads.
Now that you've got your attitude adjusted, let's get busy managing all those leads.

If you've loaded your tree on any public genealogy website, and if you've got your DNA results out there, too. You're going to have people contacting you.

People are contacting me in two ways: messaging me on Ancestry.com and emailing me.

When I exchange messages on Ancestry, we typically move the conversation to email so we can share files.

My emailbox becomes my storehouse of genealogy leads. The key is to organize your email.

Manage Your Files Logically

I have email in my Microsoft Outlook file going back as far as the year 2000. If I might need something again, I put it in a folder.

I have a genealogy folder. Within that are folders for my ancestral hometowns: Baselice, Colle Sannita, Pastene. Within the town folders are folders for last names from the town. And within those folders are emails from people with a connection to that name.

If sorting by town of origin doesn't work for you, sorting by the family name may be better.

The important part is, if you've saved your email conversations, you can return to them when you're ready to do the research. You can search your email at your genealogy folder level and find that conversation from a few years ago.

Keep your genealogy leads organized.
Keep your genealogy leads organized. And keep on keeping them.
As of this moment, workers are uploading vital records from my "missing" ancestral hometown of Santa Paolina. Hurray!! I've already downloaded (find out how you can do this, too) and started processing the records from 1809–1865. I'm eagerly awaiting the post-1865 files.

Now that I'm able to document that one branch of my family I couldn't get to before, it's time to go back to my email folders. It's time to reconnect with my leads for that portion of my family tree. And because I'm so ridiculously organized, I can find those leads in a heartbeat.

If you're an office worker in the business world, you're used to organizing your email. You need to be able to find what you need when you need it.

But are you being that efficient with your genealogy email? Isn't it time to tame all those messages to make them usable?

P.S. If you've got leads with no email trail, either:
  • create a series of genealogy folders on your computer, each containing a simple text file with necessary information, or
  • create one text or Word document with all the notes.
It's easy to search for anything when you've got it typed out and on your computer.

Don't let those once-hot leads slip away from you!


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Friday, April 6, 2018

How to Be Better at Genealogy than at Your Job

Results of Following Genealogy Best Practices, Part 2

Last time I wrote about the priceless benefits of documenting an entire town. Today I'm focusing on another pillar of my genealogy philosophy. It can help you produce a valuable family tree.

Stick to Your Organization Style

I'm a terrific on-the-job learner. I've become a whiz at organization and efficiency. I like to apply best practices from my work life to my genealogy life.

Here are my top organization and documentation techniques. They've become second nature, and they make my tree stronger every day.

Do what's logical for you and what you think will be logical to your genealogy research heir.

The short version of what's to follow is this:
  1. Categorize: create high-level folders to hold your documents
  2. Recognize: name your files so they say what they are
  3. Annotate: add metadata to the image files themselves
  4. Find: add source citations to your facts right away
  5. Track: Keep an inventory of every document you've found
Categorize: Consistent Folder Structure

create logical, high-level folders
Early in my genealogy days, I began downloading and saving document images on my computer. I created a main FamilyTree folder with sub-folders for the major types of documents:
  • census forms
  • certificates (birth, marriage and death)
  • draft cards
  • immigration
I added more folders as necessary: naturalization, applications, passports. The combination of my simple file folder structure and file naming discipline makes it easy to click my way to a particular document. I don't have to search my computer or wonder if I'm overlooking the file.

Recognize: Logical File Naming

name your files in a way that makes their content clear
For me, the best way to name any image was this format:
  • last name
  • first name
  • type of document (only necessary in my "certificates" folder)
  • year
  • if needed, the file name includes -p1, -p2, -v1, -v2 to distinguish between files that should have the same name
Here's an example from my census forms folder:
  • AusterJacob1920.jpg
  • AusterJacob1925.jpg
  • AusterJacob1930.jpg
  • AusterJacob1940.jpg
I make a habit of naming census files for the head of household. In Jacob Auster's case, these file names are crucial because Jacob used a different first name each time!

These examples from my certificates folder show me all I have for someone at a glance:
  • PisciottiLuigiBirth1825.jpg
  • PisciottiLuigiPecoraAngelamaria1stMarriageBanns1848.jpg
  • PisciottiLuigiPecoraAngelamaria2ndMarriageBanns1848.jpg
  • PisciottiLuigiPecoraAngelamariaMarriageLicense1848.jpg
  • PisciottiLuigiPecoraAngelamariaMarriage1848.jpg
It looks like I need a death record for Luigi Pisciotti.

Annotate: Useful Image Annotation

annotate your images with metadata
As soon as I download an image, I crop it in Photoshop, name it according to my style and save it in the proper folder. Then I right-click the file, choose Properties and click the Details tab. I fill in the empty Title and Comments fields. Whatever I put there stays with the image file.

For the Title, I enter exactly what I want to see in Family Tree Maker, like "1825 birth record for Luigi Pisciotti". In the Comments field I include the URL where anyone can find the original file. If it applies, I'll include the line number(s) of interest.

When I add the image to Family Tree maker, it imports those two fields.

Anyone finding a common ancestor in my tree on Ancestry.com also sees those important image details. To learn more, see How to Increase the Value of Your Family Tree Images.

Find: Thorough Source Citation

create detailed source citations to add to your facts
I like my source citations to be simple. For all the census years, I name the citation as simply as "1930 U.S. Census". Most other sources I name exactly as they appear on Ancestry.com. For example, "New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization files in New York City, 1792-1989".

But in the Citation detail field I add the description of the document collection, taken right from the source. Example: "Ancestry.com. New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007."

In the Citation text field, I copy more information from the source. Example: "Soundex Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts located in New York City, 1792-1989. New York, NY, USA: The National Archives at New York City."

The important thing is to add a source to each fact as you enter it. Adding a birth date? Attach the source. Adding an address? Add the source. Immediately. To learn more, see Trade Up to Better Family History Sources.

Track: Sanity-saving Document Inventory

While this last item is important to me, some of you may think it's nothing but extra work. I keep a single spreadsheet of each document I've attached to someone in my family tree.

here's everything I've collected on one person

If I'd opened that spreadsheet this morning, I wouldn't have bothered downloading a 1907 marriage record for a cousin—because I already had it! You can't keep all these facts in your head. A document tracker keeps you from wasting your time. Plus it shows you what you're missing. To learn more, see Track Your Genealogy Finds and Your Searches.

Next time you download a document image for your family tree, think CRAFT. If you've already got your category folders created, think RAFT (picture actor George Raft flipping a coin). Recognize means name your files in a way that helps you recognize what they are in the future. Annotate means add details to the properties of each image so it makes sense even out of context. Find means add a source citation to each fact so you can find where it came from. Track means update your inventory so you'll always know what you've found.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

These 4 Simple Rules Will Improve Your Genealogy Research

I created this blog with a single thought:

If we amateur genealogists follow some basic rules, our family trees will be so much better.

I listed out the primary keys to high-quality genealogy research:
  1. Know exactly where your people are from
  2. Analyze each document carefully before attaching it to your tree
  3. Cite your sources as you go
  4. Develop a strong, logical system of document-naming and filing
Let's take a look at how you can put these keys to work for you today.

Know Exactly Where Your People Are From

If you don't know exactly which town your ancestor was born in, you can't find their birth record. You may not find their marriage record. You might download records from a genealogy site and never know they're for the wrong person.

naturalization papers provide many key facts
My late step-grandmother's naturalization papers told me her story.
Look for evidence of the town of origin right away. It may be on military records, a passport application or naturalization papers. Knowing that town, you can now reject hints pointing to someone from the wrong place.

Analyze Each Document Carefully Before Attaching it to Your Tree

My tree has so many people with the same name. My grandfather had two first cousins. All three of them were named Pietro Iamarino.

So before you attach a record to your tree—even if you think it's such a unique name—analyze all the other facts. Does everything about this record make sense for your ancestor? Or are there too many facts you know don't match your person?

Keep some basic logic in mind. A dead woman can't give birth or get married. A woman can't give birth to two babies a month apart. A man can't become a father more than nine months after he dies.

Cite Your Sources As You Go

You can add facts to your images.
You can add facts to your images.
When we begin this genealogy hobby, we're excited by each new name and date we find. And, oh, those ship manifests and census forms! They couldn't make us any happier.

It's common to grab those facts and documents and forget about citing your sources. "It's the 1930 census. Isn't that good enough?"

No, it isn't. Picture this: One day you realize your uncle lived on the same street as your grandmother. You can't find him in a search. If you could just get back to her census form online, you're sure your uncle would be on the next page. If only you'd recorded some facts and a URL.

Put a stake in the ground today. Going forward, you're going to add citation info to each fact and document you add to your family tree.

And then spend a few weekends cleaning up your early work. Make that tree better.

Develop a Consistent System of Document-naming and Filing

Develop your logical filing system.
Develop your logical filing system.
At the start of my research, I developed some rules:
  • My computer's FamilyTree folder contains a sub-folder for each type of document:
    • census forms
    • vital records
    • city directories
    • draft cards
    • ship manifests
    • naturalization papers, etc.
  • Each file name follows the same format. Generally, it's LastnameFirstnameYear.jpg. Since I keep all vital records in one folder, they are more specific: LastnameFirstnameBirthYear.jpg or LastnameFirstnameDeathYear.jpg.
  • Census records are named for the head of household: LastnameFirstname1930.jpg. This is true of a ship manifest containing a whole family, too: LastnameFirstname1922.jpg.
When I learn something new at work, I try to apply it to my genealogy hobby. For example:
  • I work with Excel all day long. So I catalog my thousands of genealogy records in a single spreadsheet.
  • I store work files on OneDrive so I can access them from another computer. Now I store my tens of thousands of Italian vital records in a OneDrive folder so it's backed up instantly.
Be smart, logic and efficient in your hobby. You'll still have all the fun you want, but you'll leave behind a priceless legacy: Your impeccable family tree.

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