How I file my digital images

October 27, 2013

I was listening to the Genealogy Guys podcast this afternoon, and Drew Smith and George G Morgan were responding to a listener’s email.

The Genealogy Guys Podcast #256 – 2013 October 8

I was going to just send them an email, but thought that I might share this in this blog, because the way I file my digital information (Digital Overload as some one say) has an impact on my three Blogs.

Some folks store their digital information by Surname, some by Location, some by Record Group, or some combination of all of the above.

I have chosen to create Surname Folders. I should be more specific Birth Surname folders and Record Type folders.

The key to remember is How am I going to find what I am looking for, OR where I am going to save that digital image. I will most likely use Windows Explorer to do this. I always have the Show File Extension option so that I can SEE the file type that I am creating or looking for. So SORTING now becomes very important.

For the Filename of Pictures or other images, NOT including images of Records I use:

Surname_FirstnameMiddleameSuffix (without any spaces). The Underscore helps visually see the Surname. I do not use All Caps for surname. That hasn’t worked for me, but others do.

Each person is grouped together. In my case, my grandfather does not have a suffix, he wasn’t born with one, my Dad was a Jr, and I am a III. That keeps us separated.

What follows now becomes important for each person. I add a dash followed by YYYY (full year) format, so that puts them in Date Order. That is IF I know the year of the digital image. I follow that with a Dash and Event.

The Dashes are to help separate or break up the text. If I had a more accurate date, I would use YYYY-MM-DD format, IF that becomes an issue.

No Date, then just the Event. Let’s say that I had 10 pictures from an 80th birthday for an individual and the birthday party was in 1998. The filename would have 1998-Birthday-01, 1998-Birthday-02, 1998-Birthday following the Birth Surname_Firstname_Middlename-

For file name sorting this works great.

But, what about a family photo? (not getting into the meta data here). I precede the filename with Family_Surname etc. so I know that there are more than one person in that photo. In this case, I may end up with multiple Surnames in that photo, so I would have multiple Copies of that image in a couple of Surname Folders. Luckily (or unluckily) I don’t have too many of them.

I also have some pictures of houses where people lived. I precede them with House_Surname etc. This continues to help with the sorting in windows Explorer as People photos would be sorted by person; all of the Family photos would be sorted together in a group, as well as houses.

Images of Records work much the same way, in the Surname Folder. For example Census Records

YYYY_Fed_PA_County_Location-Surname_FirstnameMiddlenameSuffix – For US Census Records

YYYY_PA_County_Location-Surname_FirstnameMiddleNameSuffix – For State Census Records

RecordType_YYYY_Surname_FirstnameMiddlenameSuffix – For Birth, Marriage, Death certificates.

Census, filed by Head of Household. Marriage Records would have two copies of the same image.

But, what if I don’t know the Female’s Birth Surname. For a death record, I would file that in the married surname folder UNTIL I found her birth surname. When I do that, I rename the file and move it to the Surname folder.

Since I have a Tombstone Tuesday Blog where I post headstones AND because I contribute to Find-A-Grave, I file in a Cemetery Folder with Cemetery subfolders.

State_County_Cemetery

with filenames of

State_County_Cemetery-Surname_FirstnameMiddlenameSuffix

Why do all of this?

When I want to include one of those images in my genealogy database, I know where to look and which file to choose from to be attached to a Person or a Citation (for those records). My database will make a Copy of the file in the folders above, and put them into ONE folder for that database. So, outside of my program, windows explorer will show me the files sorted in such a way that I know what I have.

Those filenames aren’t very helpful within my database, but I can put a Caption on that image, and the Filename helps me put that Caption in a more reader friendly format. Like Firstname Middlename Surname Suffix – 1998 Birthday Party – 1.

or 1940 US Federal Census PA Chester County West Chester – (name) Household

This format has worked for me, but I have also tweaked it a couple of times as more and more digital records have become available. I don’t what to have to Think about Where to file these records or scan or picture, nor what to call it. My driving force is the Sorting feature when trying to locate a file.

It has worked for my blogs, Find-A-Grave, and my genealogy database management program.

Thanks Genealogy Guys for a great topic.


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