Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Two Faces of Organization - Part 2

We've already established that (1) the Winter 2010 GeneaBlogger Games have pushed me to try to get better organized; and (2) I'm terrible at organizing paper. (See Part 1.) It's a good thing I'm better with computer files or I'd have to find another activity to occupy all my time. I have the utmost respect and admiration for people who did (or even still do) genealogy research without using a software program to organize their data. There is no way I could do it. If someone asks me about a person I can usually tell them in a matter of seconds if I have anything about the person. If I had to check paper files it might take me a week or more to answer.

I use Legacy Family Tree software to organize my data and keep track of research that needs to be done. All records and old photos get scanned and I rarely print anything that started out as digital (like downloaded census records). Printing would just add to the stacks of paper in the office and, if I need to review a source document, it's easier to read on a computer screen where the zoom button is much better than a magnifying glass. If I'm buying a book and it's available in a digital format that's how I get it. The only things that I don't always scan are pages copied from books and handwritten library notes. However, if I feel like there's a good chance I'll need to refer to something again, it gets scanned (because I know I can find it on the computer, if it goes in the black-hole office who knows). All records get scanned before the information is added to my Legacy data base so that the document can be linked to the source citation as it's entered.

I like having all of my records on the computer for several reasons. First, I'm basically lazy so if it's on the laptop I don't have to get up to find it. Second, I can have everything with me anywhere I go. Third, if it's on the laptop it's backed up (but that's a whole separate issue to discuss later).

My genealogy related computer files are all in a folder named "Genealogy Stuff". Under that are folders like Documents, Photos, Research, Publishing, Website and Staging. These are broken down into several more layers of sub-folders. I also have a naming scheme for particular types of records. I won't bore you with the specifics about either the folders (except for "Staging") or the file names because it's really irrelevant (and organization is already boring enough). The important thing is to have a system that makes sense to you and is easy for you to maintain and what I have works for me.

The "Staging" folder might need a little clarification. First, don't ask me why I picked that name, I can't remember. It could just as easily be called "Stuff To Do" since that's really what it is. If I scan something, find a record on-line or get something through e-mail but don't have time to add the information to my database, then it goes in the Staging folder. If I filed it in the folder where it really should go then I might lose track and never enter the information. Once it's entered then the file is moved to the proper folder.

See, it's easy to keep the computer files organized. Someday I'm going to get up the nerve to throw out the paper.

1 comment:

  1. I have a "Staging" folder too. Only I call it Research to Process. There's a lot in it. I'm glad to see someone else has a process somewhat similar to mine. I thought maybe I was the only one who is behind on adding information to my database.