“Review and clean paper & digital files for at least 2 direct ancestors and their siblings.” One of my 2021 genealogy goals. What do I mean by “review and clean”? In this post, I tell you what I am doing, step by step.
Overall, I hope to have a consistent paper trail for each family/person. The paper trail also has a digital component which I describe later in this post. In my very first blog post (April 2017), I listed paper forms for each person’s file. I bought colored file folders – blue for Dad, teal for Mom, green for Father-in-law and red for Mother-in-law.
PAPER FILES. STEP 1: REVIEW
Does the file have these forms? Is each form filled in as completely as possible? Is each form dated? Taken together, these pages represent a concise summary of what I know at this time. The forms that I use are:
5- generation pedigree. Created from home person (father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in law) for each tree from RootsMagic. Placed as first page in each file with specific generation circled in red. Reason: rapid identification of where this family fits
NOTE: There are multiple versions of these forms. These are the ones that I chose:
- Family Group Sheet: National Archives & Records Administration (NARA). 2- page (or front and back) form with space for 15 children. Limitation: No designated space to add compiler & date compiled. I add this information at the bottom of the sheet.
- Individual worksheet. Midwest Genealogy Center, Mid-Continent Public Library System, Missouri. Fillable PDF. Add compiler name & date.
- Research checklist. Midwest Genealogy Center,Mid-Continent Public Library System, Missouri . Fillable PDF. Add compiler name and date.
- Biographical outline: Excerpted from The Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook, copyright 1996 by Emily Anne Croom, Betterway Books, a division of F&W publications, Cincinnati, Ohio. HINT: Check your local library for a copy of this book. Add compiler name & date.
- Research Log (as available): Thomas MacAntee’s format. Fill in as I clean-up digital files; handwritten research notes on yellow paper.
Additional pages in a paper file may include but are not limited to census records, copies of certificates, copy of newspaper obituary, correspondence with other researchers, etc.
PAPER FILES. STEP 2: CLEAN UP.
- Place documents in chronological order.
- Remove duplicate copies. Shred or recycle excess paper.
- Place original documents and photos in archival quality sleeves then in appropriate notebook. Scan document or photo to computer or Cloud as digital items.
- Make a list of gaps and BSO (bright shiny object) items for later follow-up.
For me, digital file review and cleanup began after choosing a genealogy software program and entering information to that program. However, you may already have digital files such as pictures and documents on your computer. In this post, I only address media type digital files. File structure for all of your digital genealogy files is beyond the scope of today’s post.
DIGITAL / MEDIA FILES. STEP 1. REVIEW.
- Compare paper and digital files. Do you have the same information in both files? Example: 1940 census record for grandfather. Copy of index record in paper file; image copy of original record in digital file.
- Look at labels attached to media. You may have multiple media labelled as “1940 United States Federal Census(5).”
- Locate all media files for a specific person or family group.
DIGITAL / MEDIA FILES. STEP 2. CLEAN-UP
Using standardized citations to acknowledge sources is one part of digital file clean-up. Another part standardizes naming conventions for media files.
- Pick location for media files associated with a specific person or family group. As you rename media files, move the renamed files to this location. (Hint: you may need to relink media files in your genealogy software program).
- Determine naming convention for media. Use the same format consistently. In general, I use these models:
- Census records: Year_ type_place_state_family or person names
- Individual records (BMD, burial, military, etc.): surname_given name_birthyear_deathyear_event_eventdate.
- Adopt source citation model commonly used by genealogists. Consult these sources:
- Chicago Manual of Style: https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html
- Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltinore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015). Website: https://www.evidenceexplained.com/
- Rename source citations and media as needed.
- Delete duplicate entries for the same fact or event.
- Back up digital files at end of each work session.
Here’s some examples from my family trees:
As I encounter new information, I add to both paper and digital files. My genealogy program workflow looks like this:
- Enter event information to RootsMagic. Note if inconsistent or unproven and reason why. Add discovery date.
- Create source citation using templates.
- Name source and media using standardized naming convention.
- Make digital copy of original documents or rename digital media. Attach digital media to event and citation.
- Transcribe information from source.
- Create digital research log using format of choice. Print one copy for paper files.
- Back up digital file at end of each work session.
Seem like lots of work? Well, yes, right now. But, I will leave both paper and digital files in formats that will, I hope, seem logical to my descendants. Writing this blog keeps me focused. I remind myself – one record, one person, one family at a time!