Tuesday’s Tip- Organizing computer files

05 June 1948- Wedding picture of Edward A. McMurray and Mary T. Helbling
05 June 1948- Wedding picture of Edward A. McMurray and Mary T. Helbling

Last week I wrote about creating file names so that your computer will automagically create a sort of timeline in your file folders- see Tuesday’s Tip- Let your computer create a timeline!

Images and documents with multiple persons can be challenging to file- which name should be used as the file name? I tend to use the oldest or most prominent or most important-to-me persons in the photo or document, and one can then create a note to go into other folders referencing where the document or image has been placed. I am hoping to convert to using Lightroom (LR) soon- just wish it could use .pdfs. With LR, you can leave your images in the file hierarchy you like and have the program just point to its location. It also allows you to tag multiple people, so it will help with this dilemma.


My file folders are arranged differently than those of many genealogists. My family moved around a lot, so  listing files by place just doesn’t work for me- I prefer to have everything about one person pretty much together. This is a problem though, with things like censuses, since you will find a census entry for a person as a child in their family, and then with a family of their own. I have decided to deal with this by keeping a person in their birth family until they were off on their own as an adult, which usually coincides with marriage and a family of their own. My folders thus have a name like McMURRAY_W-PAYNE_L, for Will McMurray and Lynette Payne, who were the parents of Dr. E. A. McMurray, and his documents and images would appear in their folder until he married. The next folder he would appear in chronologically would be the McMURRAY-ROBERTS folder, where documents about his life with his first wife and son would reside. McMURRAY-KENNER would be the last folder I would put his documents in, for his life with his wife of 61 years and their beautiful family. If you use this method, choose which name to put first and be consistent- either husband or wife first.

Since I am one of those uppity women and a feminist, and it is still Women’s History Month (ahhh, the irony of a Women’s “HIStory” Month…), I use the maiden names of women throughout their lives. That helps me tell “HERstory.” Plus, it helps to separate out Hannah Ford from Hanna Marple who married father and son so both became Hannah Benjamin. (And the confusion continues, since father and son are both Jonathans.)


If you decide to try any new system, start small, maybe with just one family, to see if the system works well for you. There will always be items that could be filed in various ways- just try to find what you can be consistent with and use it. Change it to how it will best work for your mind to work with it easily- after all, the idea is for your brain to be analyzing, not filing. Remember, too, that you don’t have to change everything at once- that would be a daunting task, and quite a problem if you decide you don’t like the system or it doesn’t work for you. So that it’s not overwhelming,  start with your new files as you create them, and change older ones out when you have a few minutes here or there, such as while waiting on hold for 30 minutes with the cable company. I still have a lot of cleanup to do on my files since I started on this system even though it has been many years that I have used it. Changing to another computer has also thrown my system off, but further work on this system will be an enjoyable project filled with rediscovered gems as I get my filing system well organized.


Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Family photo archives.

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Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

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