Sunday, February 14, 2010

My new, slightly rebellious, organization system

I've been shuffling paper around and "getting organized" for what...8 years now? The perfectionist in me seems to keep getting in the way, because I want to make sure I'm doing it just right, and that takes time, discipline, and experience. Well, time's up, and I have 8 years of experience as a full time professional genealogist. No more excuses. If that's not enough time to figure out what I'm doing, 80 years won't be enough.

I feel slightly rebellious because I'm not following NGS numbering conventions, or anybody else's industry accepted standards for that matter, but here's why. NGS numbering standards work for print. They were designed to communicate the results of research; not to manage the living, breathing, and sometimes breathtaking flow of electronic data management. Elizabeth Shown Mills has laid down the law on source citation and numbering printed works, but the digital frontier remains the wild wild west.

So, today the sheriff came to town and said "To heck with being perfect. Elizabeth is not going to inspect your files. Just do something that works for you."

With this self-granted permission to think outside the box, I decided that from now on I'm managing electronic data my own way. It might be quirky, and it's definitely not conventional, but it's the order I want my ducks to be in so I know who they are without having to stop, think, refer back to my database, etc.

Here's what I'm doing. I created a brand new, clean folder on my hard drive. *Everything* will go in this folder. Sartors will not have their own folder anymore. Fergusons go in there too. Everybody. (except clients, obviously) No more of this "oh, that pertains to a distant Sartor so it's in the Sartor folder."

Within the main Genealogy folder there are four subfolders:
- Database Files
- Documents, Photos, Transcriptions, etc.
- Research Calendars, Manuscripts, and Notes (my research & analysis)
- Training & Reference

Within "Documents, Photos, Transcriptions, etc." there are now folders which all start with a number followed by the name of the person. I chose a numbering system rather than alphabetic because of the impact name changes, spelling, etc. has on sorting.

The key to the numbering is *not* based on a RIN, because I need to be free to use the same number in different databases, such as New Family Search vs. my old database vs. my new database, etc. Plus, it gets confusing if you find another child in the family years later and now the numbers are hundreds off from the other siblings. Too much thinking.

Now, my numbering is based on an ahnantafel from me. This works for me. My nephews can figure something else out if they want to when they grow up. Here's what I'm doing.

x.0 = Direct line ancestor (Even numbers = direct line male ancestor; odd numbers = direct line female ancestor)
x.#>0 = Indirect ancestor tracing to primary number shared ancestor
x.alpha = additional marriage
x.alpha.# = child of additional marriage
x.#.# = Keep going down the line from this common direct line ancestor

If I have no idea how this person is related to me yet, they start with unk. If they are just family friends they start with NR (no relation) plus a "see also" note so I don't delete them thinking they turned out not to matter.

1.0 Me
2.0 My dad
3.0 Mom
4.0 Grandpa Bobby
4.1 My uncle
4.1.1 My cousin
4.1.2 My other cousin
5.0 Grandma Helen
5.a Willis
6.0 Grandpa Larsen
6.1 My aunt
6.1.1 My cousin
6.2 My uncle
6.2.1 My cousin
7.0 Grandma Larsen
unk Thomas Sartor of GA (not sure which one yet)
NR Orrin Porter Rockwell (see also William West Woodland)

Kids usually go under the man because in my culture they carry his name. Illegitimate children would go under the woman.

I should also point out that the logic of an ahnantafel system allows me to a) predict the right code for the direct line ancestor and b) divide down to see how any numbered ancestor relates to me. I like that a lot.

In my clean new database which I started in January, I am adding this code in a custom field called "sort-code" so that it can be stripped from GEDCOM. (In RM4 I created the new fact type, then *deselected everything* from the "Include when..." list. I also added this field to the "Add new person" form so that I always remember to add it when I add a new person to the database.)

So, now I have a number-based mechanism for keeping everyone straight. But what about documents, photos, etc. that pertain to more than one person? Well, when I come across such thing I store the original in the primary individual folder, then just copy the citation and storage folder location into a file called " - See also.docx" (I put a hyphen in front of anything I want the computer to sort to the very top of the list) which is then saved in each folder for the person the document pertains to. For example, the 1930 census showing my Great Grandfather living next door to my grandfather is saved in my Great-grandfather's folder, but the source citation is then saved on my grandfather's "see also" list, my great-grandmothers "see also" list, my uncle's, etc. etc. etc.

The documents, by the way, are saved with their document type and location in the file name. For example "Census, 1930, Idaho, Bannock Co., Arimo, Bob Henderson.jpg" which will now sort correctly next to "Census, 1930, Idaho, Bannock Co., Arimo, Bob Henderson - Transcription.docx"

Maps, general historical reference, etc. goes in "Training & Reference" in nested folders. "South Carolina" has a folder called "South Carolina, Union Co." which contains files in descending geographic and date order such as "South Carolina, Union, Map 1840.jpg." I handle boundary changes the same way I handle multiple individuals...use a "see also" file in the folder.

My paper files will now follow suit. If something pertains to more than one, for instance a book about the Sartors, Hollingsworths, and other lines, I just pick one and put it there. Then I make a note on other files to cross reference as needed. Usually I pick the person of that surname who is most closely related to me.

I'm pretty happy about this. It might be a little quirky, but it makes sense, and I think it will improve my efficiency because I have a lot of files and until today none of them were named or stored consistently. Thank heavens it's never too late to change!

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