Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sorting Saturday - Digital Surname Sorting

I've heard lots of recommendations as to how to sort your files.  The bottom line is, that it has to be something that works for you...not someone else.  You need to be able to find your files when you need them.  This is how I sort mine...

Currently I'm researching 2 family trees.  My step-father's (Trunzo) and my children's (Cayemberg).  I have a "Tree" folder for each tree I'm conducting research on.  I could have split them for my side of the family and one for my husband's, but when I'm entering people into my family tree program I'm entering both sides so it makes more sense to keep them under one.

Those "Tree" folders are broken down into surname folders.  Then under each surname folder I break them down a bit more into specific records/events. There are folders for Birth, Census Records, Death, Education, Immigration & Naturalization, Marriage, Military, Newspaper, Pictures, Probate, Property, and Tombstones.  Outside those folders I have miscellaneous items that don't really have a specific home.  I could create a Misc folder, but as a matter of personal preference don't.  I like seeing them floating around without a home so when I notice that I'm starting to acquire multiple records that can be grouped together I then create a new folder.  If I created that "Misc Folder" I know myself and just wouldn't check it often enough to see if things were ready for a new grouping.  Also in the free space I've got a surname "Research Log".  When I conduct research on a specific surname, in the log it goes.  It's also a great place for surname "To-Do" lists.

I use the PAF program for my family tree, but I have to admit that I'm eyeing the Legacy software after attending some of Legacy's webinars.  I like what I'm seeing.  I just haven't made the commitment yet.  More research is needed to see how flawlessly my tree will transfer.  Anyway, before I get distracted talking about a genealogical wish list...I was going to mention that in the PAF program I ensure that I've got people being assigned MRINs (Marriage Record Identification Numbers).  I'm sure the majority of programs can assign MRINs.

What this means (if you didn't know) is that people are assigned a specific number when they get married.  Documents in my binders are filed by Family Group Records and since the basis of those family groups are marriages, if someone got married their records go to that MRIN not under their parents.  Since my binder filing system already does that, my digital system mirrors it.  I don't place multiple copies under different surnames.  They go with their married surname.  So what do you do when you've got several marriages for an individual?  Well, that's really up to you.  I usually put them with the last marriage's MRIN, but you may have your own system.

The PAF program (and I'm sure most others as well) can print out a report that gives you the MRIN along with the couples they belong to.  It makes a perfect index when you can't remember what someone's married name was.  But I digress...that is more helpful with binder/paper files and that's another Sorting Saturday!


  1. Cherie, you put me to SHAME!!! I wish that I could be half as organized as you are. Both my digital filing cabinet and my real one are absolute and utter messes right now. I would be so embarrassed if someone saw what they look like! I really like the way that you file your documents and I think that I might try it. Right now, mine are filed under genealogy, then only split into three files - photos, gravestones, and documents. The only way I know what surname they are is the name of the actual file. It is really hard for me to find ANYTHING. I really want to work on rearranging them so that they are easy to access - thanks for showing how you do it!

  2. You're a sweetie as always, Jenn! I just took the system that Karen taught us for the binders and expanded on it! It still needs tweaking and probably will always be a work in progress...much like research always is! :)

  3. Beautifully organized system! I really need to get on to organizing my digital filing system. I just have to make the time for it.

  4. That's always the trouble! Finding the time! I still have stuff needing to get organized. Someday! :)

  5. Great post ~ I sue a similar system (gleaned from Lisa Louise Cooke's podcasts and DearMyrtle's monthly organization pdfs). I say give Legacy Family Tree a go ~ I use it (have for 5 years) and really like it plus it is very customizable with helpful training CDs, manual, and truly great webinars. Finally, great blog with lovely layout. I glad I found it on Sorting Saturday! Thanks

  6. Thanks, Tessa! I wasn't aware the Lisa and Myrt do something similar, but it's nice to know that it makes sense outside my little world! :)

    I'm loving the Webinars...attending every one of them! It's only a matter of time before I get the software. I was rereading some of my older Family Tree Magazines and saw a software comparison and saw how great everyone rated Legacy. It's going to happen, but it may take a few months as I want to catch up on my citations in my PAF before doing the transfer!