A reader was used to organizing her files by last name. Before 1811 her Dutch ancestors did not have last names but used patronymics, which made it difficult to see which files belonged to which line. She asked me how to organize files for people who did not use last names.
I thought it might be helpful to share how I organize my files. I will use the files of my mother’s side as an example. I have two trees, one for my father and one for my mother. Most people prefer to have only one tree, but since my parents are from completely different areas, I’ve kept them separate.
I organize my ancestors’ files by their ahnentafel number. 1 = main person, 2 = father, 3 = mother, 4 = paternal grandfather, 5 = paternal grandmother, 6 = maternal grandfather, 7 = maternal grandmother, 8 = paternal great-great grandfather, etc. For each person, their father’s ahnentafel number is double their number. Their mother’s is one higher than the father’s.
I create folders per couple, by ahnentafel number of the husband. I use leading zeros so the folders alphabetize and align properly. I also use the last names or patronymics in the folder name so I can more easily see who’s who. I use NN [Nomen Nescio, I don’t know the name] for ancestors whose name I do not know; typically the fathers of children born out of wedlock.
I don’t have paper files for any ancestors beyond my grandparents. If I had, I would number them the same way.
In a folder, I store the following files:
- Media files, such as scans of original records. I include the birth, marriage, death records of the persons in this file. Any files that are for a whole family, like a population register, goes into the folder of the head of household. So a population register showing my ancestor as a child, would go in the folder of that child’s parents.
- Research reports. I typically have one research report per nuclear family, where I analyze all the information I have for them, and document the prove of their parents. The research report has citations for each of the sources, including those for which I have media files stored in the folder. I often copy the relevant section of the images into the report. If possible, I copy the citation to the “Comments” section of the media file in the EXIF data (available via Alt-Enter, or right click > Properties).
- Correspondence about this family, including emails printed to PDF.
- Subfolders with the files for children I’m not descended from.
I give the files a name that starts with the date (yyyymmdd), followed by the place, type of record, and names. Here’s an example of a folder with several media files and a research report.
In my genealogy program, I add the ahnentafel number as a private fact to my ancestors. That way, I can easily tell what folder to look for the associated media files. I also link to the media files from my genealogy program by adding them to the appropriate facts or to the person as a whole.
I know there are many other ways to organize your files, but this works for me. Please leave a comment to share how you organize your files. There is also a Facebook Group The Organized Genealogist where you can find many more tips or ask questions about organizing your files.