I’ve been way too busy with my job for the past several months, so when I can, I’ve been working on my “15 minute chunk” genealogy project. And that involves organization of all my digital files.

I’ve settled on using Google Drive to store all of my digital files. I love being able to access my files from any computer – and even on my tablet and phone. My goal is to only have files on a flashdrive if they are “fresh” files that I’ve just scanned from microfilm at the library. The flashdrive comes home, files are re-named and uploaded to Google Drive then deleted from the flash. And as files are uploaded, I’m able to make sure all files have the same naming convention – something that has already helped me to see duplicate files with different names. At the same time, I’m creating a list of what I’ve got so I don’t have to wonder if I’ve looked at a microfilm before. This list goes in my Genealogy Planner.

As I’ve been clearing flashdrives and external drives, I’ve found that I have saved files an embarrassing number of times – all in the name of “back-ups”. Which makes sense – to a degree. I had a file on my external drive called “Genealogy” which had all of my digital files for all 4 family lines (my maternal, my paternal, my husband’s maternal and my husband’s paternal) and within that folder, I found a folder called “flashdrive dump”. Within THAT folder, was a folder called “Genealogy” and it was a duplicate of the original “Genealogy” folder. So every file duplicated within the same folder. Would you be shocked to hear there was also a folder called “back-up” in which every file was duplicated AGAIN? And that was just on one external drive. That doesn’t include my other external drive or my computer desktop or on a handful of flashdrives.

Anyway, moving all of the files to Google Drive has allowed me to feel secure that I’m not going to lose any files by deleting files from any device. Whenever I find another “Genealogy” folder, I can take a look at the files, confirm that they are already on Google Drive (thank you Windows 7 and 8 split screens!) and delete them from the flash or external. I can’t believe how many copies of each file that I have! I’ve always been afraid to delete something that was on THIS flash because it might not be on THAT flash.

But last week – something magical happened. I never thought I’d see this day come! My husband said that he’d be interested in learning how to do family research for his family! (Hear the angels singing?) So of course, I need a way to get files and group sheets uploaded to a location that we can both access – Google Drive! BUT…..

I’ve already organized the files for my family by folder – a numbered folder for each of my great-grandparents. So how could I get his family files into Google Drive without messing up my system?  Enter Gmail.

Last night, I created 4 new Gmail accounts. Each one is named “Genealogy.(Surname)@gmail.com”. So if I find something new for one of his family lines, I can email those files to the Gmail account for that name. I can explain what the file proves and ask him to update the group sheet or suggest another resource to check out. I can keep files organized by surname without having to keep every file on a flashdrive – which I’ll feel compelled to back-up “just in case”.

But more importantly, each Gmail account gets 15 gigs of storage in Google Drive. To access each Drive, I have to sign into the account for that surname from the web. So I will now begin to upload HIS family files into the account with HIS surname. We can both access files, add new files and work together on adding information to group sheets or other databases.

Now, the biggest drawback to this plan is that you can only connect a laptop to sync with one specific account. So if I’m on MY laptop, I can see all of the Google Drive files for my mother’s family in my Windows Explorer in the same way I can see files saved on my computer, my Dropbox files or files on a flashdrive plugged into my laptop. If I work on a file and make any changes to it, it will automatically sync with the file stored in Google Drive. But to see files from any other account, I have to sign in to that account from my web browser. I can see a document with no problem just by clicking on it, but if I have a Word file or an Excel file (for example, my group sheets), I have to download it, do my work, then re-upload the file unless I’m willing to use the Google word processor or spreadsheet program. Not a horrible thing – but not as easy as working with the files in the account that is connected to my laptop.

So the uploading continues! Even if my husband never does a bit of genealogy research, at least I’ll know that files are safe, organized, and can be accessed from any computer.

And from now on, I’ll always think of Gmail as Genealogy Mail!