Quite awhile back, I wrote about getting organized digitally. I decided on a specific file naming convention and as I went through all of my many, many flashdrives and backup folders, I moved everything into my Google Drive account, making sure to rename each file appropriately (see this link to read my tips for an effective naming convention) and to put it into my newly organized file system.

The one family that I did nothing with was my Stephens line. I just had sooooooooooooo many documents and files, the thought of renaming each one and determining which folder it belonged to was overwhelming. So I did what every busy person does – I put it off. And now the chickens have come home to roost.

My Stephens family is quite a puzzle. I’ve written in the past about the 5 men named Andrew Stephens. Well, I’m willing to bet there are just as many Williams and Johns! So I have moved all of my digital files (well, those I’ve come across so far) into my Google Drive, but they aren’t in their specific folders yet. Every file name starts with the year, so they are already arranged chronologically – thank heavens! So when I have a little time, or need a break, I work on renaming the files. My file naming convention looks like this:

Year County State Source p# Subject’s name.  For example:

1806 Adair Co KY Court Orders Book A p197 William Stephens

My first project for my Stephens line is to update all of the group sheets. As I’m going through them, I’m adding missing citations and linking to other group sheets. The documents that I have to support the information in the group sheet are copied into the appropriate folder as soon as it is renamed.

In the bottom half of the group sheet, I’m either adding a short timeline to show where the family was for each census (or other helpful event) or the text for the will. With so many men with the same name, having the will right there is very helpful for keeping the men straight. If the will is short, I’ll be adding the timeline AND the will. Having the timeline so visible can help me eliminate a person if I’m looking at a land or tax record. If my record is in Kentucky, but the person had clearly moved to a new state, I can move on to other people with the same name who WERE in the correct area.


I have done one additional thing that is helping me tremendously as I work through these group sheets.

I don’t normally use any genealogy software. I keep everything in Ancestry and in Google Drive. So I downloaded my GEDCOM from Ancestry and then downloaded a free program – RootsMagic Essentials. I imported the GEDCOM into RootsMagic and then printed a Descendants List for my “root” ancestor, planning to use that to update my group sheets. After running the report, I was THRILLED to discover that it also included an Index of Names including every single person in the tree, including in-laws. Hallelujah! The Index is organized alphabetically by surname and tells the page number they can be found on in the Descendants List. This has been SO helpful! Whenever I run across a name and think “where have I seen that before?”, I go right to the Index to see if the person is listed in there, and 95% of the time, they are. That has helped me keep the correct Andrew, William or John with each family.


One final thing that I’m doing as I work through my group sheets is to assemble a detailed “to do” list. Many of the records I want to see are only available to view from a Family History Center or affiliated library – both of which I have here in town. So when I find a “record” on Ancestry or FamilySearch that gives me information, but can only be viewed from a specific location, I’m keeping that citation in red on my group sheet to indicate that I don’t have the record yet and adding the item to the “to do” list for the next visit to the appropriate location.

Lots of group sheets to get to yet….better get back at it!