Yesterday, I posted a “Snack” about coming up with a naming template for digital file names. When coming up with your system, be sure to think of all of the information that you might ever need in the file name. Make sure your template will work with all types of records – photographs, downloaded documents, Word docs, etc.
My template: Year County State SourceInfo Page Name (identifier)
Here are some naming hints I’ve learned the hard way:
- County name is not enough. I have spent years researching Russell County so why would I ever need any information on location beyond that? Well, when I started emailing my DNA matches and asking about Russell County, I started getting responses about Russell County, VIRGINIA instead of Kentucky. I knew then that I needed to go back through all of my files and adding “KY” to the names so that who other people who received my files would not be confused.
- Think about multiple people with the same name. Families tend to use the same names through the generations. Like I mentioned yesterday, I have 2 brothers in my tree named George and Elias Smith. George had a son named Elias and Elias had a son named George. I must be able to tell the men apart when looking at the file names. That’s when I started using identifiers. Usually, I use (birth year – death year). So I have Elias Smith (1810 – 1853) and Elias Smith (1845 – 1885). In another example, I have a group of 5 men named “John Smith” in Mercer County, Kentucky, all in the same time period. Luckily, in a tax records, there are a times that occupations or nicknames were given. I use those as identifiers, when I have the information.
- Keep it consistent. As I was getting used to my system, I used “Russell County KY” for some files and “Russell Co KY” for others. Make a decision before you get going. It is much easier to notice “abnormalities” when all of the file names follow the same format.
- Page numbers are important. If I have multiple deeds for the same person in the same deed book, I could run into several files with the exact same name. I can also use the information to create source citations without opening the file. If you run into a source that didn’t have page numbers (loose papers, un-numbered certificates, etc), consider adding image numbers instead. For example: 1862 Russell Co KY Marriage Records Book 3 FamilySearch Image 124 John Smith and Sally Jones.
Using my system, all of the records appear in chronological order – that gives me a timeline showing where each ancestor was. It’s not unusual to see when county boundaries changed or when a family moved. Depending on how I organize files within my folders, I can see where every person in a family is located at the same time – without opening a single file.
If a “stray” county appears where it wasn’t expected, that’s the abnormality part. Either I have a record that isn’t my family, or I have a county that I need to do additional research in. Perhaps a family member moved there. Do I know why?
Here is my example. Russell County was formed at the end of 1825. Notice that in the image below, the records change from Wayne County to Russell County around that same time. Assuming the family didn’t move, I can narrow down a person’s location within the county based on the boundary line changes.
Whatever template you decide to use, nail down your details and use little bits of “snack time” to confirm that all of your file names follow it.