Thursday, August 30, 2012

Computer Filing System

Yesterday I blogged about four different Paper Filing Systems. Today's topic will be how to organize your filing system on the computer.

I have a file on my C drive titled, "GENEALOGY" I put EVERYTHING genealogy related in this one location so that I can find things fast. I have a shortcut to this folder on my desktop. Here is a list of the sub folders in this file:

  • Case Studies [These are the current complex case studies I am working on. They are in MS Word format]
  • Classes [These are my Power Point presentations I use when lecturing, as well as my notes]
  • Correspondence [These are the letters I have sent out that I am still awaiting for a response. Once I get a response I delete the letter]
  • DOCUMENTS - Bible Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Birth Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Church Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Court Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Death Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Deeds
  • DOCUMENTS - Education Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Genealogies
  • DOCUMENTS - Land Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Marriage Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Military Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Personal Letters
  • DOCUMENTS - Social Security Records
  • DOCUMENTS - Wills and Probate
  • ICAPGen [I am going through the process to become accredited. All of my stuff related to that is in this file]
  • Misc [This is a catch all folder. If I can't find something, I look here]
  • PHOTOS - Grave Markers
  • PHOTOS - People
  • Legacy Backups [this is where I back up my computer file. I also back up to a flash drive and to Carbonite]
  • Repository Forms [these a pdfs of the forms I need to request death certificates, PERSI articles etc.]
  • Societies [this is where I keep all of the electronic newsletters from the organizations I belong to]
  • Temp [As I get things in, I store them here until I get them analyzed and filed correctly]
  • Writing Resources [here you will find my style sheets, a complete bibliography of every genealogy book I own, etc.]
I hope you noticed that my document files mirror my binders. I can easily add and subtract files folders as I need them. I have tried to keep it as simple as possible so that I can find things as I need them.

My file names follow a consistent pattern. The computer gurus on the Legacy Family Tree mailing list advise not to have spaces or commas in your file names [underscores are okay if you want to use that instead of spaces]. I know nothing about this so I just take them at their word and I don't put spaces or commas in my file names though I want to. They look like this:


I use the person's full name [maiden name for females] followed by a number so that I can have several documents in the same file for the same person. I use 01, 02, 03 so that the numbers will sort properly. I only use 2 digits because I doubt I will have more than 99 for any one person in any one file. If the photo or document concerns more than one person, I use a hierarchy to decide what name I use. This is usually more of an issue for photos than documents. Direct line ancestors get top priority. Married couples will be filed under the husband. If no direct line ancestor, then filed by the closest relation. If more than one of the same rank then by the oldest [for example, if it is a picture of 3 of my grandfather's siblings then it would be filed under the oldest sibling].

You need to use whatever filing system makes sense to you. I only show you mine to give you some ideas.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Thanks for posting this Michele. I am very bad at keeping my digital files organized or following any type of consistent filing/naming of files. I appreciate getting ideas from genealogists who are way more organized digitally than I am!

  2. I have a slightly different system that works for me. I want to keep everything, documents and pictures, together for each person. So, I have one file folder for each of my grandparent's surnames, and all relevant ancestors go into that file. I name the documents and photos this way: Smith Tom b1900 marriage1925 or Smith Tom b1900 gravestone. The computer will automatically sort within the folder so everything about this Tom will be together. I add the birth year to the file name, because way too many of my ancestors have the same name LOL!

  3. That sounds great! The best system is whatever works for you :) Your filing system just has to be easy to use and make sense to you so that you can file your documents easily and find them again easily. I have tried several filing systems over the years looking for what would work for me. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog :)