My 2017 Genealogy Go-Over – Update

Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over has been the impetus for my own Go-Overs, as I’ve worked to pare down my archival albums, digitize all 10,000 or so items for which I am the current caretaker and to make sure my digital collection is in a format that would easily be understood by the next generation.

I am still on the fence about which software program I will choose as my main genealogical program. I began migrating away from Family Tree Maker back in June 2014 when Ancestry had its DDoS attack and began using RootsMagic, as I didn’t want my software program hung up because it was connected to a website under attack.

When Ancestry announced in December 2015 that it was unceremoniously dumping Family Tree Maker, I began taking a closer look at what each of the genealogical software programs offered. I have pared my choices down to RootsMagic 7, Legacy 8 and Family Historian 6, mainly because I like the looks of each of the programs AND there is good support available to me either locally or through users’ groups. (I have to admit, though, that I did purchase the March 2017 update to Family Tree Maker that was available at RootsTech for $29.95 because I want to see what improvements Software MacKiev has been able to make to it.)

However, I can move forward with the next stage of my Go-Over without having made that final software choice because my media can be attached to trees imported through gedcoms. They are all housed on my computer and I have never, ever directly attached media to my Ancestry tree. It has always been right click, rename and save or, if saving isn’t a choice given with the media, it’s been web clip, rename and save.

Last year, I believe in June, I wrote about renaming all of my digital images. I have renamed a few hundred of them, but I needed time for my brain to think through all the steps so that I didn’t regret the method that I chose to complete the job. I needed a well thought out total plan that was going to keep me on track with the least possible fuss and frustration.

I had already decided on the naming convention that I would follow as I renamed my images:


My images are all housed in surname folders, so I didn’t see the need to begin with a name for each image. Type refers either to the paper document or, if the image is a picture, it will either be Postcard, Image or Photo. I have quite a collection of vintage postcards representing places which were important in my ancestors’ lives. Image tells me that the picture is one that I received from someone else, while Photo is a paper original in my own collection.

Since I decided all of this last year, why haven’t I gotten farther along with the renaming and reattaching? I knew that as soon as I started renaming files, the current links to my software program would be broken. I didn’t really want to create copies for all those thousands of files so I let the project sit for a while. It’s also what I call a mind-numbingly boring job!

Recently, I read an article that motivated me to get going again. A blog that I follow, Lifehacker, has lots of tips that don’t seem to apply to me, but it has some great posts to which I immediately relate. One of those posts went up on 13 February 2017 – How to Cut Back on Digital Clutter and Regain Your Focus by Belle B. Cooper.

I can’t exactly put my finger on what touched me and got me moving, but I think it started with one of the sections of the article called Transition to Digital Minimalism. It talked about ridding ourselves of digital clutter. I decided that my digital project was “clutter,” so to speak, because I have been intending to clean it up. I know there are some – probably fewer than 25 – duplicate files (which is nothing out of a total of 10,000), but I really needed to get a handle on this renaming stuff.

A review of my plan brought me to the conclusion that I really did need to copy all of my images into new folders and rename the copies to keep the links intact in my family tree.

Next, I created a gedcom of my family tree, stripped of all the attachments, so as I renamed the images, I could attach them and (maybe) create source citations for each one using the templates found in the program. I still have to think about this step because I find that creating my own bibliographic citation in my notes seems to go a lot faster than dealing with all of those idiot templates. My only reason for using the templates would be to be able to take advantage of programs like Evidentia, which only work if data is sourced in templates.

When I have completed this process for my tree, I will back up all the new images in Dropbox and delete out the old set of images so that I am not saving a huge media collection twice. I use Backblaze and IDrive to back up everything on my computer and also have an external hard drive and flash drive with my media on them. Those will be updated as the last step.

If I haven’t bored myself to death at that point, I will repeat the same process for my husband’s tree. The 10,000 images are quite evenly split between our families and 5,000 at a time doesn’t seem quite as daunting as 10,000.

I think I have a workable plan!

2 thoughts on “My 2017 Genealogy Go-Over – Update”

  1. I worked for years to finally find a naming convention that worked. Since I, too, have thousands of files and images, I needed to quickly recognize which image in Michigan X family went with which image in Michigan for Y family. So I choose “surname first name birth-death – Event Year – Description.tiff” or whatever the extension was. For non-peraon specific, same pattern, “Surname – Event Year – Description.jpg.” Events are Census, Birth, Death, or Photos, Research, Records, Documents, etc.

    I used the brilliant free Rename Master to do my renaming. LOVE IT! Saved me hours and hours of work.

    Good for you for cleaning this up for yourself and the future. I need to get better at it myself so thanks for setting an example.

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