Tag Archives: Genealogy Do-Over

My 2019 Genealogy Do-Over: The Story of 15,000 Images

Thomas MacEntee brought genealogy do-overs to life way back in 2015, I think it was. Do-overs, or at least go-overs are part of the organization process I think every genealogist should practice yearly.

Whether the review process is small or mighty, go-overs help keep the research process tidy.

If you read my 2019 genealogy goals a few weeks ago, you might remember that I mentioned getting around to what I called a mind-numbingly boring task – renaming images and attaching them back into my genealogy software. I knew I was going to have to do something drastic to force myself to see this project through to completion!

Well, I jumped in and there is no turning back! I have to thank Cyndi Ingle and her Legacy Family Tree webinar, Maintaining an Organized Computer, for being the final push to get me going.

I’m an organized person – I didn’t need to organize myself, I just needed to get going with my plan.

I figure I have close to 15,000 images. At least my entire paper collection is in archival albums and totally digitized, so I don’t have to worry about that. However, this is what some of those 15,000 images looked like when they were heading out to the scanning company:

Pulled apart and ready to be sorted

Down to the nitty-gritty

The fact that all of this is now in digital format doesn’t really make the job less time-consuming because renaming and reattaching will take way longer than it took to sort and mail off the paper versions!

However, I did it! I created a GEDCOM of my family trees with no images attached. Both my husband’s and my trees have about 7,500 people in them.

Then I got busy and re-organized all my surname folders. A handful of files are quite small with fewer than 20 images, so there wasn’t much to do there. Some folders had too many generations in them, making it difficult to find what I wanted. Where I needed to, I added sub-folders for the head of household for each generation.

Here’s my newly reorganized Adams folder:

It took me about five days to re-organize all of my folders. Where duplicates of images were found, one was deleted. (Yes, I have several back ups of all files the way they were before I started moving everything around.)

About a half dozen folders took many hours each because they were so big. The worst by far was my Williams folder, which contains all the images I have collected for 25+ years of my husband’s Williams family. The book form of that info is now 247 pages long if that gives you an idea of how many images and generations are in that one folder!

Now the renaming and reattaching process has begun. However, I figure since I’ve stripped all the images from the tree AND renamed them, I have to keep pushing forward until I finish. Right?

The file naming format I’ve decided on, after much self debate, is:


I checked out a number different naming formats, but it finally came down to one question I asked myself.

If all my files became paper and fell on the floor, what would be the easiest way for me to get them back in their appropriate folders?

The answer was easy – the first words need to be surname and given name.

I do have to admit I’ve been energized just by re-organizing all the files and I am liking the format I’ve chosen.

I’m expecting this process to easily fill 2019 and possibly 2020. Now to just be able to stave off my boredom until I hit the finish line.

Perhaps I’ll post a mid-year progress report this summer. 🙂


2017 Genealogy Do-Over/Go-Over Update

Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over, or as some of us have chosen – the Go-Over – is a great tool for anyone to use at any point in their genealogical research.

My go-over has included getting all of my paper items in digital format (which was completed in 2015) and then get my 10,000+ images renamed and attached in my software.

My goal in 2016, which I expected to extend through 2017 and perhaps even into 2018, was to get the renaming and attaching done.

Since it’s been quite a while since I looked at my progress, I decided it was time. As as retired teacher, I’d have to give myself a grade of D- for what I’ve accomplished so far. There are two reasons for this lack of progress – one my own fault and one not. The reason that is my fault alone is that renaming 10,000 images is just plain mind-numbingly boring. I have a pretty high tolerance for repetitive activity, but even I have only finished maybe 200 images.

On top of that, as I began the renaming, I was also distracted by the (at the time) supposed end of Family Tree Maker and the discovery of several other programs – Family Historian, Heredis, Ancestral Quest, Legacy and RootsMagic – and all their many features.

With the double announcements that both Family Tree Maker and RootsMagic would be adding the capability to sync (in some format) to Ancestry, I figured I needed to wait for the release of these updated programs before I made a firm commitment to RootsMagic 7. Both FTM and RM experienced delays in getting their products ready for mass release and both succeeded just a few weeks ago.

Last week, I posted a two part series about my struggle to choose one main program, which turned out to be RootsMagic 7.

I am already quite comfortable using it, it offers Evidence Explained format in its source citation templates, there is an active Facebook users group, I have access to a local users group and I like it.

Now, with my software choice finalized, I am ready to take another look at my huge collection of digital images. I made a decision about that, too. Thousands of the images I have are old family photos.

I inherited pictures from my side of the family from three sources – my parents, my cousin Charles and my grandmother.

Another thousand or two (or more) of my husband’s family, I received from my mother-in-law.

If I live to be 100 and don’t get bored to death doing it, I will rename those pictures after all the other images are finished. In the meantime, it will suffice to make notes in my own software file and in those of the few above-mentioned previous caretakers of the photos, that they were/are all family photos handed down through the years. The provenance will be preserved in that manner and I am now facing several thousand fewer images to plod through! 🙂

Okay. I think maybe – just maybe – I am ready to take another stab at my digitization Genealogy Go-Over goal.

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!