Google Drive and Document Organization

On my most recent project with Nathan Simmons, I wanted to explore a new (to me) method for keeping research.  I wanted something that I could use anywhere and anytime as my work schedule is a bit wonky. I also wanted the ability to have something that kept my genealogy information separate from other notes. Lastly, it needs to be easy to use else in the long run it will not get used.

My current solution of Google Drive is ugly though parts of it do work well.  Drive is great for storing files and I was keeping master ‘Sheets’ and ‘Docs’ (Google’s version of Microsoft Excel and Word) with notes and items. It works from my home, office and phone.  On the downside I made some of the research log sheets so crazy though that I felt I spent more time sorting than researching.

What I am keeping of this system though are the folders of images of documents, maps, and photographs. Within a master folder I have four main folders.  Documents, Photographs, Catalogs, and an Inbox.

The Documents folder is broken several sub folders such as Births, Census – US, Census – State, City Directories, Marriages, Newspapers, Obituaries, and more.  I do find that I need to add folders from time to time as needed.  Each file is named starting with the Surname followed by First name or head of household for certain documents.  I then add the birth year of the person and lastly the type of document (and a sequence number if there is more than one page to a record.)

YOUNG Leonard b1843 – Pension Record 01.jpg

The Census records are an exception to this naming convention.  For these I have chose to name them starting with the Year, Location, Family Surname, and Head of Household.

1850 – US, MA, Bristol, Dighton –  SIMMONS, Nathan.jpg

The Photographs folder is broken down by different families.  If the photo is of a person, each file is named by the Surname, First name, Year of Birth, description, and date of photo if known.  Similarly, if the photograph is of an item belonging to a person it gets the same naming treatment.  Exceptions to this might be if the picture is of a place where I will always try to begin the file name with the location.

YOUNG Leonard Ivy b1843 - Portrait with Abbie Maria (Pitts) and dog

Leonard Ivy Young and Abbie Maria (Pitts). Date and Location Unknown.

YOUNG Leonard Ivy b1843 – Portrait with Abbie Maria (Pitts) and dog

YOUNG David b1931 – Plane Crash Debris – 1970

Mount Desert Island Maine – Photograph of Mount Young – 2014

This whole system will not work without a list of the items however and that is what is in the Catalogs folder.  I have two spreadsheets, one for documents and another for photos.  The spreadsheets are a way for me to list additional information about each item such as the names of those listed on the document, where the document was originally found as well as a citation, if I have entered the item into Roots Magic or Ancestry, and any additional notes.

[Note – WordPress doesn’t really display tables such as this too well so I have to work this ‘sideways’ compared to what I am used to.  Normally my headers run across the top with each record on its own row.]

File Name – [The Name of the File]
Inbox – [More in a moment]
Folder – [The sub folder the file is in]
Doc Date – [The Date or year of the document]
Description – [Usually a brief description but I have been known to put full transcripts]
Names – [The names of the people in the document]
Source – [A High level look at where the item came from]
Link – [If found online where to find it again]
Citation – [The Source citation – I usually copy and paste from the website when I can ]
Roots Magic – [Has this been input into Roots Magic?]
Ancestry – [Has this been attached to someone in Ancestry]
Family Search – [Has this been attached to someone on Family Search]

Example:
File Name – 1850 – US, MA, Bristol, Dighton – SIMMONS, Nathan.jpg
Inbox – No
Folder – Census – US
Doc Date – 1850
Description – Census Record for Dighton MA
Names – Nathan Simmons, Nancy (Pierce), Albert
Source – FamilySearch.org
Linkhttps://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MD9N-G31
Citation – United States Census, 1850, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MD9N-G31 : accessed 24 April 2016), Nathan Simmons, Dighton, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States; citing family 118, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
Roots Magic – Yes
Ancestry – No
Family Search – No

The photographs spreadsheet looks very similar.  I have kept the source and citation fields in case the photograph did not come from my collection.

The last Folder to talk about is the Inbox. This is loosely sorted collection of documents and images that I have not had the time to fully catalog yet.  I try to not let them stay in the inbox for too long and generally once I fill out a line item for it in the spreadsheet, I will move it out of the inbox.  An inbox is very useful to keep your research moving while you are on a roll and not break your pace but you need to remember to log your items.

This system has worked for me and I find I have to tweak it every now and again.  I have read that others organize first by surname and while I think that direction has a lot of merit, my thinking is that one document is more likely to have many names on it yet each document itself is generally only one type.  Take a marriage record for example.  At the minimum it would (should) have the Husband and Wife listed but many have the parents names as well.

In the next article in this series, I will introduce you to the next step in my (current) process – One Note by Microsoft – and how it has opened up a new door for me.

 

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Google Maps

I was just exploring custom Google Maps, and because I have all the time in the world… I have created a map to track our ancestors.  I plan to add their residences, business, burial sites and travels.

knowledge-1052011.jpg

To view the progress of the map, keep an eye on our Map Page right here on the web site.

While this is going to be great for tracking exact spots, I am not quite sure how I am going to add information to a generic town – such as ‘Born in Eastham, MA’  My Initial thinking is to just add a marker at the center of town but, this may become a bit messy.  We will see as time goes on.

Do you have any experience with google maps or have made an Ancestry Map of your own?  Leave us a message in the comments or on our Facebook Page with your experiences.

Chelmsford Genealogical Conference and the Canadian Census

Although the week was busy, I still managed to whittle away at a family line and attend the Chelmsford [Massachusetts] Genealogical Society’s Fall Conference.

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Early in the week I managed to locate Theadore Marshall – my Father’s – Mother’s – Father – in the Canadian Census records over at the Library and Archives Canada Website [Link]. The main challenge in searching these records was a different spelling of his name – Theadore vs. Theodore.

Searching by Province, District and age however made the finds possible. When possible I like to start with a broad search, then add additional keywords to those found. If you start too narrow, you may miss something such as an alternate spelling or, in the case of the census and ages, someone one year off on their age.

I am guessing at the moment that I may also have found his father in the 1861 census, but this census does not include the family members names. There is only one Peter Marshall in Annapolis, Nova Scotia and the number of household members matches up.

The Conference was quite enjoyable however I was able to attend only the second half.

I arrived just in time for lunch (how fortuitous) which were several different kinds of hearty looking sandwiches and the assorted accouterments. They looked tasty but I did not pre-register for it as I was unsure I was going to be there in the first place. During lunch most milled around the hall, localizing and networking. I officially met two people that I had seen before at the Hudson [NH] Genealogy club.

I also met Jake Fletcher, a Genealogist that specializes in Maritime history and records. We had been introduced earlier in the week via Facebook and we had a quick moment to chat before the last speaker of the day.

Carol McCoy PhD spoke right after lunch. Her talk was entitled ‘Creative Ways to Solve a Genealogy Problem – where to look when they are not in the census or vital records’. It was a rundown of her work with a client and the way that she was able to conclude a persons relationship when the traditional records could not be located.

She spent much time in land records and trying to follow other parts of family to see if she could find anything. She also explored trying to establish the relationships of two other families in the same, but opposite sides of the town in an attempt to develop a connection.

The last speaker was Thomas Toohey and he showed us maps and lots of them. He talked about local atlases, insurance maps, picture maps and land records and many more… Oh, and where to find some of these.

Image courtesy of the University of New Hampshire Library Digital Collections.

He concluded by showing us the migration of his ancestors from Ireland to Scotland, back to Ireland, to Canada and then to the States.

At the end of the day the organizers had many door prizes to raffle off which was great. One table of ladies made out very well. Prizes ranged from donations from Ancestry.Com, books, a personalized engraved slate, and Genealogist on the Go kits which included a flash drive, white gloves, and a gift card to Dunkin Donuts.

I understand that this conference was just an idea back in January and I applaud all those volunteers who put in time to make this ‘Free’ conference such a success.

Sometimes it’s about what you don’t find.

Today I found myself in Portsmouth NH with some time to kill and I dropped i to the Portsmouth Athenæum to see if I could find anything relating to Captain Leonard Young (1814-1860.)

image

Leonard was born and lived a good portion of his life in Trenton, Hancock County, Maine – Right near Bar Harbor.  Between 1850 and 1855 he and his family moved to Dighton, Bristol County, Massachusetts – Just North of Fall River (and shortly after the death of his father.)  He is listed as a Mariner in the Census Records, as was his son.  One census lists him as a ‘Sea Captain’ even.  His gravestone titles him as Captain.

image

While I thought it may be a long shot, the Athenæum specializes in maritime records.  Portsmouth is not really that close to either, but it is a major port between the two.

The wonderful people at the Athenæum seemed to take this on as if it were a personal project of their own.  Two of the women there began to scurry in several directions once they learned of what I was seeking.  They new exactly where to look for any mention of Leonard.  Consulting Indexes, Tomes and the stacks and stacks of books they have in their collection.  These two could put Google out of business. The entire time they were firing out questions and results of other ‘Youngs’ but there were too many mismatches in dates and or places to even come close to thinking they were Leonard or related.

The long and short of it however was that they came up empty. Near the end of the search, one of the two ladies asked me if I knew if he sailed a Packet Ship as most of their Custom Records would be for overseas journies (via Galleon I would suspect.)

So in the end I learned that it was doubtful that he sailed into, or out of Portsmouth to ports over seas.

I am ok with that ‘nothing’ answer as sometimes it is just as important to rule something out.

My next step for this search will be a historical society further North I believe. They suggested Portland Maine as a start. The Bar Harbor area is a bit too far for a day trip. I may have another source to check in with too, but we will keep that one in the hat for now.

Organizing Your Files

When I am working on a video project, one of the hardest yet most needed tasks is that of organizing your files.  For any given project I will have folders with only Video in them.  One for Audio (Music, SFX and Voice Over separate of course.) Other folders contain Graphics, Still Photos, Documents and more.  I even have a ‘Cheat Sheet’ on my computer to help me standardize the folder structure.

This is not something I really have for my genealogy stuff however.

William HH Hood - Death Record

Well it just so happens that earlier today the folks over at the Genealogy Insider Blog posted an article entitled  – A Simple Four-Part System for Naming Digital Photo Files – [Link]

I urge you to head over, read it, and subscribe to a system for organizing your pertinent files.

I think I will take the system presented and add the 5th step of placing the major surnames within my tree in their own folders to boot.  You can bet however that I will make sure to add the cheat sheet for these records so I can make sure they too are standardized, just like my video files.

Do you have a system that works for you?  If you do, make sure to leave us a comment and let us know what works, and what doesn’t.

– Dan