workshop presents interesting genealogical ideas
november 17, 2013
Even though you do not consider yourself a beginner at genealogy research, do you attend beginner talks or classes? I do. I always learn something or it reacquaints me with a topic. Alternatively, a presenter may approach a topic in a new way. That is what happened at the All-Day Workshop for Beginners sponsored by Genealogy Friends. The presenters were Collin College instructor Barbara Coakley introducing genealogy basics and Lynn Darrouzet, J.D., speaking about research organizing. Both women, always having flawless research methods, presented something for the new and experienced researcher.
Something new was Barbara’s method of constructing a reporting method that fit perfectly with those of us who are compiling our own family’s histories and sharing them with our living family members instead of using the boring method practiced by professionals who take clients. Her reports are in the form of a family newsletter and a blog containing her latest research on a particular subject. Both go to her family, not the public. Although her writing contains the facts gleaned from sources, they are interesting reads without tiring the reader with endless sources. Most families are not interested in the footnotes or endnotes unless they are genealogists, but do enjoy the family lore.
Instructor Lynn Darrouzet showed us her way of naming electronic files, tagging the metafile to recover the item and using OCR search features instead of continuing to use folders for finding documents. She developed her own system of naming files while keeping it simple. Lynn made a file—a cheat-sheet if you will—explaining how she named things, tagged things, etc. I personally have had trouble remembering how I set up a file for a particular surname, so I am glad I am not alone in this. With the cheat sheet, I will not have to remember my new system or waste valuable time reconstruction it.
Lynn suggested two file types: (1) archive and heirloom original documents requiring archival methods; and (2) working files printed only if needed for a completed project. Then select a date to move forward digitally. She suggests not trying to do it all at once while continuing to document the workflow and file-naming steps.
There are four parts to Lynn’s filing system: name, date, place, and item description. Her suggestion to file names by surname followed by an underscore and then the given name, such as Drain_George, interested me. As for records under the person’s name, Lynn suggested consistently formatting by year first, then by month and day which allows for sorting by year. The date would look like the following for December 5, 1923: 19231205. I should have done that all along but I did not. I have at least three different filing systems because of different research situations over many years. She uses the postal abbreviation for the state, separated by an underscore followed by the county/town. Another underscore separates the item description. A file with the four parts would look like this: Drain_George_19231205_ tx-collin_deed.doc.
Her tips were equally valuable. She suggests using v01, v02 to save versions of a document rather than “old,” “new,” “revised.” File images or photo extensions with a .jpg or .tiff extension. She saves documents she creates in Microsoft Word as either .doc or .pdf files. She uses the free CutePDF Writer freeware program available at www.cutepdf.com. Another tip was to consider including the RIN of the individual or MRIN reference number of the married couple when saving the file. Every genealogy program uses RIN numbers for each individual and MRIN numbers of married couples. This is certainly a good idea. It would help identify all those different men in my database by the name William Jones, John Ball and Robert Brashear. Nevertheless, when I tried using the RIN and MRIN numbers I found the file name became much too long. Maybe using it only on the repeated names would be the way to use those RINs and MRINs.
These new innovative presentation and filing techniques are changes we can incorporate. I am certainly open to Barbara’s way of summing up her finished research on particular subjects and Lynn’s method of electronic filing.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: firstname.lastname@example.org.