Saturday, January 24, 2015

Looking for Feedback on File Naming Schemes

I think that I’ve come up with a workable (for me) scheme for naming document files, and another one for photo files. But there a still a couple of unresolved questions. Please comment.  I know I can’t have considered everything.

Document Files = Date_Who_What

 YYYY_MM_DD  A lower case x will substitute for unknown entries: 195x_xx_xx
Surname-first name; or just family name
Type of record: Birth, Baptism, Marriage, Census, Deed, etc.

Here’s an example:  A copy of the church record of baptism from an LDS microfilm.

File name: 1841_11_14_Dachtera-Andreas_Baptism.jpg

The LDS film number is in the file metadata.

The idea is that the file list will sort itself first on date, then on name, but I haven’t gotten far enough to see what happens when there are Xs in the date. I suppose that a year of 184x will be listed after those with 1849 as the year.

While this seems that it will do the job, it seems just too simple.  Have I forgotten something???

Photo naming gets a little more complex

Date_Who_What-Description(description optional)_ Generation
 YYYY_MM_DD  A lower case x will substitute for unknown entries: 195x_xx_xx

Surname-First name; or just Family name plus additional information where appropriate
Type of photo i.e. snapshot or portrait
Optional description can include the event
Gx where x = the generation number.

Generation is one of the things I’ve wrestled with.  Here’s what I came up with.

Zero (Z) = me and my siblings, first cousins, etc.
1 = my parents and their siblings, etc,
2 = grandparents
3 = great grandparents
Z1 = my children
Z2 = my grandchildren
Z3 = my great grandchildren
M  = a photo with more than two generations.

A couple of examples:
File name:  191x_xx_xx_Dachtera-Stanley-kids_snap_g2-1

This tells me that it is a snapshot of my grandfather with kids, and that the primary person is generation 2 but it also includes generation 1 people.

Identifying the photo with Stanley’s name is my choice for my reasons. It could well have been “Dachtera-Johanna-sibs-dad”

File name: 1920_05_04_Dachtera-Supinski_port-wed_g1

I’m not sure how I should identify married women.

Use the married name?  In terms of one aspect of “future proofing” succeeding generations are more likely to know only the married name and may be looking at photo files independently of genealogy data files.

Use both maiden and married names? This may be the best solution, but would I identify the bride above as “Supinski-Johanna-Dachtera” or some other combination?

I’ve tried to keep this as simple as possible but maybe I’m missing something important.  I’ll resume scanning photos and see where I run into snags.

Any suggestions for improvement will be welcome.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Learning from the Genealogy Do-Over

The Genealogy Do-Over is a thirteen week project begun on January 1 of this year and  led by Thomas MacEntee.  Information can be found online in several places that will be listed below. I’ve learned so very much from the participants in the Facebook group (more than 3,000 of them) devoted to this project who post and answer questions; and share the files they’ve created or modified to improve their research and recording techniques.

Digital file archiving is one problem I have not resolved to my satisfaction. My “system” has simply evolved from what seemed practical when I first began family research.  In other words, it is a non-system with some inconsistencies that make it a bit of a mess.  A specific problem area is file names for photographs.

At one time I started to design a file naming structure and a Microsoft Access database. Ill health took me away from genealogy for a while and when I got back to it I saw that my photo file naming scheme was entirely too complex to be usable.  I also came to realize that My database would become obsolete as Microsoft Access software changed and priced itself out of my budget. Consequently, I haven’t done any more scanning without having a reasonable naming scheme.

Thanks to the Do-Over folks, I’ve found a few archiving methods that may suit my needs.  I will probably take ideas from more than one suggested method. When I figure it out, I’ll post it.

In the meantime, I continue to follow the Do-Over and absorb the knowledge that these folks are sharing. I’m grateful to them all.

Here are some links to Do-Over information

Join the group and take a look at the files that have been uploaded as well as reading the posts.

There’s a link here to blog posts made by participants and links to resources.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Visit your Ancestral Village Online

For those of us who are not able to visit our ancestral towns in person, virtual touring can be the next best thing.  Using Wikipedia and Google Earth, you can often get much information about a town and probably its history, too.

Just as in the US, a village or city name may not be unique. When I first searched for my Grandmother’s birthplace, Grabowo, in Poland, I found twelve villages or towns with that name.  Over time I was able to pinpoint Grabow nad Prosna as the right one.  So if you know the correct village or town, you are ready for a virtual visit.

When you do a normal Wikipedia search you end up at
Searching for your town will get you to an English language entry giving basic information including location on a map, map coordinates, county, population, etc.  But every country has its own Wikipedia entries aimed at its own citizens in its own language and much more information. shows this for one of my towns. This is a village of 1,040 people – pretty small. If it had a website, the link would be shown, too.  But look at the Polish entry for Parkowo.

Simply putting the two letter internet code for the country in the URL gets you to that country’s Wilipedia.  Here’s a link to a listing of all Internet country codes

Entering brings up Poland’s Wiki. The bad news is that it will be in Polish, but the good news is that Google Translate does a pretty good job of translation – usable if imperfect.  If you use Google Chrome, you will automatically have the option to translate.  If you use a different browser, you can go to for translation. has a lot of great information about the area including history and some photos.

Even better is the information from Grabow nad Prosna.
This town of more than 8,000 people does have its own website
There are current photos and even some old photos. I felt that I hit the jackpot when I got to this site.

Google Earth
If you don’t now have Google Earth, get it.  It is FREE and it is wonderful.
Finding your ancestral town on Google Earth gives you first a bird’s eye view.  You see the town and its setting, its geography.  You can zoom in and out and look around for an idea of your ancestors’ environment. Was it urban or just a crossroads?  Forest? Agriculture? Mountains? Rivers?

You can look at photos of the area that others have posted.  If there’s a church or river or lake or a palace, someone will probably have put a photo on Google Earth.

Here’s a screenshot of another of my ancestral towns, Iwno.

But best of all is Street View.

Google Street View cameras have been almost everywhere.  If a numbered highway goes through your town, Street View cars probably will have driven it. Except in larger cities, they won’t have traveled the neighborhoods, but you can at least get a glimpse of what the town looks like today.

Here’s a screenshot from Grabow nad Prosna

There’s nothing like a personal visit to see and feel for yourself what it is like, But even virtual visits are fun,

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A new site to help add context to your ancestors’ lives.

Wouldn’t it be great to have quick access to an historical timeline and a summary of the time in which your ancestor lived?  You can have both at History Lines.

History Lines is still in beta test, but you can sign up to be a beta tester. Because it’s still in beta, there are a few glitches but that’s what beta tests are for. There is a feedback button so that you can offer any suggestions you may have for improving the product.

Enter your ancestors name and birth and death dates and you get both a timeline and a short narrative account of what daily life was like and the impact of significant events.  Here’s a screenshot of one person that I entered.

The areas covered in the summary are:
•           Childbirth
•           Childhood
•           Clothing
•           Communication
•           Diet
•           Education
•           Entertainment
•           Household
•           Hygiene
•           Marriage
•           Medicine
•           Military
•           Politics
•           Religion
•           Transportation

Stories are currently available in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, United States, 1600 to 1950

They’re currently working on Germany and they need user input to prioritize which countries to add next. I sure hope their German information will include Prussia.

I’m excited about this site because it will help me add flesh and context to family history.  The summaries will point me to areas I want to research further.

Great start History Lines!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Genealigy Do-Over or Go-Over?

On January 1 of this year, Thomas MacEntee has launched a 13 week Genealogy Do-Over project.  The idea is to set aside all of your previous work and begin a new family tree from scratch.  Information can be found at
And Facebook has a Genealogy Do-Over group at

Thomas has created a plan for each of the 13 weeks. This, the first week calls for setting aside old research, preparing to do research and establishing base practices and guidelines.

Participants include both professional and amateur genealogists many of whom have begun by analyzing and modifying their organizational methods.  They’re coming up with new ideas and strategies for organizing files – both digital and paper. They’ll review, add and correct source citations as they build a fresh tree. They are creating a wonderful educational opportunity for the whole genealogy community.

I’ve opted for the Go-Over approach.  I simply don’t have the desire or patience for a complete Do-Over.  Using the methods and ideas of the active participants, my plan is to improve my existing trees and do better research and citation going forward.

Thomas MacEntee posted a great article about slowing down and not frantically chasing after what he calls BSOs (Bright Shiny Objects).  So I’m slowing down.

My first step is to review what I have and identify gaping holes; and there are a couple of big ones. Although I started in 2000 my research has not been continuous. There was a 6 year gap when we retired and went cruising, and then a 9 month gap for cancer treatment. It is very difficult to figure out where to begin again after being away for a length of time.

My search for Dachtera ancestors has centered around Oborniki, Poland; but I just now realized that I’d not looked at microfilms from at least 5 towns very near there.  Maybe that brick wall isn’t so solid after all.

I am very grateful for the help and insights I’m getting from the active participants in this project but I must admit to feeling guilty about taking advantage of their hard work. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to add a contribution to it before it’s over.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Future of Digital Images and Records?

This article from is a reminder that we need to make sure that our digital records, photos, family trees, etc. don’t become unusable or obsolete.

Today’s state of the art storage medium could become tomorrow’s floppy disk.

Exercise those external disc drives and store multiple copies of everything in case one device becomes corrupted.  And keep those shoeboxes full of stuff in a safe place.