Wondering How to Organize your Documents?

In the process of researching our ancestors, we create quite a lot of documentation.  What to do with it? First of all, because I have lost my research before, I tend to back up in several places, Dropbox, external hard drive, jump drive and hard copies.

drop box

I love Dropbox, because when I am traveling around doing family history work, or as now, living in China it gives me access to my records where ever there is internet.  So if I need to quickly check a document for more information and I can easily do so. The first 2 gb that you use is free and that will hold a lot of data. I have a yearly subscription of $99/year USA but then my husband also uses it for his work we store a lot of material on it. I have been using it for a couple of years now and have found it to be a wonderful addition to my data management. It’s one down side that I have found is that the various family history software doesn’t change computers well.  If I am working at home on my IMac and I link the documents to a folder in Dropbox, the link doesn’t always carry to my laptop or the computers at the family history libraries where I work. So about 2 months ago, I began switching the documents relevant to the individual families to a jump drive so that when working in the software I can see the documents I have linked to the families without any hassle. If anyone has a fix for this I would appreciate the information.

jump drive files
Various surnames on my jump drive

On Dropbox and on my jump drive I create folders to file the information in. The files are by surname and then by family.

So each line I am working on whether for myself or for a client gets their own folder,


Than within each folder I create more folders for each individual family by the fathers name.

This allows for easy access to the information I have stored on each family.

What good is it to retrieve documents if I can find them?

filing by surname
Broken down by family in each file

I try to find as many documents on a family as I can.  From Military to Census and beyond.  As you can see from the blog I have posted a few here.  I also like to collect as many pictures and stories as I can about the family so that they are more than just names and dates.

I am currently working on collecting the descendants of my great grandfather Buell Tillotson.  Trying to see the effect of when two people fell in love, I know that my own immediate family has accomplished some wonder things and what cousins I know have also done some amazing things.  I felt it would be great to collect it in one spot so that our grandchildren will have an idea of who we were.

docs within the surname folder
Individual documents within a family file

For instance, Lionel Tillotson, was a wonderful basketball player and played for the Brookston High School team.  He also had a scholarship to play for Purdue University, unfortunately, the summer after high school graduation on 2 July, he went swimming with some friends as well as his little brother Jim.  He was the first to dive into the swimming hole and unfortunately hit his head on a rock and broke his neck.  His brother Jim, ran 5 miles into town to get help for his brother, but he died 3 days later in Lafayette Hospital. I often think how devastating it must have been for his brother who tried so hard to save him.

Jim went on to be a star player for Brookston high school as well.  In fact, his wife would tell of going to Brookston to see Jim’s brother Bud play and they would get standing ovations when Jim walked into the gym.  Guess he was a good player, I know he taught me how to play well.

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2 responses to “Wondering How to Organize your Documents?”

  1. "It's one down side that I have found is that the various family history software doesn't change computers well. If I am working at home on my IMac and I link the documents to a folder in Dropbox, the link doesn't always carry to my laptop or the computers at the family history libraries where I work."

    If your files are linked to Dropbox, the file-path to them has to be the same. Something like:

    C:Users[username]DocumentsMy Dropbox ___

    If you can change the file-paths on each computer to link to the files that would work.

    If you're also syncing your database through Dropbox, that won't work if the usernames (and therefore, file-paths) are different on your different computers.

    If you're keeping all your documents on a flash-drive, I hope you also have backups of that. One copy only is risky.

  2. Thanks JL for your comments, yes I do back up everything to dropbox first, then my computer, then my jump drive, I have a working family history file that I carry around for research, that is the one linked to documents on the jump drive. But because of the organization of my files on dropbox it's very easy to find the docs not link to the file if I have internet access. Organization is the key to success. I am going to check my links for the files, see if I can get the same, although at the FHL, it's going to change, Users patron etc.

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