The last few days I have working hard at the task of organizing my digital files. In the past, all attempts at organizing those files has made me feel like the bicycle rider in the picture.
Keep my digital files organized is a significant task, since my son and I have decided to keep all our records digitally on-line. That way both of us can have immediate access since I am in Nebraska and he is in California.
Previously, I had up-loaded file folders to our webside. That was alright for a while; but it had its attendant problems – the chief problem being the necessity of indexing the files separately.
A couple of months ago, at the suggestion of my son (who is the technologically proficient one of our team), I began to use MediaWiki as my Research Journal. That was a good move, but I didn’t begin to realize the major benefit to this Web 2.0 approach until I figured out how to use MediaWiki as an indexed storage system — not a storage system with a separate index, but a storage system that is its own index. Let me explain…
I had already re-organized my digital files into two categories: Vital Statistic Records & SURNAME Records.
The Vital Statistics category is subdivided into the following folders: Birth Records; Baptism & Confirmation Records; Marriage Records; Census Records (sub-divided by Census Year); Death Records; Immigration & Naturalization Records; Land, Deeds, and other Legal Records; Military Records; Location Files; Extracted Signatures; and Media Files.
I have the SURNAME category sub-divided into 8 folders – one for each of the 8 grand-parental lines of my children. In each of these folders, I have separate folders for all the individuals (sorted by Surname, FirstName). Here I have all the data that does not fall into the categories of my Vital Records files.
I have those digital files arranged in this manner on my desktop and laptop; up-loaded to our website; backed up on my RootsMagic4 To-Go memory stick and my external hard drive. Redundancy is a good thing!
This organizational schema provided me with the structure of my MediaWiki Research Journal. I reworked every data entry in my original (date-oriented) Research Log. I added the appropriate citations for each item. (On a separate MediaWiki page, I have saved about 50 cut-and-paste citation templates – including one for each U.S. Federal Census.) Since I had been negligent in adding source citations at the time of extracting online data, this was an important task to complete. Once completed, however, it was simple to transfer that data to the appropriate Vital Record or SURNAME MediaWiki pages. Now the data is all organized and online — with source citations and links to digital images (or URLs). Here is a screenshot of the SURNAME files for two leaves on our family’s tree:
The entry for John A. Smith indicates that there are Census records for 1870, 1880, 1890 (veterans schedule), and 1900, as well as Death records and Military Records. I have no records for him in any of the other categories. Also, I have an extracted biographical sketch for him, as well as an indication of an unsuccessful search for the Smiths in Montgomery County Ohio. Actually, I do have more records for John A. Smith, but I have not organized and provided the source citations for them yet. That comes next, as part of an on-going process.
MediaWiki has provided me with a very workable online way of recording and organizing my research. As long as my son and I have internet connectivity, those records are available to both of us.
And this citing and organizing has provided me with some medals in the Winter 2010 Genea-Bloggers Games. But that is the subject of another blog.