Don’t let the backlog get you down

Metadata can make digital files more searchable

Metadata on my GGGF’s death certificate

Lately I’ve been thinking about the backlog of electronic files that I should tag with metadata and that I should rename for consistency and ease of access. (I wrote about that in this post, It’s all about access.) When I think about doing all that, I get overwhelmed. And then I don’t want to do any of it.

I realized though, that I don’t have to wait until the backlog has been completed to start establishing new patterns with new files that I save. It’s just like I tell my clients who have an overabundance of accumulated mail in their homes: They don’t have to go through all the old mail before figuring out how to handle the new mail.

So starting today, I’m creating a simple file naming system for individual files. (I think it’s going to be Year-Document Type-First Name-Last Name). And all new files will be named accordingly.  I’ll also work on creating the habit of adding metadata immediately after saving a file. So my new files will be in good shape and I won’t be adding to the backlog. At the same time, little by little, I can work through my backlog of files and change file names and add metadata tags. I can do it systematically. And I can also just edit the file name and add metadata every time I find myself accessing a file.

One of my personal mantras is “Let it be easy.” This feels like an easy approach to a project that’s been causing me a little stress.


  1. That’s ME — overwhelmed and paralyzed. I like this idea though, so you have given me hope.

  2. That is going to be part of my New and Improved Genealogy Sourcing Plan. I am also going to use Tags (Mac running Mavericks) so that I can tag which source needs to go into Reunion. And file naming-still working on that one but I am thinking that I will put the year, name and then document type. Once I get all the bugs worked out and sorted out in my head I am going to make a cheat sheet with a list of all the steps I need to take to source an particular photo, document, etc. I will probably laminate it. It’s got to be easy. And that will apply to sourcing too. As much as I think EE is great it’s not for me. Once I pass to the next world I won’t care if it follows the stringent guidelines of EE. My family sure doesn’t care! And like you said, it’s got to be easy. EE is not for me. There, I said it. And I am ok with that.

  3. Judy, easy is good! I find that for tasks that folks (including me) resist doing, we just have to make it as easy as possible. Definitely any sourcing is better than no sourcing. It does not have to be perfect.

    Let me know how it goes!

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