Most of the women in our family trees changed their name at some point or another. That can present an organizational conundrum in the files we keep for them. I thought I’d let you know how I handle it in my digital filing system. As always, I’m not telling you the right way to do anything. I just want to share how I do it, because it’s worked well for me.
In a nutshell, I file women under their married surname. As I describe in the post How I Process a Downloaded Document, on my hard drive I have surname folders for each of the surnames in my family and within each folder I have folders for individual people. In those people folders are the individuals containing source documents. (I have a separate Collateral folder within which the surname folders for collateral relatives are filed.)
Here’s how I name women’s folders:
Last Name (Birth Name), First Name (YOB-YOD). So the folder for one of my second great grandmother’s folder is called Garlock (Ten Eyck), Anna (1832-1910). It resides in the Garlock Surname folder, as shown in the screenshot above.
If I find a relative before she’s married, I’ll use her birth surname for filing purposes. But once I’ve found marriage documents, I’ll rename and move her folder to her married surname.
It seems pretty straight forward, but of course, things like multiple marriages can make it more complicated. For my direct-line ancestors, it’s easy. I use the surname associated with the spouse who is my direct line. (If it’s a second or later marriage, I don’t typically use the first married name in the folder name, I just use the birth name.)
But for collateral relatives, where there isn’t necessarily a married name that is more relevant to me than the other married names, I typically just use the first married surname that I find and leave it like that. Sometimes I make exceptions, especially for women who were married multiple times and for whom I have trouble keeping track of their various married names. For example, Leonora Adams, the daughter of my much-researched second great grandfather George Washington Adams, was married four times. I file her within the Adams Collateral folder using the folder name “Adams, Leonora (Lochry Stevens Good Ward), 1877-1962.”
Again, I’m not suggesting this is the best way to do it, but it works for me. I pretty much developed my system as I went along. And, as in almost all things, I allow myself to be imperfect about it. That means that there may be inconsistencies in my folder structure. But I have enough of a solid infrastructure that the inconsistencies don’t bother me.
Writing this makes me want to go through my folders–particularly for the collateral relatives–and perhaps correct any inconsistencies. But I’m comfortable leaving them as is until I get around to doing that.
I’m curious: How do you handle the name changes of women among your files? And are there any situations I didn’t cover here that you’re curious about? Feel free to ask in the comments.