I’ve decided to offer some bite-size Quick Tips every now and again that might help you in organizing your genealogy research. I’m going to kick it off with one of my favorite tips; it’s the best habit I’ve developed when it comes to my genealogy research.
Rename your document as soon as you download it
If you’ve ever downloaded a document from FamilySearch or Ancestry, you’re familiar with the outrageously long alphanumeric file name that comes with the file. My suggestion is to develop a file-naming protocol and immediately change the filename so that you won’t lose the document on your hard drive. Ideally, you’d process the document (i.e. enter information from it into your genealogy software and create a source citation) right away. But if the file has to languish for awhile, if you change the filename you’ll at least be able to tell at a glance what it is.
The protocol that works for me is Year Type of Document-Ancestor Name-Locality.ext.
So, for example, the death certificate for one of my second greatgrandfathers is named 1936 Death Certificate-John D. Jeffries-Rockville Bates Missouri.jpg.
That works for me–you may have one that works better for you. But the point is to have an easy-to-remember protocol that gives you an informative file name. Then rename a document the moment you download. Bonus tip: Once downloaded, move the renamed into an appropriate folder. (Mine goes into a folder called Surnames.)