A Thousand Miles…A Single Step…


Some of you may remember my first post about the Genealogy Do-Over. Well, Do-Over Cycle 3 has just started. So what happened to Do-Over Cycle 1? Or even 2? Well, basically lots of confusion, head-scratching and, surprisingly, fear. But I’m finally emerging from the fog…

It really is quite strange how deciding to make changes can be easy but actually taking the first steps can be so scary. I dithered and delayed. I was easily distracted by BSOs. In fact, I rejoiced at each new BSO that came along. Avoidance was the name of the game.

I eventually realised my problem was that I had found myself at a crossroads with a multitude of roads to choose from. I couldn’t make that first step because I couldn’t choose which direction to go. Every option seemed to have equal merit. I just kept spinning in circles looking at each option in turn. Making that first step was the hardest thing I had to do…

In fact, I only started taking those first wobbly steps in the past week. So, it has actually taken two full cycles before I could even start!

And this is just to reorganise my research! I feel quite ridiculous. I keep thinking about people having to make really serious changes in their life – life-saving changes – and I’m shaking in my boots because I can’t decide what my filename format should be? Pathetic!

Anyway, I have spent a lot of time over the past six months reading various blogs, articles, webinars and following a number of Facebook group pages which have all been very helpful, especially the Genealogy Do-Over Group and The Organized Genealogist Group. I have taken so many ideas from the people in these two very generous groups that I’ve lost track of which ideas came from where.

However, there are so many different ways to sort data I was getting very confused. I spent a very long time trying to decide what would work best for me. Eventually, I just went back and took a good, hard, long look at my old filing system. And I found something. There was a pattern to the madness and the mess. I could see a way to organise the data that would suit me and how I think and look at the world.

Overarching System

I’m a visual kind of person so Mary E. V. Hill’s Colour Coding System really appeals to me. I’ve organised my digital filing system by Surname and colour coded the folder icons. This system has the added advantage of being able to sort my physical, hardcopy files to match the same system.

Folder Structure

I created a brand new folder structure and named the parent folder “Genealogy-2015” and renamed my old genealogy folder “Genealogy-old”. I do not believe in reinventing the wheel so will reuse the old data in the new tree. However, I’m re-writing my family group sheets from scratch, starting with myself. I am examining each document with fresh eyes, entering the data into the family group sheets, and correctly citing them as I transfer the documents across to the new folders.

Rather than using paper sheets like I used to, I adapted some pre-existing, digital family group sheets to suit my needs. One of the limitations I found with paper charts was that I kept running out of room. With spreadsheets, I just add new lines or boxes. In keeping with the Colour Coding System, I created templates with appropriate colour schemes (one each of blue, red, green and yellow) and keep them in my master template folder. The completed Family Group Sheet is kept within an individual’s folder.

Example 1: Templates

Example 1: Templates

Within my new Genealogy-2015 folder, I created some basic, universal folders for things like bulk records, templates, my Congress2015 papers and so on. Next I created two separate family lines – one for my husband’s family and one for my family. I used the Colour Coding System within those family lines to create surname sub-folders.

Within each of the surname sub-folders, I created a folder for each direct-line person I am researching. The individual folder format is:

[birthyear]-[deathyear]_[SURNAME]_[Given name]

For example:


This way, they will be in birth order and therefore in correct, lineal, direct-line order.

Within these individual sub-folders are folders for children and spouses. I can research collateral lines under the children sub-folders. If there are multiple spouses, this makes it easier to keep their information sorted – especially if they have the same name!

Example 2: Folder Structure. Note that if 'xxxx' is used in place of a death year, it means the person has not yet passed.

Example 2: Folder Structure. Note that if ‘xxxx’ is used in place of a death year, it means the person has not yet passed.

I also prefer to keep work on the Census records as part of family groups so have kept them separate from individual folders.

Example 3: Census Folders

Example 3: Census Folders

Filename Format

I’ve chosen a filename format:


where ‘bxxxx’ refers to the birth year and ‘xxxx’ is the year of the document.

For example:


Once again, the various files will sort in time-line order for that person. If I have multiple files open for people with the same name, the birth year will help me differentiate between them. This was a great idea I took from Diana Ritchie in the Genealogy Do-Over group. See Example 2 above to see what this looks like.


I keep another spreadsheet, DirectLine-DocumentChecklist, in the family family line folder. I use this spreadsheet to keep track of which documents and certificates I have already found for each person. It’s a very quick visual checklist so I don’t make the mistake of ordering the same document twice – which has definitely happened in my pre-organised days and on more than one occasion! I keep the Fan Chart in the base directory so I can keep track of the colour coding system – at a glance.

This is just the start. I haven’t even set up my research log, as yet, as I am still sorting through data that I already have on hand. When I set up the research log, I will keep it in the base surname folder.

The system is versatile enough that I can tweak and adjust as I go.

And that’s it so far. I have a lot more to investigate. I’ve downloaded Evidentia to try out, I’ve bought a copy of Evidence Explained so I can learn to cite properly, I want to check out Evernote to see if it might be better for me than using spreadsheets, and I need to add to my back up options – maybe some kind of cloud option.

Last but not least, I have heard a rumour around the traps that Legacy is currently working on a version that will use Crossover software to run on a Mac! If that actually happens, my genealogy universe would be complete.

So, there is plenty to do.

And you know what? I don’t know what I was so scared of.

How are you going with your Do-Over?

This entry was posted in Do-Over, Genealogy, Organisation. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Thousand Miles…A Single Step…

  1. Melanie J. Rice says:

    I hope Legacy does get the MAC version out! It looks like you’re off to a great start on your do-over.


    • Thank you, Melanie! Wouldn’t it be wonderful? I’ve had Legacy envy for Windows users for awhile now. Every now and again, I’d visit the Legacy website just to torture myself. lol


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