All the effective organization systems I read about, stored files by date, without folders. I had previously stored them by surname, in surname folders. Sort of a digital way of the old paper filing system. But of course surnames can overlap, causing duplicates. I found that using Windows 7, I could easily search files, so all my files could be stored in one large folder and I could still easily find a file in seconds. I started relabeling my files, and immediately started seeing some interesting things. I love seeing things by date! I see more relationships and patterns. All the 1860's files look pretty similar, just like 1980's pictures will have a similar look to them. By seeing them in order, I could for example, point out to my grandpa, "this picture was taken when you were 15, do you remember it?" And yes, he did remember, it had just been awhile since he'd seen those people. It wasn't one of his personal pictures, but he remembered it because he could associate it with his age then.
I currently have only 5 genealogy folders. (I used to have about 200 folders.) My current folders:
1) My mother's files
2) My father's files
3) My father in law's files (I'm now caretaker of those records)
4) General gen files, info that can apply to all the files, like info about record collections, notes I took at meetings etc.
5) Me & my husband - scans of: certificates, pictures, cards etc for the family we started, more current stuff
I have one other folder on my desktop, labeled "Gen scans". That's my not completely processed working file. Until I can get it ready to be archived into my "Gen files" folder into 1 of the 5 folders sub-folders. "Gen scans" where I put stuff when I borrow a collection for a week to scan. Where I still need to relabel pictures, and lastly, tombstone pictures. As I load new files into "Gen files", from that working folder of "Gen scans", I back the files up on cloud, and an external hard drive.
I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my tombstone pictures dilemma. I had each cemetery in a folder, with county and date labeled. Pictures in the order I took them. I walked in rows and was careful to note family groups. So the order I took pictures was important because it showed family relationships. These are very small rural Virginia cemeteries on old farms, or tiny churches. But I also wanted to have these files be searcheable by surname and the date. In this case, not date taken, but the death date on the tombstone, (which would not hold the order of pictures taken). My recent solution to my challenge, to do both things I wanted (date and order taken): create a slide show in the order pictures were taken. In that slide show, I have started to write the place, and date pictures were taken, which the folder name had the job of doing previously. Then, after the slide show is complete, I label the cemetery pictures just like all the other files, by the date on the record and a surname, or the whole name. If say the file is muster roll, I'd list it as "1863-07-David Dunn-muster roll-death". The year, then month, then day, holds all the records in chronological order. I have several thousand files but If I type in "David Dunn", only a couple files show up, all relevant. Bonus, the search result is only a few seconds! If I only have a year, I type just the year. If my grandma says "I know that picture was between 1940 and 1946, but that's the best I can do for a date" then I label the picture "1940s-Stowe AZ" (approximate date, surname and place).
|Example of my filing system|
PS. My family pictures are stored the same way. I have just one folder, in "my pictures" labeled "pictures archives." They are backed up on external hard drive and cloud. As my camera and computer by default add in new folders, I routinely go through them, re-label and then archive. Then delete those new folders. Just one folder with several thousand pictures (I have the archive of all the family wedding pictures etc) and its all easily searchable.