My Organizing System

Hello again everyone! :-)

Today I want to talk about my system of organizing my digital files. I thought that perhaps by sharing this system with you, you could offer up any of your suggestions or comments and help me to improve it! Before I go too far into it, I would like to show you some of my former systems and why I scrapped them.



When I originally began trying to organize my digital files, I thought it would be very useful to sort them by category. It made sense because if I needed a Birth Record, I always knew what folder it would be in.

I had used this system for a while before I started to discover the flaws in it. Though the information was able to be found fairly quickly, it would still be hard trying to go from one category to the next and build a grouping of data I had for just one individual. One other problem was how to separate, say, my Spanglers from my Stevensons.

After a few years, it became obvious that this system was not going to be the one I needed.

Deeply-Nested System

Once I realized that the “Category Filing System” was not going to work, I thought of a different way of doing things. I decided that the best way to do this was to just nest folders within other folders and carry on the hierarchy that way. In other words, have a file, for instance, named “Archibald Edelbert Forbes” and nest in that folder 5 more folders, one for each child.

I would then nest more folders inside the children’s folders which would hold the information for the grandchildren of Archibald. I had checked in Windows 7 and I could go, seemingly, forever with this system.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that there actually were limitation to this. Though I could go very deep in my folder structure, it seems there is a limit of 256 characters in a file name. This meant that the initial folder for Archibald took up so many of those characters and each subsequent folder below that took up more of those characters. After a while, you could create a folder but only have just one character to name it!

This system would not work either!


The system I am using at the moment came about without any planning. I had went through my Spangler Research folder and had made folders for everyone, just as described above. I then decided to start on my Stevenson Research and, without even thinking about it, I started to create folders called “1st-Generation”, “2nd-Generation”, “3rd-Generation” and so on and so on.

Once I had finished creating these and started to organize it, I realized that I might be on to something! I had essentially started a system that required me to go only 3 folders deep and yet it would contain everything neatly into those folders.

I must let you know that there are still some kinks I am working out here. I still encounter problems when I find that there are two, or more, people by the name of Mary Stevenson in the same generation. For the time being, I am fixing this by naming the folder something like “Mary Stevenson (GS)” and “Mary Stevenson (JS)”. What I am doing is adding the initials of who that Mary Stevenson belongs to at the end of the folder name. I know this is not the best way to do this but for the time being it seems to be working fine.

This system works so well that I have actually changed all my folders for my 4 main surnames to it. I’ve even began adding a separate folder for alternate surnames, such as when a great-grandmother’s line is researched. The best example would be what I have done with my “Forbes Research” folder. I have added sub-folders for “Beal Research” and for “Seeber Research” and within those folders I have added the generation naming system.

Will this work forever? I really can’t say. For the time being this system is working very good for me but who knows what my future needs will be?


I know from experience that what works great today can become a big hassle tomorrow. My current filing system is working great for me but in the next few months I may require more from it.

The way I have learned to look at this is that I have to be flexible. I have to be willing to adapt in order to make my system work for ME! I can’t look at everyone else’s system and try to copy it because everyone thinks differently.

If I find a better way, I will be sure to let you all know. Until then, I will continue with my “Generation System” and be happy!

Thanks for stopping by,


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