Naming Conventions

Do you have a method or process you use when you save a file or even a genealogy source? If so, CONGRATULATIONS! Your method or process is obviously working for you — or you wouldn’t be using it.

When I first started genealogy, I used my document number to name my files. My document numbers were created using the Dollarhide method starting with the surname followed by the abbreviation for the state and then a number. While that worked in my early paper research, it has not transitioned well into my current process.

  • Document number does not identify what is in the document
  • Document number does not identify the person or family in the document
  • Documents were not attached as images to events in my old software

Thus, as I started working thru Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over (go-over for me), I was also doing more online research and saving images from those online sources. I found that I needed a better way to name and organize my files. At first, I used the following method:


I included the year so that the files would sort by date. I soon found that while my method would sort an individual’s record by date, it would not sort a family’s documents by date — and I tend to put records for a family in one folder. Thus, I changed my method:

YearOfDocument-Document Description-Surname-GivenName

When I use online newspaper sources, I tend to use the suggested file name and put the year, type of document and name in front of the newspaper information. Thus, the file will still sort by year and the file name includes the persons name along with the sourcing information for the newspaper.

When it comes to naming sources in RootsMagic, I also try to follow a pattern for naming those sources. For my work, the date of the source is not the most important. Instead of viewing sources by date, I want to view my list of sources by type and then by the state. When it comes to census records, I insert the year between the the type of record and the location.

While RootsMagic has a fantastic filter to help me locate a particular source from my long list of sources, I still want the like sources to be together in my list. Unfortunately, I sometimes ‘misname’ a source.

Thus, I have a bit of work to do to ‘rename’ some of my sources. And, I need to spend a lot of time going thru all of the files that were named with the document number to figure out what they contain and rename them.

It took me a while to come to my methodology, but I have found that I like the way the files/sources can be sorted. Thus, this method works for my workflow while it may not work for everyone else.

One thought on “Naming Conventions

  1. The bane of every genealogist. I’ve tortured myself listening to “experts” until finally settled on the following:
    Source-state-County-document file name-liber-folio-ancestor-year
    MSA KTCo am700–373 EI8 373 Richd Kenard to Jno Watts 1746 or
    FS MD AACO Wills 1828-1847 vol 40 TTS1 343 Ann Rainer

    All about whatever works for ya.

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