This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
I recently shared that I am an organizing junkie….and a flunkie!
I desperately want my genealogy nice and organized. I want my files easy to find. I’ve worked hard to achieve that. I may not have a perfect system (does one even exist?), but I do have a system that works for me.
Now…where do you begin when organizing old photos?
One of the great things about being our family historian is relatives send me photographs when they clean out a closet or a loved one’s home. They recognize the importance of these photos even if they do not know the identity of the individuals. So…they send them to me.
As a result, I have hundreds of photographs of my ancestors from multiple lines. Add to that my own family’s photographs of the current generations. Add still more with the photographs I take on research trips (think documents, gravestones, etc). Very quickly I had a problem.
I was drowning in real and digital photographs!
Simple Photograph Organization For the Genealogist
As with your “regular” genealogy files, you want to organize your ancestors and family photographs using a consistent file system. Whichever system you decide to use, make it yours. Do what works for you.
This is how I organize my own digital photographs. For photographs that have not been digitized, that is the first step.
- Main Surname Folder [Howard]
- Head of household Folder [Lester Howard]
- Includes the head of household, wife (if applicable), children living in the household. [Lester, Cecile, 2 daughters] Once a child becomes their own head of household or marries and enters a new household, their photographs are placed under that head of household.
- Location [Lee County, NC]
- Sometimes, I simply have photographs of locations and/or areas where ancestors lived or worked. Those photographs associated with a family or surname and not a specific individual are placed here.
- Head of household Folder [Lester Howard]
You will notice this system closely mirrors my genealogy filing system. That is no coincidence.
Keeping your filing system consistent despite the type of files you are organizing will make returning to your needed files easier. Remember: Keep things simple!
Now that your photos are organized…..
Back them up…
I cannot stress enough the importance of backing up your photographs.
Having your photographs of all generations organized on your computer is fantastic, but you are NOT done, yet. Backing up your photographs regularly is critical.
Tip: Mark a monthly date on your calendar to remind yourself.
I chose to back my photographs up with Picture Keeper. I simply plugged the little flash drive in my computer and let it do its thing. Picture Keeper scanned my computer for all photo files and backed them up. Picture Keeper even maintains my organization system and even skipped the duplicates! Backing up those photographs really was that simple!
Here was a bonus I never even thought about. Like many genealogists, I use Dropbox to back up many of my files. As part of my Dropbox system, I have the Dropbox app on my laptop and on my smart phone. Dropbox syncs across all of my devices. When I take a photograph on a genealogy research trip, I file it in the appropriate Dropbox file. When I back up my photographs with Picture Keeper, photos from my Dropbox app synced on the laptop are also pulled and backed up! Backing your photos up in multiple places is a good thing.
The first time I plugged in my Picture Keeper into my laptop, it backed up 2956 photos! 647 duplicates were skipped. This was a complete surprise! I started with the 4GB size, but obviously needed a second one! I should have just started with the 8 GB or the 16 GB.
Picture Keeper comes in a variety of sizes: 4, 8, 16, 32 GB. 4 GB is plenty big, but I think I should have started with the 8 GB. The good news: Once one is full, simply plug in a new Picture Keeper and it picks up where the other one left off. No remembering where you stopped! Picture Keeper even has a version for your smartphone.
…AND share them!
A common frustration for genealogists is getting other family members interested. Pictures are a great way to pique family members’ interest. I use photographs as ice breakers when starting a oral history interview.
[If you are related to me, skip on down. Birthday gift spoilers alert!]
Copies of heirloom photographs also make great gifts. I have not ordered any of the specialized custom gifts such as cards, magnets or pillows yet, but Picture Keeper offers that ability, too. I’ve got my eye on the cutest magnet set……
Other Posts You May Find Interesting!
- Restoring Old Family Photos – A Vivid-Pix Tutorial
- Preserving Your Family’s Historic Photographs
- Top 10 Resources for Dating Old Photographs
Pin for future reference!