Organize Your Digital Files: Tips From Genealogy Guy Drew Smith

Quick — where is the image that you downloaded of your great-grandfather's will? How about the photo of your grandmother that you scanned or the GEDCOM that your cousin sent to you? Organizing digital files is a necessary task, but it can also be frustrating.


I had the opportunity to interview Drew Smith, co-host of the Genealogy Guys podcast (along with George Morgan). Drew literally wrote the book on organizing genealogy, especially those digital files. In this interview, Drew shares his tips for keeping it all straight. 

(Click the "play" arrow to watch this short video with Drew's tips.)

Key takeaways:

  • ​Having a structure is key.
  • Structure depends up what you need (the project, theme, etc.)
  • A good structure will be both searchable and browsable. (Drew explains why you need to be able to do both.)
  • Organization is personal; it needs to work for you. 
  • Think about how you name your files. (Drew gives some examples of how to do is so it makes sense to you and to others.)

Drew's book Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle

For tips on organizing paper files (and how to start transitioning to digital files), check out my interview with professional organizer Janine Adams. ​

(Note: the link to Drew's book on Amazon is an affiliate link.)​

Organize Your Digital Files

7 thoughts on “Organize Your Digital Files: Tips From Genealogy Guy Drew Smith

  1. Pingback: Friday Finds 19 May 2017 – Copper Leaf Genealogy

  2. Thanks for the video – interesting & helpful. Mr. Smith emphasizes putting lots of information into filename (e.g., Jones-Charles-1809-South-Carolina-Death). That’s ok, but I find a better way is to use a “good enough” filename, along with the file’s metadata. In Windows, you can add things like a Title, Subject, Comments, and “Tags” to a photo or document file. In the above example, I would add a Tag called “Charles Jones” to every photo/document about that person. Then later I can use the Search feature in Windows Explorer to easily find all files tagged with his name. You can put locations, doc types (e.g., Death Cert.), etc. in the Tags.

  3. Pingback: Organize Your Digital Files: Tips From Genealogy Guy Drew Smith – Qualicum Beach Family History Society

  4. I have the book “Organize Your Genealogy…” by Drew Smith. Would you recommend naming digital photos using the same method as suggested in the book for documents? I don’t remember reading anything about photo organizing. I use Mac and can’t decide whether to just put photos in a file labeled Photo Library, the Mac Photos app, or invest in a software program such as Photo Shop.

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