My genealogy / family history structure

I have thought long and hard about my structure for genealogy, family history and family media. This is what I came up with (for now). It is inspired by a lot of things: GenealogyTV, other YouTube channels, discussions on this forum with @dixonge and the genealogy discord and a lot of Reddit posts. This structure is mostly used within OneDrive (for now).


My main folder for this is 50-59 FamilyHistory as part of my whole system. My basic philosophy is to assign documents to individual people, families or a place. This is visible in the categories:

50-59 FamilyHistory/
β”œβ”€β”€ 50 Admin
β”œβ”€β”€ 51 Personal Records
β”œβ”€β”€ 52 Place Records
β”œβ”€β”€ 53 Media
└── 58 Communication

Some other ground rules:

  • If you don’t know a YYYY β†’ replace it with 0000
  • If you don’t know a MM-DD β†’ leave it out
  • Not sure about the date β†’ place a tilde (~) at the end

50 Admin

50 Admin/
β”œβ”€β”€ 50.00 INBOX
β”œβ”€β”€ 50.01 GEDCOM Exports
β”œβ”€β”€ 50.02 GRAMPS Exports
β”œβ”€β”€ 50.03 DigiKam Database
β”œβ”€β”€ 50.04 GRAMS Snapshot
β”œβ”€β”€ 50.05 Templates
└── 50.06 Trees

A folder for general management. Inbox is for all received or found documents/media yet to be processed by me. The other folders speak for themselves and give some spoilers for the next sections.

51 Personal Records

51 Personal Records/
β”œβ”€β”€ SURNAME Names bYYYY/
β”‚   β”œβ”€β”€ SURNAME Names YYYY-MM-DD EventType DocType [ExtraInfo]
β”‚   └── Who + When + What + WhatType
β”œβ”€β”€ SMITH John b1950/
β”‚   β”œβ”€β”€ _SMITH John b1950 notes.docx
β”‚   └── SMITH John 1950-05-30 Birth Cert Amsterdam.pdf
β”‚   └── SMITH John 2020-02-28 Death Cert Haarlem.pdf
└── SMITH John b1950 & DOE Jane b1954/
    └── SMITH John & DOE Jane 1975-08-25 Mar Cert Haarlem.jpg

This is the folder for records tied to people. If this is primarily a single person, it is in the persons folder, otherwise it is the family folder. The family folder always starts with the man, so there is a uniform way of finding them. You can also create a surname folder like SMITH _General or something like that, if you have documents spanning the whole surname.

Files can be pictures (jpg/png) but not pictures of people (see 53 Media). The basic filename format is given, a general persons file would start with a _ to sort to top. I use Dutch terms and abbreviaties, for example a birth (geboorte) would be β€˜Geb’. I keep these terms in am Excel file so I always use the same ones. It would become something like: SMITH John 1950-05-30 Geb Akte Amsterdam.pdf

Extra information can include place, type of education, external identification number or lots of other things.

The folders 51 and 52 are primarily managed through a FOSS genealogy software called GRAMPS. I use this to register all the facts I find and to cite my sources in great detail. It also has (semi-)great viewing and export options. It is very extensive software and has a somewhat steep learning curve, but I like it. It exports to it’s own format, but also standard GEDCOM.

52 Place Records

52 Place Records/
β”œβ”€β”€ CountryCode (2-letter), Place/
β”‚   β”œβ”€β”€ _CC, Place.docx
β”‚   β”œβ”€β”€ Street Number [Description]
β”‚   └── Building/Place [Description]
└── NL, Amsterdam/
    β”œβ”€β”€ _NL, Amsterdam.docx
    β”œβ”€β”€ Kalverstraat 1.txt
    β”œβ”€β”€ Kalverstraat 1.jpg
    └── Kalverstraat 1 Koop Akte.pdf

These are all records bound to a place/address/house and not a person or family. You can include names of the people involved in the document name or the description in a .txt or .docx.

53 Media

53 Media/
β”œβ”€β”€ SURNAME YYYY [description]
β”œβ”€β”€ SMITH 1935-1937~ Album 1
β”œβ”€β”€ SMITH 2019 Holiday Germany/
β”‚   β”œβ”€β”€ SMITH 2019 Holiday Germany 0001.jpg
β”‚   └── SMITH 2019 Holiday Germany 0002.jpg
└── SMITH 2020 John & DOE Jane General

This folder contains all media, meaning pictures and videos of people (or places). This is partly family history and partly present family media. The structure is built up using surname and year. It is mainly managed using DigiKam (also FOSS) to tag images with metadata. This mostly means tagging people (face recognition in DigiKam or manually), places and timeperiods. But you can also add a description for pictues or transcribe text written on the back. If you have your settings correct,

DigiKam will write this to it’s own database and the metadata of the picturefile itself. It is standard EXIF, so other software should be able to read it. Using these tags (and faces) let’s me filter out the exact pictures I want containing certain people and/or places.

I have general folders or album folders for certain years (with tagging this does not matter for findability). When an event (such as a holiday) contains a lot of pictures, I can split this out into it’s own folder. Or if more than 1-2 persons or families are involved.

58 Communication

58 Communication/
β”œβ”€β”€ 58.01 Communication Family
└── 58.02 Communication Organisation

For all communication with family members or organisations about family history. This one is also used within Outlook.

Closing Thoughts

This is my structure for now, but maybe with new insights this will change (again). If you have some thoughts or questions, feel free to reply. I am really interested in your reactions.

This was so detailed and well thought-out that it felt like a lesson in genealogy! A topic about which I confess to know very little.

Given that caveat, I can say that this does feel beautifully organised. Obviously you’ve abandoned JD IDs inside a few of your categories there but that seems to make sense.

An ID is only any good if it serves some purpose. In these circumstances it feels obvious that you’d have no cause to use an ID, and so it’d just be getting in the way. Good decision.

Now I’m curious, what’s the Dutch version of β€˜SMITH, JOHN’?…

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