©2021 by Donald R. Snow -- Page last updated 2021-12-09

Return to the  Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page  or  Don's Class Listings Page .
ABSTRACT: An old proverb says, "When a person dies, an entire library is lost."  If a person doesn't leave accessible information about their life, their descendants in about two generations will know almost nothing about them. Technology can be a major help in keeping track of what has happened in your own or a relative's life.  This class will show how to find and label items such as documents, articles, news clippings, etc., so they become searbhable and appear in chronological order automatically for each person.  With this file naming system items jump to where they belong without you having to move them there.  The class notes for this presentation and related information in other articles, all with active links, are posted at .


  1. Instructor is Donald R. Snow ( ) of Provo and St. George, Utah, United States.
  2. These notes and other related articles, all with active Internet links, are posted on my website .
  3. To see these notes in a different language paste the above link into Google > Translate (Go to Google, click on the icon with 3 rows of 3 dots > Translate) > Text; set the languages from English to whatever you want, and click on the URL in the translated box -- you will see all these notes, and anything you click on in them, in the new language, until you enter a new URL in your browser.
  4. Tips:  (1)  To put an icon on your desktop for these notes, or any webpage, just drag the icon from in front of the address in your browser to your desktop.  (2)  To open a link from here in another tab, so you keep your place in these notes, hold down the Control key while clicking the link.
  5. The problem for this class: How to find, save, and label items so they becme searchable and automatically sort in chronological order for each person. 

  7. Types of documents and articles to consider:
    1. Vital records, indices, articles, and certificates for birth, marriage, death, etc
    2. Church records and certificates for membership, blessings, baptisms, ordination, Individual Ordinance Summaries, directories, recommends, callings, and missions
    3. Journals, diaries, appointment books
    4. School and education, report cards, transcripts, yearbooks, news, programs 
    5. Programs participated in, sports, plays, music, speaking, hobbies, vocations, avocations
    6. Occupation records, city directories, organization directories 
    7. Articles from newspapers, newsletters, magazines, books
    8. Portraits (but not ordinary snapshots since there may by many and a different naming systems work better for those)
    9. Letters, personal, family, missionary, Christmas
    10. Genealogy, family group sheets, pedigree charts, screenshots from FamilySearch Family Tree and other genealogy databases
    11. Miscellaneous -- any other items you can think of; if in doubt, include it.
  8. Collecting and organizing documents and articles is a major start in keeping track of a life, your own or a relative's 
  9. Digitizing such collections will be helpful and you need to keep track of where each item came from.
  10. A digital collection can be  updated and reproduced easily, unlike a book, and people, youth in particular, can read it on mobile devices
  11. Once digitized, items can be reproduced and your hard copy documents are not the only copy in existence, in case of disasters. 
  12. Start by scanning and digitizing documents and artifacts you already possess.

  14. Google and other search engines help find information online; be sure to search for various combinations of the name, e.g. "donald * snow" and "don snow"; the Google AROUND command helps too, "donald AROUND(5) snow" (with no quotes) picks up the search terms with up to 5 words between; also check for other search syntax to help in searches
  15. Use a screenshot program, e.g. FASTSTONE CAPTURE, to make a copy of what you find; FASTSTONE even does scrolling screen windows; the old free version 5.1 is still available, but the newer versions are inexpensive shareware  

  17. File names should help you know what's in the file without having to open it
  18. Here is a system I have developed to do this and so they sorts in chronological order for each person
  19. If you already have a system that works for you, just use the parts of my system that will help, but be consistent; then later, you can modify whatever you want all at once.
  20. File names can have up to 255 characters in Windows, but that includes the path to the file and the 3-character file extension. 
  21. Example of my file naming system:  ManwaringDiane(Snow)(1934-2012)-2012-10-13-DEATH-NEWS-OBITUARY-SaltLakeDeseretNews--Ancestry-com--2014-04-10.pdf
  22. Using the woman's maiden name is standard in genealogy and allows all files pertaining to her to sort together, both before and after marriage
  23. Including married name in parentheses helps with identification at a glance and in searching
  24. Including birth and death years makes time period clear and distinguishes people with same name, so no need for Jr. or Sr., unless that really was part of their name
  25. Event date after the name and in International Date Format, YYYY-MM-DD, makes all files for that person sort together chronologically and gives a timeline of their life -- event date put anywhere else or in different format would not sort chronologically
  26. Event keywords allow finding and sorting by event, but still chronologically; can use as many keywords as you want; some I use are BIRTH, MARRIAGE, DEATH, NEWS, OBITUARY, LDS, DOC, SCHOOL, EDUCATION, CENSUS, LETTER, MEDICAL, DIRECTORY, YEARBOOK, PORTRAIT, MILITARY, TALK, and AUDIO
  27. For files pertaining to their entire life, I use keywords such as HISTORY, JOURNAL, BIO, GENEALOGY, and PEDIGREE between the name and event date, so these still sort with the person, but after the chronological files
  28. I don't leave spaces in file names since some programs put characters such as percent signs, in empty spaces and make them harder to read
  29. Files named this way jump right to where they belong automatically without you having to move them there -- See the program EVERYTHING below -- and you can see what's in the file without opening it 
  30. Files can be put in separate folders, but EVERYTHING finds them wherever they are on your computer and sorts them by person and in order  
  31. Portraits named this way sort in chronological order; snapshots would too, but there may be too many, so I have developed a different labeling system for those 

  33. EVERYTHING is a free program for Windows that finds files anywhere on your computer for the search terms you enter -- available from ; there are similar programs for MACs
  34. Works fast, finds all resulting files wherever they are on your computer and shows them in alphabetical, and hence, chronological order, if named as above; to sort in other ways click on the column title, e.g. sort by path   
  35. Program is also a major help in file maintenance for finding, renaming, moving, copying, and deleting files.
  36. Use it to find files on your computer that you have forgotten;, e.g. find all pdfs by searching for ".pdf" (no quotes); relabel them so they go where they belong 

  38. For yourself start now gathering and organizing items, since only you can tell your own story fully and our memories get worse with age.
  39. If you already have a system that works for you, continue to use it and only add parts of my system that will help, but be consistent, since later you can modify your labels all at once, if you decide to.
  40. Use EVERYTHING to find things already on your computer and rename them so you can find them later.  
  41. Don't try to do this all at once, since it is too large a task, but start small and maybe just use this system for new items, until you have time to go back.
  42. Keep in mind:  "Small deeds done are better than big deeds planned."  Good luck!

  43. Return to the  Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page  or  Don's Class Listings Page .