Genealogy File and Folder Organization System for Mac, Part 3

This screencast completes the series on how to create a system of folders in which to store your genealogy and family history files. In future articles I’ll show you the secret sauce that will make this folder system even more valuable.

The video will show you step-by-step, how to create a folder for surnames and folders for people with that name. It also presents a specific naming convention for the people folders that eliminates confusion over different people with the same name.

Next article in the series: Genealogy File and Folder Organization System for Mac, Part 4, People with Multiple Names.


  1. Vicki says

    Do you also put a folder for your grandmother in a surname folder with her maiden name? Since reunion files everyone under their given birth name, it seems that you may have duplication by having married women filed under their spouses surname folder. Just curious.

    Great screencasts!! Thanks for taking the time to do it.


  2. says

    Vicki, you are very close to my suggested solution. I recommend creating an alias to the folder in a surname folder bearing her maiden name. I also recommend adding the maiden name to the folder name. This is all covered in screencast 4, Using Mac Finder Aliases for Genealogy Files, Part 1, People with Multiple Names.
    I’m not sure I follow your point about Reunion. Are referring to the way Reunion will link to the external files? If so, that’s a benefit of using aliases. There is only one original file and one or more aliases (pointers) to it. Reunion 9 treats the aliases just like the actual file, just as it should. If that was not your point, can you please explain it a different way? I value your input and want to understand.
    Thanks and you’re welcome!


  3. Dee Seymour says

    Hi Ben
    Many thanks for these three videos. I am now finding it so easy to file away masses of information amassed over the years and be sure I can retrieve it when needed. You are amazing,
    From a grateful fan

  4. says

    In the “My Family History” folder do you suggest having a folder for photos as well? Or, are you suggesting the photos be filed in the corresponding Surname folder? The majority of all my photos are stored in iPhoto. Is there a better way for them to be included in the My Family History folder? Can aliases be created for photos in iPhoto?

    • Margaret Murdock says

      Yes, I am really puzzled about whether or not and how to utilize iPhoto, especially since currently I am using Family Tree Maker 2012 (Windows version) in Parallels on my mac. I had to locate the FTM folder in My Documents on the Windows side in order for some functions to work. I don’t think Windows likes iPhoto. In fact, I’m not sure I like iPhoto – it moves things automatically into categories like events & photos without asking me, and I can’t figure out where the actual image files are located in order to connect them with other software. But I know other people think it’s great and I would like to use the facial identification/recognition feature. Maybe if I knew how to use it, it would be really helpful, particularly in connection with genealogy images. So as Fran J. asked, can you fit iPhoto into your system somehow? Her post was 2 years ago – do you have another post somewhere about this?

      • says

        I wouldn’t access the photos in iTunes by linking to files in its folders.

        I keep photos in iPhoto and my own folder structure.

  5. Deborjha Blackwell says

    These video tutorials are lifesavers!!! I am learning so much that will make my record keeping less tedious. Thank you so much.

  6. rosinalg says

    I’m new, so please bear with me if I use the wrong terminology. This may seem elementary but I want to make sure I’ve understood. Once I have a folder made for a person, all multimedia materials relevant to that person go into that folder. Census, photos, birth certificates, etc. etc. It seems to me that you’d want to have a set of folders inside the individual’s folder for each of these categories, no? Rather than jumble everything all together.

    In a different but related matter — tell me if I’m wrong on this, but it seems to make most sense to have a woman’s primary folder be under her maiden name, with aliases copied to her married surname folder or folders, if she’s married more than once. Her married name can change, but her maiden name will not. No?

    • Ben says

      You certainly could create sub-folders within the person folder. I prefer to be able to visually scan through all the files at once without navigating sub-folders. It’s a personal preference so go with what works for you.

      Because you’re using aliases it makes no difference which name you use for the aliased folder (the one to which the aliases point). I create the primary folder using whatever name I discover first which is usually a married name. Then I create alias folders using alternate names as I discover them. This could be a maiden name or married name.

  7. Marie says

    Ben, I am going to attempt to explain what I’ve done so far.

    I have started to transfer some of my family tree files from the external drive. I started with my paternal grandparents which has eight generations dating back to 1555. Each generation is numbered from 1 through 8 and contains vital records, deeds, census and city directories as well as a folder labeled “children and spouses”. If I select generation 8 it contains vital records for my grandparents, deeds, etc. Select the folder for children & spouses of that couple it contains all the information that has been collected thus far. This is how it was set up on the PC. I have used your alias system for the census, city directories and deeds which works well.

    My grandparents had a very large family with 15 children so when you get to the spouses and grandchildren and spouses it is becoming huge. Saying nothing of the gr grandchildren and so on which I haven’t started yet.

    I have done research on each of the eight generations and have a lot of information collected on each.

    When I transfered the files I named the document folder ” ‘Surname’ Family Tree” instead of “my family tree”. Then I set up Places and Surnames as you suggested. Under surnames I transferred the eight generations numbered 1 through 8 as it was in the PC file. This automatically transferred the children and spouses, etc.

    As I said this is only one of my lines. As I look at this my thoughts are to create a folder within the document folder for each of the lines “trees” named with their surname and create another surname folder which will contain that families records. I would use the same place folder for everyone. I think this would make it easier to find the individual families, their ancestors and descendants as opposed to being in the same surname column.

    What are your thoughts? Any suggestions?

  8. Ric says

    OK. I created my folders and set it all up and it works great. However, now I want to share it with my family members who have macs, but now the alias’s don’t work! Is there a “relative” versus “absolute” alias way of fixing this? Or is all this work strictly confined to my computer?


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