Genealogy File and Folder Organization System for Mac, Part 9

Many Mac users don’t know that folder icons can be changed. Using unique folder icons is important because it helps you to quickly find the desired folder without reading through a list of folder names. After a short time with new folder icons you will find navigating in the Finder takes less mental effort. What genealogist wouldn’t rather save brain power for pursuing elusive evidence? Changing icons is a medium difficulty task and it’s made easier by following along with the video below.

Visit TheIconFactory and download a free set of icons called Agua Leopard Folders before watching the video.

Now you’re ready to start the video and follow along. Enjoy the effects of the nice, new icons. Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment.


  1. Rupert Cuddon-Large says

    Thank you SO much for what you do, Ben , it is always helpful and informative….Have now worked through all your basic set up Tutorials and am setting up similar files on my iMac. One question : how do you file paper letters and emails ? I have some thirty years of these in many ringbinder files, “sorted” first by surname, then by date. Some are very precious and many correspondents have now passed away. They usually come from one person but deal with many people and places. What do you do??

    • Ben Sayer says

      Create “correspondence” folders in the surname folders. Put the images in the respective correspondence folders with a naming scheme that includes the correspondent’s name, the date of correspondence, and page number. Put a list of the surnames in the comments metadata field for each image file..

      • Rupert Cuddon-Large says

        Thank you Ben, that sounds good.
        Not quite sure about the last point, “…list of the surnames in the comments metadata field for each image file” ????
        Help please.

        • Ben Sayer says

          Control-click an image file in the Finder then click Get Info in the context menu. You’ll see a dialog with the Comments field among other info. Text you put in the Comments field is searched by Spotlight.

          • Rupert Cuddon-Large says

            Thanks once again Ben. Not used Spotlight much – good chance to get used to it now.

  2. Kaye Mushalik says

    Rupert, saw a great webinar yesterday on how to organize the physical papers, photos, etc. you want to keep. I had started using the system recently. The webinar recording will be free on the site for about a week. After that, you have to have a subscription to their Webinar site. I highly recommend this system…like Ben’s for the computer, it’s simple, but effective! Love their webinars because they’re not just for their genealogy program…they’re free and cover all kinds of genealogy topics! Go to:

  3. Rupert Cuddon-Large says

    Thanks Kaye, very helpful. Liked that webinar. I like the colour coding ideas, but not sure about the large boxes – they look really heavy to move around, especially as I get older !! Its Ben’s computer filing system that really interests me as ideally , i would like to use the Mac to store everything, or at least the majority of my thirty odd years of research to date. It seems very quick to set up, plus I don’t have to buy a load of files and boxes and sundries, and have a large physical set up to accommodate. Ben, with your system, I can have my complete family history – all files, photos , media, etc with me on a small hard drive, and easily carry it around; and have copies for safety etc. At present , I have some sixty or so A4 ring binders, and I prefer the idea of making these all digital. My only concern is to know how the system looks when its all set up, and particularly how easy it is to retrieve information from the computer. Presume Ben, yours is all set up and runs well now?

  4. Cheryl Martin says

    Ben, thank you so much for these videos. I’ve read about a lot of systems for naming files but yours is the first one that made sense to me. Maybe I can persuade all those files to get organized now! Thanks!

      • says

        What a great series.. Can’t believe you got so much in such a short series. Thanks. I am going to take my WHOLE genealogy folder and see if I can do this with out. Do you have a similar system for resources; articles by topic, forms, and other things?
        Marianne H

  5. Steve Kunnmann says

    Ben, not sure, but didn’t you have another series that had a set-up where the Surname folders had subfolders for things like birth, death, census etc.? There the files had the persons last, first, middle i the files names, and all people of the surname appeared there? That is what I have done. Do I have someone else’s system in mind?

    Steve K.

    • Ben Sayer says

      Hi Steve.

      No, my system doesn’t recommend what you describe. It could certainly be done and in no way that I can think of conflicts with it.

      With best regards,

      —-Ben >@<

  6. Donna Hodson says

    Hello Ben,

    I have tried to watch your videos on how to set up the files on the Mac. Most of them stop repeatedly and will not allow me to watch through to the end. Is there a way this can be fixed?

    Also, I noticed all your surnames were in one folder and there seems to be quite a few….does this mean you make folders for the wife’s (maiden name) surname as well?

    • Ben Sayer says

      Hi Donna. The way I handle maiden and married names is in part four. Perhaps that’s one of the videos you experienced trouble viewing.

      I just watched parts four and nine and experienced no stopping. I suspect the problem is on your end–probably with your Internet connection, possibly with your web browser. If you try to watch the same video twice, does it stop in the same place?

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