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Often in my classes I am asked what is the best method of storing pictures on a computer, after they have been scanned or digitally uploaded or downloaded. The questioner typically raises certain issues associated with those pictures. The issues include: A particular person may be called or thought of as John Smith in one picture, J.D. Smith in another and his full name may not as yet have been determined; a person may have several interesting pictures – one on a horse, one in a car, yet another sitting on a porch.

And it may not have been determined how a particular picture might be used. One may be used as an insert into a Register Report. Another may be used in an Ahnentafel Report. Several may be used to indicate the growth and appearance of a person over time in a biography. In  other words, the use of pictures will not be determined until you have accumulated considerable research and made the decision as to what will be the legacy of your work, a book, a biography, a novel, whatever is decided.

Here is what I do.

Every genealogical program I have seen gives each person added to the database a unique number. It may be called a Person ID, a RIN (or Record Identification Number) or some such.  Some systems such as Reunion show this number  in rather obvious places; other systems such as Family Treemaker and Legacy make you work a bit to find the number. But the number can be found and will be unique to a person.

Among the important Folders on my computer is one entitled “Pictures.” I place all pictures in this folder using the following format:

PERSON ID NAME DESCRIPTION

So, for example this might be some of the pictures:

•  00410            Smith, J.D, – Standing on porch

• 00640            Henry, Bob

• 00690            Jones, Robert Marvin  – Riding a horse

• 00690            Jones, Robert Marvin  - Standing in doorway

• 00690            Jones, Robert M – home

• 02003            Brown, Sam

Now let’s say I am populating a Register Report with pictures. When I get to Bob Henry, I can get his ID number 00640, go to the pictures folder and find him easily as the Person ID number will be maintained  alphabetically, which in this case will be by number.

Some genealogy programs permit pictures to be housed within the program. The problem I have with this is it does enlarge your database considerably and makes backup more expensive. Some programs permit multiple, multimedia attachments for people with a naming convention such as Child, College, Job, Retirement and so forth. This can become a great deal of work as your concept of final use will probably change over time and send you back into the system to alter many descriptions. A taxonomy is hard to pre-determine, I have found.

My system presents an easily implemented method, with easy retrieval. I need to backup only two files – the database and the Pictures Folder. I can hold any kind of picture, notice the picture of Robert Jones’ Home.

And do notice the xxxxx format to anticipate 99,999 people since none of us know how big our database of people will end up.

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