How to name media?

Hi Im trying to sort out my media as they are in a terrible mess.
I want to re label them to make it easier to find what I want. Any ideas please. Should I if a census put something like England and Wales 1911 census- Mary Wright m George Bedford -or something simpler? The way I label them on my laptop is very different it works for me there but not on RM8.
Woould love to see how others manage theirs ty

You are probably going to get a wide variety of very good ideas. The problem is still going to be that you will need to come up something that coincides with the way you think and with the way you organize things and that works for you. Any time I have ever tried to use somebody else’s exact system, it doesn’t work well for me.

That being said, I’m going to list a bunch of example media file names from my system. I think the examples will give you some more useful ideas than if I tried to list the actual rules I use.

peters_alva_edward_kns_obit_1942.jpg     (kns is Knoxville News-Sentinel)
peters_alva_edward_kj_obit_1942.jpg        (kj is Knoxville Journal)
abner_thurman_keith_obit_1997.jpg (obit was online, not from a newspaper)
bryan_joe_2012_12_28_phone_interview.txt (my summary from a phone call  - the person is the source, not "phone call")
barnes_martha_truan_email_2014_12_20.eml (email file from a cousin - the person is the source not "email")
bryan_matthew_facebook_2013_05_02.jpg (facebook posting about a birth - the person is the source, not "facebook")
stapleton_sandie_j_and_adam_christopher_grave.jpg (image of stone)
wright_anna_kristine_grave.jpg (image of stone)
peters_antoinette_grave.gpx (gpx file has GPS coordinates)
wilkes_county_marriages_1778-1868_page_045.jpg (this is a book, not the courthouse marriage record)
peters_william_daily_and_delia_a_weaver_marriage_return_1890.jpg (courthouse record)
peters_william_daily_and_delia_a_weaver_marriage_bond_1890.jpg (courthouse record)
peters_william_daily_and_delia_a_weaver_marriage_license_1890.jpg (courthouse record)
underwood_burl_the_underwoods_p287.jpg (a book "The Underwoods" by Burl Underwood - the author is the source)

Thank you very much Jerry that gives me a really good insight of how to approach it . As you said I will be able to tweak it to my own needs ty again.

I try to do something that helps me organize my files. I organize my media by family folders. I use the person’s reference number to start, followed by a picture designation using a, b, c, etc. just to separate pictures (I always save “a” for the person’s primary photo). Then I use the person’s last name, first name and then a type designation like census, birthcert, etc. Sometimes I add a date or page number. As an old computer user, I separate out each of these by an underline.

Folder: SMITH_James_821_JONES_Mary_822
File: 821b_SMITH_James_birthcert.jpg or 821c_SMITH_James_1910USCensus_P13a.jpg

1 Like

I do my main information like that on my laptop maybe I should do it the same on RM8 TY John for your advice xx

I’m not sure what you mean by Reference Number. If it’s a number you have assigned in the Reference Number fact, then using the number in file names should be fine. You have total control over such numbers and RM will not change them.

But if it’s really the RM Record Number (also called a RIN), then you don’t have control of the number and it can change - for example by merge operations or by copying your data to a different database. Such changes can invalidate the number in media files names.

1 Like

There is a maximum number of characters allowed on Windows systems for the path+file names. If memory serves, that is 260 characters. You fix this limitation but changing the registry key LongPathsEnabled.

Windows folks use hyphens or dashes in names and used to be limited to 32 characters which leads to really clunky file names. Macs don’t have such limits.

A good approach is a folder of nested subfolders of files named the way you think to locate information. I use family folders (smith john jones mary) and files named by the person and data type (smith john census 1921…grave…birth…etc). Grouping data in subfolders lets you easily see what you have and don’t have).

If you are starting with one folder with a jumble of files you can select related files and use a mac batch rename and new folder routine. Windows probably has something similar.

Windows hasn’t had those limits in many years. We can use spaces, parens and lots of other characters. We can also have file paths of upwards of 32,000 characters with the condition that no one part of the path can be greater than 256 characters…so the filename can be up to 256 characters, the folder it is in can be another 256 characters and the fold that the folder is in can be yet another 256 characters. If that is not enough to accurately name a file, then someone needs to revisit their naming scheme.

And another one:
Genealogy is person-centered, so all files are named for my principal person’s surname, the date of the event, then location, then what. It is Who-When-Where-What. Even census records are titled for my important person in the household, so What can be HOH or FactName. I just learned that “Family-FileName Media” is backed-up and restored as a single folder so this naming convention will sort on Surname. Use “Search” to find census, location, date, marriage, or death. Have fun.

I agree that genealogy is person centered, so for the most part my naming system is person centered rather than place or date centered. The one exception I do make is for census records, which I name in a place and date centered fashion. The reason is that one census image often includes not just multiple people from the same family but also multiple families who may or may not be related. I don’t want to have multiple copies of the same census image with different names for each family on the page. So I had to go with a place and date system for naming census images.

Hello Joan,
When it comes to storing my media files and making it easy to find a file at a later date, I file by surname/firstname/description. For example;
SMITH John 1881 England Census
SMITH John 1853 Birth Certificate
SMITH John 1910 Headstone image
SMITH John and WHITE Mary 1880 Marriage record
If I have more than one John Smith then I will add birth year ie
SMITH John b1853 1881 England Census
Whenever I’m looking for a media file, it’s always easy to find because everything is in alphabetical order.
I hope this helps.

Hi Joan, Adding my tuppence-worth to the thread…

Sounds as tho you are having fun!! By label I assume you mean the caption for an image. I have only ~700 people in my dB. My scheme is : yyyy is the full year, initials of the person, event is something like marr/bap/birth/census. Ex. 1825 HD bann The associated media file is
D:…\FamilyHistory\FamilyHistory_Images\Marriages\1825-09 Banns Ducrow Hannah AL.jpg Putting the year and month up front allows automatic sorting by filename in Windows File Explorer. I use an abbreviation for the source: AL is Ancestry Library - free access to the full Ancestry dB at the local library, even if it is for an hour!! Others abbreviations include FMP Find My Past, BMD FreeBMD… As you may have noticed, marriages are in their own folder: likewise census, birth, 1939 Register etc.

I’m not dealing with too many ‘foreign’ people and I can’t recall needing e.g. marriage certs from abroad. I put initials before event because Roots Magic may truncate the caption if the thumbnails are small: census is pretty general but HD is specific: if you can remember who HD is!! If you don’t use RM regularly, it might take a few goes to get back in the swing of things.

If you are dealing with JPGs, have you considered adding tags for the actual media files? Might be past the point of no return for you possibly. Win10: View, Panes, Detail view. Bit of a faff admittedly but you can annotate your JPG with additional, perhaps left field, info if need be. Searching for tags in Win10 is crap tho: enter tags: in the search box. Win7 was so much easier…

If you need to bulk rename the actual image files e.g. JPGs, may I recommend ReNamer ( I have the paid for version: I think the current freebie version (if it still exists) has limited profiles. It knocks spots off anything MS offers. HTH.

thank you everyone for your input going to look at all the ideas and find the one thats a best fit for me

The system I use is rather simple. I simply make categorize my documents. Births, deaths marriage etc. so each computer folder contains only that record. It eliminates having to tag each document like birth, death etc. the end result is knowing exactly where each type of document is located. Makes it much easier when storing in the cloud. So if you have a birth certificate Joe Smith. Just add the date to read. Joe Smith, 1905. Just place that document in the birth folder.

As I said, I think the way you name and organize files is very personal and what works well for one user may not work well at all for another user. And this scheme of naming the folder and and then placing the file within the folder is the way I did it for many years. I don’t criticize it at all.

But somewhere along the way, I transitioned to putting a bit more information in the file name, e.g. Joe Smith, Birth, 1905. When I first started out, it didn’t seem necessary or even desirable to include “Birth” in the filename if the file was already in the Birth folder. It seemed totally redundant. But ultimately I found that doing it that way worked for dozens of files or maybe even for hundreds of files, but not for many thousands of files. It simply did not scale up for me. There were simply too many times where what I was looking at was the file name without the context of the owning folder.

For example, consider RM8’s list of files and RM8’s really great search box. If all you search for is Joe Smith, all you will see is the file names, not the folder names. Well, you can see the folder names one at a time by highlighting one file at a time. But you can’t see all the folder names at the same time. The only thing you can see all at the same time is the file name. So I now include the type of file in the file name, even though the type of file is already in the folder name.

That’s what I do too. It never ceases to amaze me that we do so many things alike without prior knowledge of the other’s methods. I guess great minds think alike.