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Visit to the Koonces

At the end of August, I went on a nice, long 2.5-week vacation – it was lovely! Half of my trip was dedicated to visiting my Koonce genealogy friends in Wisconsin. I’ve blogged before about them – John & Dan – and our excursions in Tennessee to do Koonce genealogy research (here and here). I had a wonderful stay of about 5 days between visiting both of them and their families and we were able to spend quite a bit of time talking about our common Koonce genealogy interests.

John has been researching Koonce families for more than 40 years – so he has QUITE the collection; not only for his personal Koonce family but also from other Koonce families. For example, his family is fortunate to have a series of journals his dad kept for many years, including one dating back to 1926.

1926 journal of John’s dad, Robert A. Koonce


I learned about Koonces appearing in magazines, such as President Bill Clinton’s prom date Jackie Koonce – their picture appeared in a 1997 issue of People Magazine.

President Bill Clinton and prom date, Jackie Koonce

There is a variety of pear called the “Koonce Pear” that had almost become extinct

the Koonce pear

And John gifted me a Koonce Kin hat given our common surname.

Koonce Kin hat


Then, I traveled downstate a few hours to visit a few days with Dan, who is working to follow-up and preserve his Koonce family history too! He’s been capturing John’s work and research and will put together a book.

some of John’s research

Additionally, Dan keeps many Koonce artifacts tucked away and I was tickled to see in the room an engraving of a store that we saw in person on our last research trip to Fayetteville in Lincoln County, Tennessee.

old store in Fayetteville, TN (I took this picture in 2015)

wood engraving of the old store in Fayetteville, TN

Not only was it great to visit with my friends, see parts of this country I’ve never seen before, and spend time with them and their families, but I also go to “talk shop” and do genealogy while there. Even visited a cemetery to take pictures for BillionGraves (because, of course, that’s what a genealogist does! the dots are the pictures I took).

Maiden Rock Cemetery on BillionGraves

I still have much to process, organize, and file from the research John shared with me and get it added to my Koonce Surname Project website. But, overall, I had a wonderful time and am already trying to figure out when I can go back!!!



My Digital Photo Organization: Principle 3- Backup Plan

As I write this, we are in the midst of photo saving month here in September – which is perfect timing for this current post as I continue in the sharing of my digital photo management processes. Post 1 was about gathering photos in one place and in Post 2 I shared my file naming strategies. In this post, I’ll describe my backup plan for my photos.

The Plan

I’ve chosen to adhere to the common principle of 3-2-1. Have 3 copies of my info, copies on at least two devices, and one of those copies should be geographically separate from me. Ultimately, the idea is that “lots of copies keeps stuff safe” – the more places you have your digital photos, the higher the chance they will stay safe from loss, disaster, etc.

One way you can carry this out is to have your photos 1) on your desktop/laptop, 2) on an external hard drive, and 3) cloud storage using a backup service like iDrive, BackBlaze (there are many options). In this scenario, you’ve got:

  • 3 copies – desktop/laptop, external hard drive, cloud service
  • 2 platforms – desktop/laptop, external hard drive
  • 1 copy geographically separate from you – the cloud backup service

backup plan

What is My Approach?

I use Forever as my primary home for my digital photos. I’ve written before why I have chosen this platform. Forever is cloud-based and they have your files backup-up on multiple servers across the country. That’s wonderful! But, because of the 3-2-1 backup principle, it is important to me personally that I keep my files in another place other than cloud-only.

To that end, I download my pictures from Forever every 1-2 weeks and save them to my Google Drive account. I then use iDrive to backup my Google Drive account.

  • 3 copies – Forever, Google Drive on my laptop, iDrive
  • 2 platforms – in the cloud (via Forever and iDrive) and locally on my laptop via Google Drive
  • 1 copy geographically separate from me – via Forever cloud and iDrive

I feel completely covered! If Forever were to go out of business, I still have all of my photos (including all the metadata I’ve added) because I have them on my laptop and in iDrive. If my laptop crashes, I still have everything online. If Google Drive or iDrive cease to be available, I’ve got my photos in Forever and locally as well.

Whatever options work best for you, definitely try to work towards this 3-2-1 principle! Your precious photo memories will be much better off for it. If you have a plan in place, tell me about it in the comments below.

Disclaimer: The link to FOREVER is a referral link, so if you sign up for a free account (which comes with 2GB of storage space), we both get a coupon.

My Digital Photo Organization: Principle 2 – Naming Files

This post is part of a series I am writing on my digital photo/file organization, based on a presentation I recently presented.  Post 1 gave an overview of the talk and my SOAP analogy.

In my SOAP analogy for how I manage my digital photos, the “S” stands for “Save”. I previously wrote (post #2) about the first principle I work from regarding saving photos – that of gathering all of my photos into one place.

A second principle I adhere to related to saving my photos is being cognizant of how I name my files and using approaches that help my computer do work on my behalf. When naming my files, I follow suggestions offered by The Family Curator. Specifically, I:

avoid using special characters –  this means I do not use symbols. A list of special characters and reasons for not using them can be found at

keep my file names as short as I can – I can do this by not being overly descriptive in the file name. I save descriptions for metadata, which I will talk about in a future blog post. Short can be relative, but I am always careful not to make it too long. I also use sequential ordering rather than create specific file names if I have photos all from one event. Example, if I take 50 pictures at a wedding, they will get named something like “2019-06-01_nancy-wedding-01.jpg”, “2019-06-01_nancy-wedding-02.jpg” etc. Because software programs make it easy to do this in seconds, sequential file naming saves time! Again, the details go in the metadata, not the file name.

begin my file names with a date  – this is so that the computer does the sort for me. I think in chronological terms, so this is ideal as when my files are in a directory, I can let the computer sort them in chronological order since the year comes first, then the month, then the day. The format to use is YYYY-MM-DD.

One challenge I have encountered is what to do when I do not have an exact date for a photo. In the present day, photos we take with our cell phones all have the exact date and time stamp, so those are easy. But, we may not have this benefit for older photos that we may have scanned in, or obtained some other way. In these cases, I still use the date format, but I use fill-in characters to approximate.

  • If I do not know the year, I put as many digits as I can and then use an “x” for the place in the year I do not know. If I have a photo that I can be pretty sure was taken in the 1950s, I will begin the file name with “195x”.  If I only know the century, I could begin the file name with “19xx”.
  • If I do not know the month, I put “00”. So, if I have a photo I know was taken in 1952 but do not know anything else, the filename begins with “1952-00”.
  • Let’s say I know the year, the month, but not the day? In that case, I will have a format like “1952-05-00”.

In addition to using this naming convention, if I do not know the exact date, I also make a note in the descriptive metadata of the image. By following these practices, I can easily sort my photos chronologically. If the date is approximate, then the sort still works – it just puts the approximate date photos listed before the exact date photos.

Following these practices does wonders for helping me stay organized and keeping my files tidy!





My Digital Photo Organization: Principle 1 – Gather Into One Place

Last week, I posted about a presentation I did for the Genealogical Society of Maury County on digital photo management and shared some of the details of my presentation. In follow-up, I thought it would be helpful to share details of my specific approach. This is the first in a series of posts where I will share what I do and perhaps it will spark some ideas for you.

The first principle I covered in the talk was to get all of your digital photos into one place so that the sorting process can be done effectively. I did this with my physical photos (gathered them all up into place) and it is time for me to do this right for my digital photos that I have everywhere. Once they are in one place, you know exactly where to go to get to your pictures.

The challenge, though, is that we have pictures in many different places. Personally, my digital photos come from three sources1) files saved in various directories all over my Google Drive account (including those that were synced to my Google Photos account, 2), photos I and my family members take on our cell phones, and 3) files I have on CDs. Let me share how I am handling each of these.

Files saved in Google Drive directories — For these, I merged all of my various folders into one directory, that I have named “_Photo Sorting Hub”. I am using the underscore at the beginning of the file name because I want to have it show up at the top of my file listing. With all of the folders now consolidated, I see that I have 35,000 photos/documents in my hub! That is a lot of pictures! Some are duplicate, I know, but still! Oh, and though the folder is called “Photo Hub” – it does contain documents (I tend to save my documents as images) and videos as I will organize these as well.

my photo hub folders

Photos on our cell phones – for cell phone pictures, I use Forever as a consolidation point for the family. I have permanent digital storage space there for my photos, past and present. For the photos I take, I regularly curate which ones I will keep and then I upload them into my Forever account. For the photos my family members take, they have free accounts (which includes 2GB of space) and can upload their photos to it. I am an Account Manager on their accounts, which means I can go into their account and copy over any photos I want to keep for the family archive. So far, I’ve gotten my husband, mom, sister, and brother set up – I still need to get the kids set up. No more asking them to email the pictures I want – they upload it and I grab the photo in full resolution. If I were to capture them from their social media accounts, I usually would not be able to get the full resolution photo, so an upload of the original file to Forever is better – and so convenient!

family accounts

Files saved on CDs – this is a whole other monster! Stack 1 has my mini-CDs, Stack 2 has my CDs, and you know what Stack 3 is? Floppy discs and zip disks. My laptop has a CD drive, so I can read the CDs, but I do not have the ability to read the floppy or zip disks. This 3rd stack does not have many pictures as they are mostly old work files, so, I am glad not to have to mess with those for now. For Stack 1 and 2 – most of these I think I transferred over to Google Drive, but I need to go through them all and double-check. Once I have confirmed, I will throw away the discs  I don’t even want to think about how many more thousands of pictures this will add to my hub folder!

old discs

I am about to go on vacation and guess what is coming with me? Stacks 1 and 2 above! I will work on transferring photos from those mini-CDs and regular size CDs into my photo hub folder and then focus my time on the curation, organization, and metadata-labeling process (writing descriptions of each picture in a way that embeds it digitally with the file). I am using Forever as my permanent, online archival home and thus my family will have access to our treasure trove for generations to come.

If you are wanting to step your photo/document organization game up, gathering into one place is the 1st step. I would love to hear from you if you’ve done this, are in the midst of doing it, or are even just thinking about it!

Disclaimer: The link to FOREVER is a referral link, so if you sign up for a free account (which comes with 2GB of storage space), we both get a site coupon.







Always Bring this Card With You…

Back in March of 2014, I blogged about a set of medical appointment cards that my maternal grandmother kept throughout her lifetime (note – most of the images in that post are broken – I need to fix that). The cards are amazing if you ask me, because while they appear, at first, to just be simple record-keeping of going to the doctor’s office, the fact that she had a collection of more than 60 of them that span a 20-year time period, AND cover all 4 of her kids and a grandkid – that makes for opportunities to add to the family history!

While I’d had the cards safely stored in one place, I decided a couple of weeks ago to really get on the ball and digitize and organize them. I started by putting them in chronological order. I then used my cell phone to take pictures, which I chose to do on purpose rather than use my flatbed scanner. Her earliest card is almost 70 years old now as it was from when she was carrying my now deceased uncle Stanley, whom she had in 1950. After taking the picture, I placed them in 12×12 scrapbook-style pocket pages. I use these for my physical photos too. They are archival quality and I like having my photos (now these cards) organized in 12×12 albums.

grandma's medical cards

My grandmother’s clinic appointment cards

I have added them to my permanent digital family archives at I set up an album called “Grandma Alice Clinic Cards” and it has 5 albums – albums for her and her 4 children. One of the features I love about Forever is the ability to do nested albums. This is something I was not able to do when I used Google Photos. And, since I love to be organized, having nested albums are ideal for me!

Within the “Alice” album is where I have all the cards that pertain to her care.

Alice album

Clicking on an individual picture brings up a detailed view. Here is where we see the filename I have put on the picture, the description, the date taken, my tags, and the information on the album the image is in. All of the descriptive metadata is compliant with industry standards and stays with the picture when it is downloaded. The ability to add industry-standards compliant metadata to my images is of utmost importance in my digital photo management strategy.

I am quite happy that I have the cards done now and filed away for safekeeping. My immediate family members have access to my Forever account so with the apps installed on their phones, they can get into my profile and access these anytime and from any location they wish.

I had to chuckle because many of these cards have the phrase “Always bring this card with you” and it is clear that my grandmother held true to that sentiment. Now, we will always have the cards too.

Disclaimer: The link I include above to FOREVER Storage is a referral link, so if you sign up for a free account (which comes with 2GB of storage space), we both get a $10 coupon.

Using SOAP for Digital Photo Management

taneya in front of maury county archives

This evening, I gave a presentation to the Genealogical Society of Maury County about managing digital photos. We had a great crowd and there were many questions that came up from the group.

bars of soap

I covered 4 principles in my talk:

    • Saving photos
    • Organizing photos (including how & why to add metadata)
    • Accessing your photos
    • Preserving your photos

Using the first letter of each element spells SOAP. We use soap when we clean right? I thought it would be interesting to use the acronym SOAP for thinking about important principles to consider when cleaning up your digital photo strategy! As genealogists, we tend to think about our OLD photos, but we also have photos from our more recent lives that need to be managed to as they, one day, will become historical photos.

Here is a bit more detail about what I covered.

  • Saving photos – I covered the need to set up a digital photo hub, principles for choosing what file types to work with (TIFF vs. JPG for example), considerations for how to name your files, how using year first date format for the beginning of your file names aids in photo management, and setting up a back-up plan that adheres to the 3-2-1 rule.
  • Organizing photos – we went over ways to organize your files and I shared how I set mine up to model an archives-type framework; discussed what metadata is and how important it is to use metadata that is compliant with industry standards. I especially cautioned against the use of any metadata labeling approach that is not compliant with accepted industry standards. For example, using the Windows operating system is not the way to go for adding metadata because it is not fully compliant with existing metadata standards – it would be shame to do all the work of adding metadata to your photos and then have it lost (that can easily happen when you don’t use an approach that adheres to standards). I presented a free software program that helps you easily add standards-compliant metadata (Adobe Bridge),
  • Accessing photos – we talked about preferences for accessing your photos? Is having them on your desktop/laptop good enough?  Do you want access to them via apps on your phone? Do you want your family members to have access? We talked about things to consider and approaches that can help achieve your access goals.
  • Preserving photos – I confessed that I’d not really had a good preservation plan for my photos until recently. Sure, I upload my historical photos to FamilySearch Family Tree Memories as I trust FamilySearch will be around for many more years and it is a free way to make those heritage photos easily accessible. However, I just was not happy with any approach I’d considered for my entire photo collection overall; that is until I recently discovered

Taneya presents

I covered a lot in 45 minutes huh? Overall, a great evening! Many thanks to the society for the opportunity to share something I love doing and helping bring digital photo order to others. If you’re trying to wrangle your digital photo collection, reach out! I’m happy to share some tips & further details on strategy.


social media image soap for digital photo management

My Photo Game is About to Level Up!

My daughter has been watching a lot of gaming videos lately, so I’ve got gaming terminology on my mind. Let me tell you about my next level coming up for my digital photo management game! First of all, it’s Thursday! Which means I usually post an old picture on Facebook for #ThrowbackThursday. But, today, rather than share a specific photo, I want to share some info on my photo management process, which is key to all of my photo sharing.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been working to organize my digital picture collection. I invest time in writing descriptions and applying keyword tags to them so that I can easily find them. Using Adobe Bridge and Google Photos has been the foundation of my approach. The rewards of taking the time to do this process have been extremely well worth it and once I have a photo filed away, I can find it again in seconds.

Plot twist:Google has made changes that disrupted my workflow in using Google Photos. As I knew this change was coming, I started exploring other options. I found something that has rocked my world.

The Friends & Family view of my FOREVER profile

From this point forward, I will be using FOREVER Storage to store, manage, organize, and share my photos as it checks off multiple criteria in my oh-so-picky list of personal preferences AND it offers a solution for ensuring that my stuff is passed on to my family not only in the present time but also when I am long gone. I am ecstatic about the platform and am planning a series of posts to share my reasons why I think this is the ideal solution for me. As their promotional material advertises, I truly think it is the memory keeping solution I need in my life. Additionally, FOREVER has a philosophical focus on using pictures to tell stories and isn’t that what we are all about as genealogists and family historians? It will take some effort to get there, but making this transition is going to be great!  My photo organization game is leveling up for real!

I can’t wait to share more in future posts – stay tuned!

Disclaimer: The link I include above to FOREVER Storage is a referral link, so if you sign up for a free account (which comes with 2GB of storage space), we both get a  credit. 😀 


More BillionGraves Fun

I’ve had quite a busy weekend! Yesterday, I was at the Nashville Zoo to learn more about the African American history at the site, and today, I went to Greenwood Cemetery to take pictures for BIllionGraves.

I’ve blogged about BillionGraves several times before here on my blog:

I guess you could say I’m a fan (I promise, I am not paid to say that LOL). But, I am a fan because I do feel it fills a niche in the genealogy world. The aim is simple – geo-tag as many cemetery headstones as possible with the ultimate goal to get to a BILLION entries. And, given that all I have to do is take the pictures and other people can transcribe them — all the better!

This weekend, the BillionGraves team was in Nashville to document as many burials as possible in a specific group of cemeteries that included Mt. Olivet, Mt. Cavalry, and both Greenwood Cemeteries (African American). Given my interest in Nashville African American history, I signed up to help out at Greenwood Cemetery. Of all the photos that were on the site before this weekend, I took 80% of them anyway (800/1000). So, this was right up my alley!

BillionGraves check-in tent

Today, over the course of about 2.5 hours, I was able to take 800 photos! I wish I could have stayed longer, but I am happy with the progress. BillionGraves’ Chief Technology Officer, Brian Moncure, took about 300 photos himself! It is definitely a good thing that our photos will be among the new ones soon posted on the site. In the picture below, I took photos of about every grave you see in the picture, on this side of the entrance road. That’s a lot of photos and I hope it will be of help to others researching their family history and looking for relatives in the cemetery. In fact, while I was there, a woman came in looking for her grandmother and couldn’t find her location – an app such as this one definitely helps solve that problem!

view of part of Greenwood Cemetery


Here is the view of my contributions today as reflected on the BillionGraves site – see all those green dots? That’s me!

Most of this green represents my pictures from today

I did not work in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, but due to help from an Eagle Scouts project, and other volunteers, half the cemetery was photographed just yesterday alone. I was also glad to have the opportunity to meet and speak with both Brian, and CEO, Hudson Gunn. The team has some interesting plans for the future and I am looking forward to seeing them develop! Thanks BillionGraves for organizing this event!

me with Hudson Gunn & Brian Moncure


blog post social media image

New on the Genealogy Bookshelf

I wanted to share the two newest additions to my personal library – well, one of them will stay with me and one won’t.

The first book is Kenyatta Berry‘s “The Family Tree Toolkit: A Comprehensive Guide to Uncovering Your Ancestry and Researching Genealogy.” Kenyatta is a notable genealogist and one of the hosts of PBS’s Genealogy Roadshow. The book is a guide for understanding where to begin in the search for your family history. The chapters cover getting started in the process and how to work with different record types, from census, court, immigration, military, ethnic records, DNA, adoption records, and more. I’m excited to get this because we will actually be putting it up for raffle at the upcoming meeting of the Nashville Chapter of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society. It will be nice to see this book in the hands of one of our lucky attendees so it will not be staying in my personal library. I will definitely get a copy for myself though!

The second book is an exhibit book for a collection of life-sized color pencil drawings of 17 men from the 25th USCT, Company G. The portraits are currently on exhibit at Ft. Negley here in Nashville and I was truly captivated. The book is by Shayne Davidson and is titled “Civil War Soldiers – Discovering the Men of the 25th United States Colored Troops.” I wrote a post on the AAHGS Nashville blog with more info so I invite you to read it at

Have I mentioned how I catalog my personal library collection? It may be time to do a blog post about that! As I am on a quest for improved organization, ensuring my book collection is well organized has been part of that process. That’s a topic for another day.

My Newspaper Research Presentation

When I started working on my family history about 14 years ago, one of the resources I quickly developed a love for were historical newspapers. I found them fascinating as they are full of so many different types of information! When I reached a point where I wanted to give back to the genealogy community, old newspapers were where I quickly focused. Being in Nashville, Tennessee and having access to the Tennessee State Library & Archives (TSLA) meant that I could tap into their holdings and help share what I was finding. Fast forward to present day and I am utterly tickled that I was invited to present for the TSLA Workshop Series recently – the topic I chose – historical newspapers! Many thanks to TSLA and Friends of the TSLA for the invite.

The presentation, which I gave on January 26, 2019, is online for free if you are interested in viewing it. Visit the video web page here to download the handout. I give an overview of researching with historical papers, mostly in Tennessee, but there are strategies and suggestions that are helpful no matter which state you are in. Enjoy!