Passage Express: Organizing Your Genealogy Files

by JL Beeken on 8-20-2007

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Passage Express is just a folder tree with pizazz. Worthwhile pizazz to be sure. It’s an attractive way to present your family history.

Passage Express

Passage Express

And I do like that Presentation Menu designer. If you’ve got time to burn that’s a fun place to do it.

Passage Express

Passage Express: Presentation Menu Designer

However, I’ve run into some serious inconveniences.

I forget which pictures I’ve put in there and which I haven’t. And which other files. And which maps. And which stories need to be re-written. And which genealogy charts need updating. And so on. So I’ve been going back and forth and back and forth trying to keep track of that. And republishing every time I make a change. It’s time-consuming and annoying.

And then there’s the update button. A very useful feature if you happen to have another copy of the file elsewhere and you haven’t changed the name, moved its location or done something else drastic like reinstall your OS under a different name. I’ve done all those things more times than I can tell you, so I have to import the same updated genealogy charts over and over, and delete the old ones. And to what end I keep asking myself? After two years of adding files I’ve lost track of what’s in Passage Express and what’s somewhere else, and the whole thing’s looking more like a dumping ground than a project.

I have text and PDFs that have been imported and may or may not exist elsewhere on my computer in the same or somewhat altered form. Pictures wherever I keep my pictures and that’s constantly changing. Another copy inside Passage Express and another copy of everything when I create a disk. Although I don’t actually create disks. I’ve been creating folders of what would be on the disks into folders on my hard-drive and external drives. In case I drop over dead before it’s all done and sent, I’d like my computer-illiterate family to be able to find something they can understand. A long shot, but my best.

I’ve had an image of something else in the back of my mind for a long time. This is only intended as a way to kill three or four birds with one stone, not as a Passage Express replacement. Over the past week I’ve finally started and it’s working just fine.

It seems to me it’s more straight-forward to make the same folder structure I use in Passage Express inside My Documents and put all the files there to start with. And this is a lot easier than it sounds.
Step 1. make a folder tree like what I have in PE.
Step 2. copy and paste all the Passage Express files into those folders. I’ve already gotten that far. 4 projects, 4 folder trees.

If you don’t have a Family folder tree, just start one. Make a main folder for XYZ Family and then you can go down and sideways to expand as you work, and drag files from folder to folder to get yourself sorted out. Windows Explorer is a more spacious and easier place to work than inside Passage Express. It’s easy to focus here on one person or family at a time, and do a quick right-click to start a new text file for a story or other note that comes to mind before it gets lost.

Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer

One of my projects, (shown above) is from one set of my 4th great-grandparents and their descendants. For this family there’s a great deal of information and many photographs, so there’s a folder for each sibling in each generation coming down the mainline. By the time I got to the 5th generation and was moving files around, Windows started complaining that the file names were too long. It was easy to fix this by backtracking up the tree and initializing some first names.

(On older generations, like 7th and 8th, where there’s less information and very few pictures, I have one folder for an entire family including offspring. There’s no set way of making a folder tree. It’s only dependent on your own view of sorting out what you have and how you want to present it.)

From here it’s much simpler to see where I am and where I’m going. After I’ve done all the ITPC/XMP work on my pictures I can sort them into their appropriate family folders and there will be just one copy of them on my main hard-drive. That means now I know where they are. By deleting the Passage Express files, I just did away with two other copies that I don’t need anyway. From this location they can still be indexed by Copernic or linked to Adobe and Picasa and whatever else I do in that way.

We are Windows-trained to think that documents belong in My Documents and pictures belong in My Pictures, and videos in My Videos. I think for family history it works better to have them together in one place. I’m only considering here what I think of as ‘family history’ or family history projects. For me, that means mostly the ancestors, not to be overrun by thousands of more recent digital photos.

In the last couple of days, I have downloaded and looked at several more programs that claim to embed, edit and/or view ITPC information but I haven’t found anything as universal as Adobe. There’s a broad range of different capabilities in other software that’s frustrating to sort through.

In Adobe Elements, open a folder full of thumbnails into the ‘photo bin’ at the bottom, right click on each one to find the “File Info” option and enter your description and re-save. If you’re only re-saving because of IPTC info it will not affect image quality. (I have read.) As mentioned in the previous article on IPTC, this information will import automatically into Picasa as captions (JPGs only) and both your Passage Express projects as Details (JPGs and uncompressed TIFFs) and Legacy (JPGs and uncompressed TIFFs) for use in Scrapbook pages or anywhere else you use descriptions there.

Adobe Photoshop Elements

Adobe Photoshop Elements: File Info

If the information is ITPC/XMP-embedded, it’s staying there. It’s not wafting out on the next breeze. It can also be updated anytime.

With this system of keeping a family folder tree in Windows, it’s also much easier to overwrite genealogy charts that need updating than searching for them in Passage Express. Other documents can be added from out-of-control folders full of miscellanea once and for all. It gives everything a place to go. Either it’s part of the family history or it isn’t. (OK, maybe just one folder for the iffy-stuff.) Overall, I find it a simpler, cleaner way of working.

My genealogy information breaks down into 3 main places-to-be:

1. database (Legacy, of course)
2. digital Source Library
3. Passage Express for presentation (Windows folder trees for preliminary organization)

Since I’ve already started some projects in Passage Express I’m backtracking a bit but it’s not that hard. Back in Passage Express, after copying and pasting the files into my new folder tree and moving captions to XMP in Adobe, I can delete all the files from there but leave the original folder structure for later. I can still create special designer slides if I want to and leave them in there. When later comes, and I’m ready to finish a project, I can import all the photos and files back into it. Add any finishing touches with narration and photo labels, and send it off. As long as I keep the folder tree in My Documents I can keep adding to the information and make another disk again later. If all goes according to plan, I’ll only be looking in one folder for any new files to import to the corresponding folder in Passage Express.

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