I must admit, though I have stated that I am a traditional paper and pencil girl, I also tend to scribble notes down on scraps of paper which often end up helter skelter. I use notebooks but find in order to properly organize myself I need numerous notebooks for various things—different family branches, research on various locations, to do lists and so forth. While I have made this work I find carting so much paper can be a bit cumbersome, especially when travelling. Although I don’t think I will ever entirely give up my physical notebook tendency, I do think I am ready to supplement it with the newly available technology of Evernote.
Several weeks ago I decided to take my recipe card” Brick Wall Ancestors File” and add it to Evernote. I created an Evernote notebook for my brick wall individuals and then one for those on my husband’s tree. It was not only an organizational endeavour but it actually turned out to be a review of those Brick Walls. As I transferred the information from card to computer I had several eureka moments. It is amazing how, what seems a simple sort can lead to new finds. Review, review, review! (That is my bonus tip).
I was so impressed with how my Brick Wall File developed and how easy it was to navigate that I was determined to further utilize Evernote by creating “A Future Research Notebook”. It began with a few key references I wished to order or look up in future for my Great-Great Grandfather, and became a well-organized guide or to do list for things I could not immediately accomplish. Most of these tasks are those which must be done at repositories too distant for me to access currently or for documents which must be ordered but I presently do not wish to spend funds on. I know if I do not take note of these I may not remember. I do record this information under the notes of individuals on my family tree but with so many individuals it can be easy to overlook.
I began organizing my Future Research Notebook by individual but then thought it might be even better to organize it by repository or organization. For example: I am looking for Assize Court records for my Great-Great Grandfather. These are housed at the British National Archives. Also at the British National Archives are various other records I require for research on other ancestors. The title therefore of one of the notes in my “Future Research Notebook” could be “The British National Archives” and under that title appears an ancestor’s name and the reference numbers for the documents I wish copies of. I could also effectively have titled my note by individual:John Carter, or by record type; Assize Records, or a combination there of. My notebook is a combination of notes for individuals, and individual repositories but you could choose one or the other if you find this more organized.
I like that I can alphabetize my notes with the click of a button and know that new notes I add will also be alphabetized–this can be done far easier than with writing in traditional notebooks! I also love that I can use check boxes in front of each document reference or task. I can simply tick them off as I go or ultimately just delete them. I can also edit notes and add new tasks or documents I may learn about on repository visits or in online searches, to deal with once again at a later date!
Data and information collected can also be added to notes in Evernote if I have notebooks dedicated to research trip note taking or create research log templates to fill in. I have yet to learn how to create such research log templates but when I do find a day to sit and learn I believe Colleen Greene has a blog article I can refer to for assistance!
Remember, you can teach an old dog new tricks…it may just take a little longer! Oh, and life-long learning keeps one from stagnating!