Research Travels with Evernote!

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Moved but not yet settled, I nevertheless felt the urge to return once more to the comfort of my blog!  During the course of this trying relocation I have continued to find solace in my ongoing genealogical research. Rummaging through my belongings, discarding and reorganizing, I realized it was vital that I start to find better ways to organize the genealogical notes I was drowning in.  While digging through my hodge-podge of sticky notes, note paper, folded loose leaf, and–heaven forbid–even napkins upon which I had literally scrawled information, I began to formulate a plan of attack to battle my genealogical mess!

My first project goal was to find a solution to the problem of scattered notes regarding my future research.  As I have mentioned before, much of my research is conducted from a distance.  I do not live where my family history developed and I rarely have the opportunity to visit those locations vital to my research.  While more and more genealogically relevant documents and sources continue daily to become available online, so many of the most exciting and rich sources of family history remain only locally available.  An example of such genealogically lush resources include local newspapers, family files in libraries and archives, cemetery records, local history books, and even previously written family histories.  Though they may not appear online however we can be grateful that many archives, libraries, and local historical societies have at the very least been far more diligent over the last several years in providing online catalogues and indexes of their holdings.  These indexes are the perfect resource for directing future research and for planning genealogical research trips.

As I perused the internet seeking references to my ancestors and their descendants, jotting down notes on research leads was habitual but the habit became one of disgraceful disorganization.  I would make note of a research lead using my Ancestry.ca family tree but these notes would often be forgotten unless I revisited a particular individual on my tree; I would jot down notes traditionally in paper notebooks or on whatever paper happened to be handy at any given moment; Or I would try to create research log documents on my computer or in binders.  Most of these attempts at keeping track became futile, and inconsistent….enter Evernote!
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I am still an Evernote novice, and I know I don’t use it to its full potential.  I find I have little time to tutor myself on it’s proper use.  Even with my limited skills however I have found it an invaluable organizational tool to direct my future research in genealogy and a wonderfully convenient, efficient, and effective way to carry my research notebooks with me wherever my genealogy adventure takes me.

My Evernote notebook is entitled Future Family Tree Research .  Within this notebook I have created documents for various repositories I wish to either visit or contact regarding specific records.  My log includes for example:  The Collingwood Library– Newspaper lookups, The Oxford County Library (Ingersoll) –Newspaper lookups, The Ontario Genealogical Society–Brantford Chapter, and The British National Archives.

Future Research notebook

Future Research notebook

Each time I come across a reference to a specific piece of research I need to either request from these repositories or need to acquire upon visiting these repositories I entire the information in the appropriate repository notebook.  I have formatted them as checklists so I may check off whether I have requested or received the information.  I indicate the record and include the relevant reference numbers.  It is so easy to edit the lists and I can do it from any device!

Note in a checklist format

Note in a checklist format

These cumulative lists make it easy for me to see what I am looking for when I find my way to an archive, or formulate requests to a local library via email.  I have chosen thus far to score items off my list rather than delete them once I have obtained them so I do not repeat a search.

Check off and score items off your list.

Check off and score items off your list.

Perhaps this is a very simplistic use of Evernote technology.  I am a very simple gal who leans towards traditionalist research methods.  I believe however that if I–with my low tech, paper-centered personality–can find this uncomplicated use of evernote valuable and efficient then others might also!  Others with far greater Evernote knowledge and experience would most definitely be able to improve upon my initial idea and as I personally
increase my skills with the app I know I will be tweaking and re-formulating.  But what I would like everyone to take away from this post is the sense of “Yes I can!” Yes I can use new technologies to aid in my genealogy adventure regardless of my level of technological knowledge or skill. If you don’t try new tools, if you let habit and fear control your techniques

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Tuesday Tips ~ Evernote and My Future Research

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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.

Individual example

Individual example

Example by repository.

Example by repository.

Another example by repository

Another example by repository

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!

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Friday Follows ~ Diversions Can Be Practical!

Down the Rabbit Hole

Sorry this was posted late!  My internet went down yesterday.  This is when I realize that reliance of technology can be dangerous! Some great finds this week and the excitement of being interviewed for the Geneablogger series “May I Introduce…” It was a good exercise in self-reflection answering the interview questions.  It definitely gave me reason to contemplate my research and re-evaluate my goals!

The Practical Archivist: Tips and tricks to deal with your archival materials.

~ Family Oral History Using Digital Tools : Amazing articles on ways you can use new technology to record oral histories and also some great ways to prompt oral histories and conversations about family history!  Loved this one about the Census and talking to the blog author’s mother!

Opening Doors in Brick Walls: It was through this site that I discovered Colleen Greene but it also provides great information in its own right!  Lovely family stories which help guide you through the genealogical research process.

Colleen Greene: Colleen Greene is my favourite find this week! Not only is she a Genealogist she’s a librarian, and a web designer.  Because she has a knowledge base in web design and html she has provided fabulous articles on how to improve your blog and how to use my newest genealogy tool, Evernote!  I’m excited to work through her past posts to hopefully gain a better grasp of what this tool can do for me!

Ancestories: Always has great Friday Finds and Follows and she has some great series posts.  I think I will need to try the series of posts on Getting More Traffic to My Blog 😉

Being a Beginner Again from the blog “Life From The Roots” : Great little article that helps put things in perspective.  We all start over as genealogists each time we start a new area of research or delve into the history of a new ancestor…no one is alone!

~ Genealogy Tip of the Day and Genealogy Search Tip of the Day : Always looking for tips, advice, and reminders but it is often hard to find the time to scour the internet and read countless articles.  I like these quick tips!
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Tuesday Tips ~ Keeping a Brick Wall Ancestors File!

My Old-Fashioned Brick Wall Ancestors File!

My Old-Fashioned Brick Wall Ancestors File!

I do not always feel willing to share my systems of organization.  I am terribly tactile and visual and still find hard copies appealing regardless of all the amazing technology available and the shift to the digital.  However I do realize that I can save far more in far less space and far more efficiently digitally.  It also has become apparent that portability is essential when travelling to archives and libraries, cemeteries, and well, just anywhere our research takes us!  I always carry my phone or ipad to capture information but it has become a hodgepodge of disorganization when not housed together in one organized, efficient system.  It is time to learn to properly use Evernote and change over my old fashioned files!

One file I have been keeping in hard copy format–yes on traditional cue cards in a file box quite like recipes–is my Brick Wall Ancestors File. When I encounter a very challenging, impossible brick wall individual–in our direct lines–on my family tree I created a card for them.  It included all the basic facts I had gathered on the individual on the front and, on the back, what I still wished to discover, the questions I had regarding the individual, and where I might find this information.  Similar to a research plan but in miniature!

Evernote Notebook.

Evernote Notebook.

I’ve found the file helpful to keep my research grounded and focused and helps me to visualize the present reach of my family tree’s branches!  It will be far more useful in a digital, carry-along format and I think Evernote is going to be my go-to location for this file of notes!

I’ve created a notebook for my Brick Wall ancestors and a separate one for my husband’s.  I am ordering the notes alphabetically and have indicated the country/countries of research. I added the key information in bullet points then numbered my basic questions and research starting points.  If I find additional information in my research I have added it through checklists and attachments until I can verify and add to my tree.  Fingers crossed this will be effective and efficient!

Note Example.

Note Example.

Note Example.

Note Example.