I’ve been researching my family history for 30 years, and have had Evernote on my computer and mobile devices for 3 or so. But other than using it to clip the occasional newspaper article, I’ve never harnessed the (apparent) power of Evernote as an overarching organizational tool for managing my research.
As part of my 2016 Genealogy Do-Over (GDO), I decided to get serious about Evernote.
Aside: My Evernote setup. I have the desktop version running on a Mac (running OS X 10.11.2). I also have Evernote on my aging iPad and on my iPhone 6. I use the Chrome browser on all devices and have the Evernote Web Clipper extension on my Mac which means I just click the icon to initiate a new note. I will very likely hit the wall on storage and will upgrade to the Premium product even though it breaks this Canadian’s heart to buy anything in US Dollars these days.
Here is a log of my learning process:
- I had a peek through the GDO social media sites and found an excellent piece by Colleen Greene on how she uses it. My temptation was to just take her process and make it mine, but quickly realized that this was a rather hasty decision if Evernote and I are going to be best friends going forward. But I liked her note naming and tagging conventions and mentally tagged these for consideration going forward. (See what I did there?}
- I decided to do a quick setup on Evernote, creating a notebook stack called Genealogy that contained three folders (for now at least): Maternal Line, Paternal Line, and Research Tools. (Thank you, Colleen.) I had an old notebook called “Genealogy” that was my holding cell for everything related to family history that I had clipped in the past, and I stuck that in there too with the intent of sorting the notes into their proper homes at some point, say, when I get tired of watching Evernote tutorials. I immediately saved the Colleen Green page above into the Research Tools notebook, and tagged it “evernote” and “tools”.
- I googled “evernote for genealogy” and right near the top of the search results was this treasure trove of possibility on the Cyndi’s List site. Templates! I love me a good template. Saved the page into my Research Tools notebook and then spent a few hours going through it.
- I had a look through Thomas MacEntee’s article Evernote: Your Virtual Genealogy Assistant for a good review of the features of Evernote. I immediately created a contact called “Evernote” and added the email address to which I can send content to my Evernote account. I also learned from Tonia’s Roots that you can add @<notebookname> or #<tag> to the subject of your email and the note will get automatically filed in the correct notebook.
- I found Colleen Greene’s helpful piece on Research Logs and Note Links, the second in her series on Evernote for Genealogy, so I decided to just go through her six-article series and mine it for the nuggets. There’s a free downloadable template for her research log that she uses for each person in her tree. It’s a little complex for my needs but I will create my own template at some point. I don’t want to duplicate what I have in my tree software in Evernote, but simply make it a place to store media, articles, and research goals and checklists.
- Finally, I reserved and checked out How to Use Evernote for Genealogy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize Your Research and Boost Your Genealogy Productivity by Kerry Scott from local public library. It looks pretty comprehensive and I’ll be perusing it for more ideas. If it looks like something I’ll want to refer to regularly, I’ll purchase a copy.
My next steps are to develop some templates for research goals. I don’t want to duplicate information in Evernote that I already have in my genealogy software, but it will be the best place to capture the outstanding research questions that are active at any given time.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I am embarking on a Genealogy Do-Over in 2016, following Thomas MacEntee‘s process. In the first month of this 12-month process, we are asked to set aside our previous research and get some preparatory work done.
Because I am using this process to switch to new software, and because I am reasonably focussed and evidence-based in the rest of my life, I am planning to simply access my paper and electronic records as I need them going forward. Many of them were purchased, and some were obtained during my trip to Salt Lake City last year so it is unreasonable to have to re-generate them.
In thinking about my research practices and looking at some lists of “golden rules” published by MacEntee and Alona Tester, I have come up with three areas that I want to focus on (and improve) as well as some research tools that I need to learn more about.
Janet’s Best Practices (going forward, at least):
Have a plan: keep a research log and to-do list.
Capture now. Curate later.
New tools: RootsMagic, Evernote
Find at least 2 sources for every fact. Don’t believe every family story or everything in a certificate.
Read all documents thoroughly, scraping every piece of pertinent data.
Have a consistent method of recording data and sources.
New tools: The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, RootsMagic
Look for stories, not just people, places, and dates.
Learn about the social history of the the places my ancestors lived.
Visit as many living relatives as possible.
Capture the stories of my ancestors on my blog or elsewhere.
Evernote is a very popular tool used to capture and organize stuff. It’s a great place to drop photos, articles, snippets of information that you can then tag. I have used it sporadically but I know that there is a lot more power available there. In the next month, I plan to get more familiar with it using online tutorials and will set it up so that it can become an integral part of my research tool box.
The Genealogical Standards book mentioned above was published by the Board of Certification of Genealogists and contains valuable guidance for ensuring that genealogical work is accurate. I purchased this book a few years ago but have not dived into it yet. Bedside reading.
Late in December, I spent some time thinking about my priorities for 2016 and the areas I wanted to focus on. On a whim (and on sale), I’d bought a couple of notebooks from the National Gallery of Canada and I knew immediately how I’d put them to use.
The first is my organization journal. It’s divided into six sections, one for each of my focus areas: Home Organization and Decor; Writing; Genealogy; Reading; Creativity; and Estate Planning. I roughly divided the book into six sections and am using each section to organize my to-do lists, next steps, notes, etc.
- For Home Organization and Decor, I am starting with the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home challenge. It gives me manageable chunks of work to do each day and I’m already seeing excellent improvements (it starts with the kitchen.) It will also include the things we need to do around the house (recovering furniture, any purchases, and maybe a kitchen reno, although I’ll need a whole new notebook if that goes ahead. Get the plan here: Free 2016 Printable Declutter Calendar: 15 Minute Daily Missions
- In the Writing section, I’m happy to say that I have started Sarah Selecky’s Story Course to kick-start my writing practice. It’s a series of five detailed lessons on short-story writing, with a lot of exercises, reading, and thinking involved in each one. I am also using her daily writing prompts on days that I don’t work on a lesson. Most daily sessions of writing are 10-20 minutes of “free-writing” and I’m happy to say that I’ve written all thirteen days of the year so far, in the second notebook of my purchase. If you’re interested in something like this, check it out here.
- My third focus area is Genealogy. I’ve been working on my family history for years and my online tree is huge. The problem is, I haven’t always been as critical as I could about links that I find and I don’t know how accurate all my data is. At the same time, Ancestry has announced that in the next year or so it will stop supporting its software Family Tree Maker, which is what I’ve been using to keep my info on my computer. It syncs to the Ancestry trees in the cloud, and everything was working fine. I have decided to move to another computer-based genealogy package called Roots Magic.
So I am taking this confluence of events to follow Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over. This (free) program guides you through starting over with your genealogy, putting aside everything you’ve done before (except for source documents), and doing everything properly (especially source citations.) I’ve purchased Roots Magic and MacEntee’s workbook (not required, but useful for me) and am thinking about what practices I want to use going forward, before I enter one single name or date into Roots Magic.
- My fourth focus area is Reading. Each year I participate in a number of reading challenges, plus I’m in a book club and a books-on-film series at TIFF, so I need to juggle books to meet deadlines. This section of the journal will help me with that. I’ve printed and pasted a couple of reading challenge diagrams into it already. But I’m also including in this section reading I do for other learning. For example, I’ve started a course on the Microbiome through Coursera, and while most of the work is online, I’m using this area to remind myself of deadlines and rough out assignments. Finally, Goodreads takes care of my reading lists and reviews and stats.
- Next we have the Creativity section. This is an area of my life that I enjoy but I have been lax about actually turning out any creative (or not so creative work.) I now have my own studio space that is pretty organized (thanks to uber-organizer Rosalind at Simply Home) but I still have some things from the basement that need to be brought upstairs. I have a pile of mending/alterations that need to be done and some jewellry to be repaired, and then I want to get on to my own creative work.
- Last, but not least in my brain (although possibly least in my heart) is Estate Planning. The big “R” word is starting to be heard more around here and so we need to get our financial ducks in order. We have a new investment manager at the firm we’re with and there will be lots of paperwork over the next month or so as we get a plan in place for the last third of our lives. Also taxes. And up-to-date wills. These all have to move to the front-burner this year and I’m the one who has to drive it.
This kind of planning has proven really useful, even halfway into the first month of the year. It helps me to keep on track and always know what I want (or need) to do next in each focus area. I plan to blog separately about some of these endeavours as I make progress on them. Stay tuned.