Organization

Our Very Own MTGS Genealogy Roadshow

This weekend, I was pleased to have the opportunity to present as part of a special programming event of the Middle Tennessee Genealogy Society. We had a session yesterday afternoon loosely based on the concept of a roadshow/roundtable. Our session featured 4 major concepts; presenters were at 4 tables covering the following subjects:

  • Computers in Genealogy
  • Beginning Genealogy
  • Reliable Research Records
  • DNA

Attendees then moved from station to station (30 minutes each) during our meeting time. I was asked to co-present on the Reliable Research Records topic. However, the evening before the event I was asked if I could do the Computers in Genealogy session due to the planned presenters’ illnesses. As I love technology, I was happy to do i!t Given the short notice, I pondered on what I’d present – I decided I would just share some of the ways I use not just computers, but technology in general, to further my genealogy workflows and research. I came up with a list of 10 examples to share. 

  1. Genealogy Software – talked about the use of programs like RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, and Family Tree Maker for electronic management of your family tree. I personally use RootsMagic as part of my genealogy workflow, but there are many, many other options out there! I am especially a fan of RootsMagic’s integration with both FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry Member Trees. 
  2. Genealogy File Organization – this year, I became serious about organizing my digital files. I set up what I like to refer to as my own “personal genealogy archive” and organize my material by format within three main divisions – my own family, my husband’s family, and our combined family. Again, there are multiple options. Anyone looking for tips and additional suggestions should check out The Organized Genealogist Facebook group. 
  3. Writing on Digital Photos – As part of my organization plan, I now regularly add descriptions/captions to each of my digital photos by editing the IPTC metadata. This allows my captions to stay with the digital photo even when shared with others. Alison Taylor has great information on her website about what this process can entail. I also personally use XnViewMP software to do my metadata editing (hat tip to Tony Hanson of the Dallas Genealogical Society for the software suggestion – see YouTube video). 
  4. Using the Cloud – I use Google Drive to store all of my files. The benefit of using cloud storage is that I’m not dependent upon any one particular device – I can access my files from any device with an internet connection. This flexibility has been important to me for many years now so I’m grateful for the software platforms that allow me to do it. I even save my RootsMagic database in Google Drive. There are other services of course, like Dropbox, but I’m a Google fangirl 🙂
  5. Push Notifications – you know those buttons you see on websites that say “sign up for email updates”? – I use those liberally! I love the idea of information coming directly to my inbox, rather than me having to remember to go to the site to see what’s new. I personally have a LOT of sites I monitor, so Feedly, with its aggregation service, is great for collecting this new info for me so that it is ready for me when I want it. 
  6. Genealogy Blogging – I’ve been blogging since 2008 and thoroughly enjoy it. It is a great way to document my research progress and to share my findings. With the way blog posts are readily picked up by search engines, posts also serve as great cousin bait. I’ve had many instances of relatives finding me via the information I’ve shared online here in my blog – from pictures to family stories, and more. I personally prefer WordPress as my platform of choice, but there are others, like Google’s Blogger
  7. Digital Notebooks – I’ve always been a copious note-taker and I love that I’m able to do so digitally through EverNote. Through EverNote, I can capture notes, pictures, and all kinds of other info electronically with 24/7 access to it across multiple devices. The hierarchy options are helpful for organizing information. The Evernote Genealogists Facebook group is a helpful resource for tips/suggestions. 
  8. Cemetery ResearchFind-A-Grave and BillionGraves are both sites I use often. I have their mobile apps installed on my phone so that I can take advantage of options such as adding pictures to memorials while in the cemetery (Find-A-Grave) or uploading all the pictures I take in a cemetery for automatic geomapping (BillionGraves). Love them both!
  9. Scanning Photos – from wand scanners, flatbed scanners, and mobile scanners such as the Flip-Pal, there are many ways to scan a photo to create a digital file. My favorite scanner? My cell phone. And with the availability of apps like Google’s PhotoScan, I maximize the quality of the images I take. 
  10. StoryTelling/Oral Histories – StoryCorps has established quite the legacy for the many stories they help people capture around the country. On my wishlist to try at my next family reunion is their mobile app which makes it easy to record stories of your family members. I’ll certainly share my experiences with it in a future blog post. 

Overall, the session went well and we had a great turnout! Many questions were asked by participants and I enjoyed speaking and learning from others also. Check out the Technology for Genealogy Facebook group for more discussion and information. 

My next speaking event is a local family reunion in October, so until then!


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My Family Treasure Boxes

A couple of years ago, I made the decision to ensure I had a robust method in place to ensure my genealogy research is preserved for future generations. I do have my own self-hosted family history website, but I decided to contribute as much as I can to FamilySearch Family Tree. Since making that decision for my digital stuff, I’ve reflected on what I can do for my physical collection. I started giving this much more thought at the beginning of the year after DearMyrtle announced her 2016 Get Organized Checklists series. 

Currently, I have many 3-ring binders of paper, plastic bins with even more papers that I use as a catch-all, and family mementos scattered here and there. When I need to find something, it can sometimes be a pain.

One of my boxes of family history stuff. This one has on top a letter my great-uncle wrote to my grandmother, Kalonji’s parent’s marriage certificate, and my high school graduation announcement. This is not the way to keep family history. #shameful

I knew I had to do better so I began devising a new plan. My goals for my new organization plan included the following:

  • when it comes to vital records I will keep the physical form only if it is not readily or easily available elsewhere (a somewhat subjective determination) or if I paid quite a bit to obtain it
  • keep the physical stuff to a minimum so that when I am no longer around (I’m thinking about the future here!), my family won’t have to worry about going through my things and trying to figure out what should be kept 
  • use a more “browsing-friendly” approach to what I keep, rather than numbering systems, surname binders, etc. By this, I mean that I want to keep the files and items organized, but in a way that makes it appealing just to look through, rather than keeping documents organized by a specific person or family.  My digital record-keeping is where info is tracked by each individual & family, so I don’t feel I need to replicate that for my physical collection. 

With these principles in mind, I decided to create what I will call my Family Treasure Boxes!

Setting Up the Family Treasure Box

Taking advantage of Michael’s sale today – 50% off all decorative boxes, I picked up 4 of them to start my Family Treasure Box collection. The box sizes vary, but the are between 15-17 inches wide, 11-14 inches deep, and 5-8 inches high. These 4 boxes will be used for 1) my maternal family, 2) my paternal family, 3) my husband’s family (both sides combined for now), and 4) for my husband and I.

Family Treasure Box for my maternal family

Family Treasure Box for my paternal family

Family Treasure Box for my husband’s family

Family Treasure Box for my Kalonji and I

For the documents that will go in each box, I’ll use file folders with labels such as “Birth Certificates,” “Marriage Certificates,” “Death Certificates,” “Obituaries,” “Funeral Programs,” etc.  The folders will then be placed in larger, expandable folders to keep them together.

file folders to organize documents like certificates and funeral programs

I will place mementos in envelopes or small bins. For now, my materials are not archival quality, but I once I get the boxes established, I will switch to archival quality materials.  My family pictures are stored elsewhere, in photo books, but I may put a select few in each box. It will take me awhile to move my stuff into their new box homes, as I will need to sort through all my current papers and make sure every item I decide to keep in physical form is digitized and digitally archived. But, once I do, I’ll share pics of the insides.

I think the concept of a “treasure box” will make our family history items much more interesting to look through than what I am currently doing. And besides, they just look so pretty on my shelf! 🙂   And, even my tween daughter will know that THESE are the important family history things – she’s already told me she wants her own treasure box.  What do you think?

Using Evernote and Trello

Approximately 18 months ago I started using Evernote; that is, seriously using it. It took me awhile to jump on the bandwagon because I am a Google Drive user and I found GDrive to be meeting my needs. At the same time though, I wanted to make sure I knew how to use Evernote and use it well.

I am happy to say that the experiment has been quite successful! I use Evernote now religiously for capturing all notes at work. The ability to search past notes had been a value for sure. I also use it for our homeschooling and extra educational activities for the kids. And of course, I use it for my genealogy. I have many notebook stacks that help me keep my material organized, and I appreciate being able to access it from the web as well as all my computing devices. When Evernote added automatic syncing across devices, it made life all the easier! Next year, I may look more closely into the Penultimate feature and explore using a stylus, but my concern with that is having a mix of handwritten vs. typed notes. Not sure I want the two to mix. The Smart Notebook also intrigues me.

Trello – example board

During my time with Evernote I have had an increasing need for more complex project management and while bulleted lists and checklists are great, I have found myself wanting more. More visual ways to see what I have coming up to do, and better ways to keep track of when I did them.

I have tried using several different “to-do list” apps but not stuck with them for I have not been able to establish a flow. I have now decided to look into Trello for my project management needs as it looks more sophisticated than some of what I have tried. I already have an account and have started to list my projects. I am excited by the potential and really hopes that it does work for me as well as Evernote has. I will post later and let you know how it turns out. 🙂

If you are using it I would love to hear your feedback.

Come Browse My Genealogy Digital Bookshelf

Approximately two years ago, I created an online site to help me organize all the great books and resources I was finding on the Internet Archive’s website. I call it my Genealogy Digital Bookshelf. I have been posting to it sporadically, but have been using it pretty regularly as my genealogy research takes me from state to state. 

Recently, I decided to freshen-up the site and will start posting to it more regularly.   I updated the theme, and added several pictures of libraries – just to make it feel more “authentic.”    🙂

I encourage you to follow along – you never know what may turn out to be of interest.  There is an RSS Feed, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account.  Visit the site – look on the right sidebar and choose. 

 

 

Scrapbooking

This past week still sees me doing more organization of my genealogy files. I have requested a few more certificates and they are starting to trickle in. Also, my mother found some of her papers, so I now have her parent’s marriage certificate! I’m quite happy about that. 🙂

I am also learning how to do digital scrapbooking, so I of course had to do a couple of family-related ones as I experiment. This first one is of one set of my great-grandparents -William and Pearlie Mae Kilpatrick.

And this one is for my maternal grandmother. I love looking at her older pictures. I believe all of these are from around the 40’s.

Organizing my Files

Over the past week, I have started to really organize all the papers, notes, etc I’ve been collecting into a workable system. My mother found a copy of Dollarhide’s “Managing A Genealogical Project” so I am using that system and I believe it is going to work out quite nicely for me. So, now, I have several three-ring binders set up by surname and over the next few weeks will start working on writing up family group sheets. Currently, I rely on my website and still will as a primary source, but want to have it on paper as well.

I have posted before about possibly “finding” a distant relative and over the past couple of weeks, we both agree that the preponderance of evidence leans towards us being related! So, I have a new family member – a fifth cousin!

I am from NC so let me give a shameless plug here – the UNC Chapel Hill North Carolina Collection has released a new database – the North Carolina Collection Biographical Index. It allows you to search and get a list of sources where the individual of interest is mentioned.