Monday, January 14, 2013

Lessons from Scanning


The scanning goes on and on..........



One of my goals this year is to become paperless, well mostly paperless.  Living fulltime in a motorhome means limited space for my genealogy files.  Right now I have 4 big binders, stuffed with all the records I've collected over the last couple of years.  Getting rid of those binders means my files will instead be on my computer and in the cloud --- much more convenient.  And, as a bonus I'll gain some storage space for other stuff, like food and toilet paper.

I'm approaching this task by taking just one family and starting to scan each piece of collected paper.  I thought it would be pretty quick, just scan a document,  pop it into a computer file, and toss the original into the trash.

Oh, I was so naive.  

So, here's what's really happening.  I grab that first census scan it in.  Then I check my software program Legacy Family Tree, to make sure the census information was previously added to each family member correctly.  This is when I discover that I acquired the census before I learned how to properly add it to the software and cite it correctly.  *sigh*

Well, okay, so I take the high road and start entering all the data from the census into Legacy, and adding the citation to each person in the family.  Finally, I get to file the scanned census into the proper file in my new filing system.

At long last, I can toss out that piece of paper.

Hmmmm.... okay, REALITY CHECK! This is going to take a lot longer than I first thought.  But, at the same time, I am forced to review/analyze all my old records for new/missed clues, add new ideas to my to do lists, make sure everything is cited properly, and write up my rationale for my analysis.  Maybe this isn't so bad after all.

I'm getting rid of paper and gaining storage space, cleaning up, correcting, and citing my records, analyzing my data and writing up my conclusions. It's what we used to call a WIN-WIN situation.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Research Log - Multiple Monitors

In my last post I mentioned that I was going to give the Research Log another chance.  And, I have. And, I LOVE it!

I set up my Research Log spreadsheet in Excel, and I am actually using it.  But, I have to say that what makes it really useful is having it loaded on a second monitor, all the time.   Yes, I have 2 computer monitors and I wish I had room for a 3rd one.  My Research Log lives on one screen while I am doing online research or recording data in my genealogy software program on the other monitor.  This set up makes it super easy to keep an eye on everything, all the time.'

How it all works:  I'm searching for some online document; it is already recorded in my Research Log.  As I am searching I come across another record that looks promising for this or another ancestor.  Right at that moment, I can move across to my second monitor, and I can add a new to do search to my research log.  So, whether I follow up then or later, it is in my research log and not on some scrap of paper or subject to my faulty memory.

In addition, suppose while I am entering my new finds into my database or analyzing my family's information I have a sudden inspiration that I need to search for some new document(s).  No problem, I just move my mouse over to my other monitor and quickly add a new search to do in the ever present Research Log.

Saving my Research Log to the cloud, means that my spreadsheet will be available to me no matter where I am or which of my portable devices I might be using. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Managing 2013 Goals

Only a few days ago I posted my genealogy goals for this year, and I am already making progress.

I hate to admit this, but my computer desk top was covered with files and images along with a To Do file just chocked full of images and files that I put there as I jumped from Internet site to site downloading every interesting thing I found.  I had great intentions of recording, analyzing, and writing up each and every item.  But, it was more fun to "discover" than to do the work necessary to make those finds meaningful.  The few times I did sit down with good intentions to tackle the "to do" mess, I was quickly overwhelmed.  There was no organization, so every time I opened my To Do folder dozens and dozens of files from every surname and every location in my database jumped out at me -- and they were all mixed up in one fat file. 

My #1 goal this year is to:   Reorganize my computer filing system, so that I can easily find records and images. 

Of course this sounds great, but it is a HUGE undertaking.  I already have a pretty good filing system for my Surnames and Locations, but then there is that "To Do" file and my computer desk top.  *sigh*

I decided that there is no way to just go through and deal with each and every file and image one by one until the file is empty.  So, I made a To Do file folder for each family Surname.  Then I just dragged and dropped each "wayward" file into the appropriate To Do list.   My plan is that when I next work on that particular surname I will go through their To Do file and deal with those files at that time.  

The result is that I now have a nice clean desktop, and I am not overwhelmed by orphaned documents and images.  We'll see how it works out. 

My #2 goal is toFinish scanning all my paper files and images.  

I am making a small dent in this goal.  I've started by just scanning the documents associated with the particular person/family I am working on at the moment.  This method helps me to stay focused on the particular person/family, and it forces me to review those documents, as I scan and enter them into my genealogy software.

Goal #5:  Use research logs

Okay, okay, I admit it.  I am guilty of ignoring the repeated advice to use research logs, but now my research has reached a point where I no longer can rely on my memory for what I have looked at and what I still need to do. 

Not that I have been completely resistant to the idea.  I've tried to set up research logs a few times, but how to keep them all straight and how to organize the logs has confounded me, with the result of giving up after only a few entries.  

What timing!  Just as I promised to start using research logs, the new issue of Family Tree Magazine (January/February 2013) has a wonderful article "Logging On" by Lisa A. Alzo, which explained how to set up a customized research log as a spreadsheet.  

Taking Lisa's advice, I now have my research log set up, and I really believe that this is going to work for me.  The spreadsheet is flexible enough so that changes or additions to columns can be made as necessary.  I can sort the log by any of my column headings: date, names, repository, etc..., and I can have a different tab for each surname, location, research question.  And, I am taking Lisa's suggestion to keep my research logs in the cloud (Dropbox), so that they will be available no matter where I am and what device I'm using to connect to the Internet.  I'm excited to start putting my new research logs to good us.  

What I've discovered was that I needed to break down my goals into small manageable chunks.

Disclaimer: I am not paid by, nor do I receive any benefits from Dropbox or Family Tree Magazine.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Collaborating Cousins

I just want to say a few words about cousins and genealogy.  There's nothing like them, and I mean that in the best possible way.  From my husband's cousins in New York and Ohio (you know who you are) to my newly found cousin from the southern side of my family, they have all added to the depth and breadth of our families' histories.

All our cousins have generously shared their research and family artifacts with us: old photos, family documents, and their own research, and even doing some lookups for us when they are on their own research trips. 

So, to all our cousins THANK YOU for all you do in the name of family history and genealogy.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013!

I know that we all plan to become more organized and do better genealogy every year, but this year I thought it would help me to stay on track by creating a very specific list.  It will be interesting to come back next New Year's Eve and see how I did.  So, here's my:

Genealogy 2013 To Do List:
  1. Reorganize my computer filing system, so that I can easily find records and images.
  2. Finish scanning all my paper files and images. 
  3. File new digital records in the appropriate file folders.
  4. Write research plans for all research. Don't search without a plan.
  5. Use research logs
  6. Cite all sources. 
  7. Write up results, while it's still fresh - optimally before starting the next search.
  8. Attend as many genealogy webinars as possible.
  9. Study The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy - 1 chapter every 2 weeks and apply new knowledge to research in progress to develop new skills.
  10. Plan and execute research trip to Salt Lake City
  11. Write at least 1 blog post each week.    
  12. Backup, backup, backup on the 1st of every month.  Include all genealogy files, images and blogs.   

Share your thoughts and ideas for a 2013 resolutions list.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Blog Consolidation

ARG!!!!  I just deleted (accidentally) one of my family's genealogy blogs.  Well, it's my own fault, for never backing up my blogs.  So, let's just say this is a lesson well learned and it won't happen again.   It took me awhile, but I finally found the export blogs link in Blogger, and nowI have my genealogy blog remnants safety save on Dropbox

Once I recovered from the "tragedy" of losing all those blog posts, I decided now was the best time to reorganize my blogs; clean them up and make them more user friendly.  Today I am consolidating all my family history blogs into one location.  Now, no matter which family line a visitor is interested in they can just click on the page for that family and be whisked away.  This should make it easier for those of us who are keeping track of multiple lines.

And this main page can be used for family history and genealogy ramblings urelated to specific families.  We see how it all works -- I'll be watching for feedback.

It is going to take a little time to get everything setup and organized, so be patient as I play around with how things look and work.

So, as I end 2012, with my blogs in disarray, let's just say that I'm looking forward to 2013!