The hunt for the perfect research log got a lot shorter after I listened to the recent podcast from Geni.com in which Thomas MacEntee discusses his approach and even offers a ready-made template that covers a lot of what I am looking for in a research log. MacEntee describes it as a “record of a data journey” and I couldn’t agree more. As we forage through repositories, both online and in libraries and other institutions, we are acutely aware that the data we are working through should be documented carefully, even while we impatiently want to move on to the next tidbit. And as we document along the way, we know that some data will prove unhelpful, but the very fact that we found it needs to be recorded, so we don’t repeat the search unwittingly months or years from now. MacEntee’s template (free and easy to use in Google docs) is one that could be adopted or modified by a beginner, but some fields – those for analysis and evaluation – will prove invaluable as one’s genealogy knowledge improves with practice.
Recently an editor friend and I were discussing genealogy research and how we make notes along the way. She was involved in creating a research log notebook some years ago and we wondered about the best approach now that we can have iPads and other portable devices along with us in libraries.
I have been very slow to evaluate the notes I took in Salt Lake City last February, I think partly because they are a jumble of handwritten scribbles in the back of my RootsTech program book, plus a number of PDFs and document snapshots stored in Evernote from my Family History Library searches. I wish I had imposed more structure to the handwritten notes; that’s what makes going back to them seem like a big ugly job. It’s not too difficult to add organization to the bits in Evernote using tags, but even then, I will end up with an assortment of disparate notes that I will be tempted to print out (!) just to organize them.
Is there still a use for handwritten notes? Is there an ideal research log structure, for either handwritten or electronic note taking? How can we make research easier to keep track of? More on this in my next post.
Each of Horace Warner’s evocative photos of grubby east London children, taken early in the 20th century, tell us a fragment of a story, but leave us with so many questions. They look posed in working situations – washing laundry, caring for babies, splitting wood – but I have no doubt these kids did all of that and more to get what meagre food and shabby clothes they could manage. Some are saucy, sad, or forlorn, and some look like tough survivors, but unless some keen genealogist happens to recognize their kin, we will never know how they turned out.
I’ve had the immense pleasure recently of helping my mother declutter her office. It’s a big job and will take us many weeks, but fortunately she is keen to be part of the process. Not only that, but she is OK with letting go of lots of paper that has filled her office for years. Part of our process is scanning some of the material to digital form. The files that we are keeping in paper form fall into three categories: archives (important documents including photos), current documents (receipts or bills to be dealt with soon), and what I think of as memory aids. These last include her collections of ephemera from trips she has taken over the years, many of them to the UK for family reunions. Each trip’s folder contains tickets, brochures, receipts and her own diary, usually written in a tiny coil-bound notebook. Most of this will eventually hit the bin, but not before she uses it to recall and write about the wonderful memories that made each trip exceptional. Without her to bring delightful and important meaning to each bundle, it’s just a pile of useless paper.
Posted in memories
I was reading an article about work productivity, meaning typical office work, citing several iPad apps as must-haves when I discovered SoundNote. Well, genealogy researchers need to be productive, right? This little beauty records a spoken word interview or meeting quite nicely while you type notes using the iPad soft keyboard. Later, you can use your notes to jump to a specific place in the recording. You can even draw with a built-in pencil if doodle sketches work better for you as reminders. The whole thing can be saved to your Dropbox (BTW, that link is a referral for those of you who haven’t tried it!) or to a SoundNote space and you can email the notes including a link to the sound file to anywhere. I sent it to my Evernote account. It’s a great way to be productive!
For weeks, I’ve been planning to listen in to the GeneaBloggers Radio show, but I kept missing it. Lo and behold, I just discovered that I can listen in later. And lucky me, I caught the St. Patrick’s Day episode, full of great information and links I can use for my Irish research. Now I’m ready to focus my efforts on great great grandmother Annie Connley Gradwell.
I am gradually following up on the wealth of information that was my RootsTech experience. One of the presenters I had particularly enjoyed was Josh Taylor, of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, who did an excellent presentation on what genealogists need software tools to do for us in the future. Near future, please! I was delighted to find another of his presentations online, one that I had missed. See Geneabloggers for a link to Josh Taylor explaining some of the clever uses of PDFs for genealogy research and file management. Even for me, a longtime PDF fan, this was very useful.
Posted in RootsTech
Brewster Kahle of Internet Archive fame kicked off the final day here in Salt Lake City with timely reminders about the value of personal histories and the great value of preserving and sharing them. The rest of the day’s sessions kind of riffed on that theme in interesting ways. An 1848 daguerreotype panorama held by the Cincinnati Library has given up secrets no one imagined thanks to modern microscopy. Patricia Van Skaik walked us through all that had been and will be done to protect and share it.
Lisa Louise Cook of Google for Genealogy did a step by step session on building a mini history tour in Google Earth.
And to end the day, we heard about the phenomenal project to digitize the newspaper, periodical and journal holdings of the British Library. As Curt Witcher said yesterday in his keynote, it’s the best of times to be a genealogist!
And now I’m off to the library.
My second day here at the conference started with an inspiring keynote from Curt Witcher of the Allen County Public Library in Indiana. He spoke knowledgeably and with passion about the technology-fueled future of genealogy. All of the day’s sessions were good, but two stand out especially. I heard some good news, that is, not all bad, about Irish records that might become available online. And I learned enough about geocoding pictures, even vintage ones, to make my collections much more useful.
But the crowning experience of the day was this evening’s five-hour visit to the Family History Library. After a group viewing of Who Do You Think You Are, I was blissfully immersed in books on 19th century English Catholicism until almost midnight.
The first day of sessions at the RootsTech conference made my brain hurt, but in a good way. The keynote was shared with two speakers and I could have done without the first, Shane Robison of HP walking through a slide deck he’d given to countless other hapless audiences, telling us very little new. Fortunately Jay Veckler of FamilySearch followed with a more relevant and well presented piece. The sessions I attended ranged from excellent to pretty good, not a bad average for a first day.
To finish off, I just watched a fabulous 3D IMAX film at the Clark Planetarium about the Hubble. Gave me a thrill of pride to see Canada on the Canadarm doing its job in space.