Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Genealogy Do-Over - Moving Towards a Research Tracking System - Choosing my platform

I thought I would be back with a post on Sunday but there just weren't enough hours in the weekend. I was lucky to find the time to scan a few photos that I want to post on Facebook during the week. That was the extent of anything genealogy-related for a few days. But this post is about organizing my genealogy research, not my home!

If there is one thing that my work life and previous genealogy research have taught me, it is that I will not remember the things that I think I will. Actually, that's a lesson I started learning in elementary school when my homework assignments weren't all completed because I wasn't writing them down. This was the subject of a parent-teacher meeting in about the 4th grade. Then my parents bought me a Ziggy pocket calendar. Now, thank goodness, I have much more helpful tools to choose from.

Not only do I need a research tracking system, I need something that won't be so complicated that I get lazy about using it, I need it to capture lots of information (because I won't remember it) and I'd much prefer it to be in Evernote so that I can access it offline when the need arises.

I really like Thomas MacEntee's research log in Excel, it holds a lot of information but it is still very easy to use. He has even included fields to allow you to start analyzing your evidence as you log it in. I gave it a shot last year, but my home computer is a Mac and at the time I didn't have Office 365 (the online subscription plan to Microsoft Office products). I was also in the process of deciding on a mobile computing option so I wasn't sure what my needs would be in that regard and didn't want to start something in Keynote (Apple's spreadsheet program) that might not be compatible with other devices.

Today, I do have Office 365 and I have the most basic Kindle Fire and a not-so-smart phone. Although I have yet to be able to take a deep dive into offline research, the reading I have done in the past few months has convinced me that I should have an option that includes mobile, offline access to my research logs. That means something that I can access on my Kindle (and a Chromebook when I can afford it) when there is no wireless available.

This is a long way of saying that although I like Excel, and there are some drawbacks to logging my research without it, I chose a method that uses Evernote. I mentioned Colleen Greene's blog and Evernote organization system in my last post. She has a system that seems a bit intimidating at first in terms of set-up but it looks to me like accessing the information will be quick and easy thanks to the ability to link notes together in Evernote, I love that. Here is an example of a research note for one of my grandparents:

As you can see, I have been able to link to other ancestors' notes and to documents that are saved in Evernote. This is not a replacement for genealogy software, as Colleen Greeen herself points out, but this section can give you access to facts and documents for easy reference.

Now, because the above information is in a table, rather than a spreadsheet, you can't add endless columns without reducing column width. That is where Excel has it all over Evernote, but I'm working on a solution to that which would basically involve multiple tables in the same document. But I am also experimenting with linked notes instead.

Hopefully I will have this all worked out by the end of next weekend so that I can share it with you then and get my research going again! 

1 comment:

Wendy said...

OK, can't wait to see the next version. I'm interested in this as I don't have a really good system of knowing what else I need to know.