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Welcome!
I realized quickly, with the lack of records for my family, that I’d really have to “think outside the box”. I LOVE to interview people, and ask about "the older days" in Mecklenburg. I also study USGS maps, plats, read chanceries, look for long forgotten cemeteries and try help preserve some of those memories people share with me. Feel free to sign my guestbook stating surnames you are looking for, who you're related to etc. Always a work in progress, a work that I truly love!

29 July 2014

Organizing all my years of genealogy notes with Evernote

I wanted to take a little break from my usual posts to explain something I've been trying, in case it may be of interest or help to any of you. I've spent the last month trying to organize my genealogy stuff better. I developed a system that has worked amazingly well for me, with huge potential. A friend told me he used Evernote for genealogy. I wasn't sure how, and didn't have a chance to ask him for a long time. I set up an account, didn't get it right away, and I let it go for about a year. Then I read something about someone organizing all their daily tasks, blog posts, etc in Evernote, so I became curious again. I went to Evernote's website and watched the intro videos. Then I went to Google and typed "Evernote" and saw over 100 videos listed, of people showing how they used Evernote. I watched the top viewed ones, then got an idea of how I could use it for genealogy. I have the free version: windows, and droid for my phone.

I had hundreds of emails I saved over about 12 years, referencing court cases, records, notes on searching for cemeteries, ...lots of important things I didn't want to loose. But then finding where the info was, wasn't so easy. Which email? Which file was it stored in? Windows 7 searches occasionally found the files, Gmail much better. I started testing out tags in other programs and instantly loved tags/filters. So when I saw tags in Evernote I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them! Another thought: I had a plat, with the name JR Cole. At first I didn't really think I didn't needed to remember the name, because it wasn't a blood line. But after awhile, I started to see his name as a neighbor on other plats, as a witness on other records, but then I couldn't remember where. My lesson was learned. I found he was a close neighbor and his family married into mine lot. So every surname in my Mecklenburg/Brunswick emails gets a tag.

I've been doing this for about a month now. I've created about 10 household notes in a household notebook on cooking, sewing and gardening. The rest is working on this system I created in genealogy notebooks. I took about 250 email messages and created 170 notes in 18 notesbooks. Most of those digital notebooks are main surname lines like Dortch, Poythress, Jones, Taylor. Then I have one for cemetery searching, and interviews. I currently have over 250 tags. I take an old email message and copy/paste it into a note on Evernote. Then I tag all the things I want to remember in that new note. Here's some specific examples of what I do.

Example, my friend and relative Hobson Scott Wright sent me a Gray family picture we were trying to identify people in those pictures. The picture attached and email text goes in a note. It is in the notebook labeled "Gray". My tags are "Hobson Wright", "Gray", "VA-Danville", "identifying picture", "98th Regt group". Then notes about who we emailed and asked about the picture will go on that note. Right now that info is stored in a lot of places. It will be nice to have it all in one place, connected.

Another example: I went to Mecklenburg and visited the Rideout cemetery off Nellie Jones Rd. I visited it with 4 people. Those 4 people each have tags, also "cemetery searching", "98th Regt group", and "Ridout" are tagged.

Another example: someone emailed me a chancery case. Hobson Scott Wright and the 4 people who went to the Rideout cemetery with me commented on the case. There were 6 names in the case and 3 different surnames as witnesses, not in the case. That note has 15 tags: Hobson, the 4 names who also went to Rideout cemetery, the 6 surnames in the case, the 3 surnames as witness, and the word "chancery". So from these 3 examples you can see Hobson Scott Wright would already have 3 tags. When I click on "Pearson" or "Thomas" or "Jones" or "Purdy" or "Ireland-Armagh" tags, you would also see his name showing up, as one of the other tags on those notes.

Other types of tags I created: Just things I wanted to remember: If they went to Rehoboth church, or Kingswood, or Olive branch, or Sardis. If they died in military conflict, if they were in the military, then subcategories of which war, if a note has got a person's mailing address, if it's got an interview inclosed, if there's GPS coordinates in the note, etc.

I'm already seeing so many more patterns and connections! And as I type in notes, underneath my note, it shows other notes I have with similar subjects. As I search in Google, on the right, there's a box that shows similar Evernote notes I have on the subjects I'm searching. Evernote reads PDF's, does voice to text, ...so many amazing things! Evernote really can help you remember everything, help make your info organized, in your style, extremely accessible, very smart searching! I'm a huge fan now, if you can't tell.

PS. I recently showed my friend my system. He said had never thought of the tags. He just used notes to type up where he had searched, more like writing in a journal. But after seeing how I used the tags and OCR searching power, he thought that would help him and others, so I thought I'd share. 
For more information here is Evernote's site, the page with intro videos: http://evernote.com/video/


2 comments:

Elise Ann Wormuth said...

Thanks so much for this post - I've been struggling with using Evernote for a couple of years now, and you've given me ideas of how to use it better.

Michael Pierce said...

Great article! I've had this in mind to use for my genealogy research, but work has been getting in the way lately.

I think it's definitely important to have a tagging strategy when using Evernote. That really helps you avoid having hundreds of tags that are used just 1 time. Your examples of tagging based on surname and place names are a great strategy and will really open up the power of Evernote.

The other feature I think will be helpful is note linking. That lets you create a hyperlink from one Evernote note to another. It's just like using a web site's URL, except it lets you connect one note to the next. I almost think of it as the "related note" feature that you mention, but connections that you curate rather than Evernote's searching algorithm making a guess. The trick is going to be figuring out how to best use the linking feature and when it's most important.

Thanks for the thoughtful article!