Don’t forget your conference notes!

arcnotebookcameraYesterday I was flying home from an organizers’ conference and decided to take a few minutes to read through the notes contained in the notebook I take to meetings. (In case you’re an office-supply junkie like me, I’ll tell you that I use the Arc disc notebook from Staples–that’s it in the picture–which has repositionable pages that allow me to easily organize my notes in sections.)

As I read through the genealogy section, I became reacquainted with the notes I took from the wonderful sessions I attended at RootsTech 2015. Honestly, some of those sessions had completely slipped my mind as I re-entered real life after the conference. So I put a note on my task list to try out some of the resources in my next genealogy research session. (I’m particularly excited by trying out what I learned in the excellent session called Map My Ancestors, presented by A.C. Ivory.)

I see now that there is a bullet item missing from the list I created when I wrote the blog post Digging out after a conference. I need to add, Review session notes to the list of things I do at home after a conference. It doesn’t matter whether I took regular handwritten notes, used my Livescribe pen, or typed them directly into my iPad or laptop. If I don’t review the notes I’m going to miss out on some of what I learned, because I certainly can’t keep all of it in my head.

My crazy travel schedule this month has precluded my doing any genealogy research so far in April. But I intend to do some on Sunday. And the first place I’m going to look when I start my session is in my conference notebook. I can’t wait!

Starting the oral history conversation

family_history_daily_main_logoLast month, I read this great interview with D. Joshua Taylor, president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, Director of Family History at findmypast.com and co-host of Genealogy Roadshow. The interview was written by Creastleaf for Family History Daily.

I was especially inspired by this question and answer:

Crestleaf: To you, what are the top three most important questions people should ask when conducting oral history interviews with their family members?

JT: First, who was the oldest relative you knew; make that leap from one generation to another while you can. Second, ask them about their childhood – these are the clues and tidbits that we cannot readily find in existing records. Finally, ask them about a memory of yourself – too often we fail to document our own stories.

I think those questions are brilliant! They’re informal, will glean great information, and, I think, spark more conversation.

I just spent some time with my elderly parents on a whirlwind visit to Walla Walla, Washington, with my niece and nephew, who live in Australia. I had hoped to try out those questions but ended up having precious little time for such conversations. When I go back in a couple of months for a more leisurely visit, I’ll be sure and ask the questions. I hope to be able to ask them of my aunt (my father’s sister) as well.

And when I do, I’ll report here. My thanks to Crestleaf, Family History Daily, and, of course, Joshua Taylor for such great information!

Make your goals visible

2015gengoalsscreenshotToday is the last day of the first quarter of 2015, so I thought I’d take a look at the progress I’d made on my goals for the quarter. Since I try to research one family line per quarter, the end of the quarter is significant. Tomorrow, it’ll be time for me to turn my attention from my Adams ancestors (my father’s father’s family) and start researching my Brown ancestors (my mother’s father’s family), according to the schedule I set.

At the end of December, I put together a nifty table with eight different potential accomplishments for each line. My goal was to check off four per quarter. It was a pretty great idea, if I say so myself. But it fell by the wayside for a simple reason: I completely forgot about it.

I just discovered the goal table on my hard drive a week or so ago. While I did not focus on those goals in the first quarter, I did manage to put Xs in a few squares.

So, as I look to the second quarter, I have printed out the table and put it on my bulletin board where I put other things that inspire me. (Like my written goals for this blog.)

Writing goals is an important first step. But I dare say that remembering them is just as important!

Don’t forget labels!

Label everything in your genealogy roomI enjoy perusing the popular Facebook group, The Organized Genealogist. Recently, I’ve seen a number of posts where people are showing off pictures of their genealogy research rooms after they’ve taken the time to declutter and organize them. They’re beautiful and really fun to look at.

But the organizer in me is disturbed when I don’t see labels on containers and shelves, as is sometimes the case. I imagine that the person who has organized the room thinks that she’ll remember where everything is. But why tax your brain? It’s a simple thing to create a label. And it has a big payoff: it makes it easy for you to find what you’re looking for and, perhaps even more importantly,  put things away.

Another benefit to labeling is that it helps ensure that you’re organizing in identifiable categories. In other words, if you can’t put a label on a drawer or a bin, it’s probably because you have a mish-mash of categories contained in that space. Labels help you clarify. And clarity is good.

Your labels don’t have to be fancy. I do love my Brother P-Touch label maker. (I have the P-Touch 2030, but there are a variety from which to choose.) But there are plenty of other ways to make labels:

I think it’s a great idea to create labels that are easy to remove or change, in case you want to reorganize or your categories change. It also makes it a little easier to pull the trigger and create the label if you know it might not be there forever.

Please don’t get caught up in making the most perfectly gorgeous label, if it gets in the way of getting it done. That said, if you’re the crafty type who takes great pleasure in beautiful labels, go for it.  Pinterest is a great place to search innovative ways to label.

In my work as a professional organizer, I frequently am called into spaces where organizing systems have broken down. And in those spaces I almost always notice an absence of labels. If you’re going to the effort of organizing your genealogy space, labels will help you maintain that organization. Again, it’s a big payoff for a relatively small effort.