Giving Evernote another try

Evernote logoI know that people rave about Evernote, for genealogy and for other aspects of life. Over the years, I keep dipping my toe and withdrawing it quickly. The user interface has just never clicked for me.

I blogged back in February of 2013 that I was exploring Evernote for genealogy. That didn’t really pan out, but late in 2013 I started using Springpad, which has a more graphical interface than Evernote. Thanks to Springpad, I became hooked on cloud-based, synching organizing and storage systems. After Springpad announced it was shutting down this month, I exported my data, including my family history research logs, to Evernote.

So now I’m ready to give it another try. I’m trying to be open minded about Evernote’s interface. I bought and read the e-book Evernote Essentials by Brett Kelly, and I’m going to be checking out genealogy-specific information about Evernote. (This morning, I found this great page on Cyndi’s List with genealogy templates for Evernote.)

I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime I’m wondering whether any of you have either great tips using Evernote in genealogy or  recommendations of more resources to help me learn to use and love Evernote. If so, I’m all ears!

Learning to like my contactless scanner

At the end of 2013, I purchased the Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600 contactless scanner. I blogged here about how intrigued I was by a scanner that scans from above and doesn’t need to touch the (potentially delicate) items being scanned.

It arrived, I set it up without much difficulty and almost immediately I hit a trouble spot. The first things I tried to scan had curled edges. First, there was the letter that my grandfather had written my grandmother. It had been stored for 87 years in the envelope in which it was mailed At 36 pages, the letter didn’t lie flat in the envelope, so the folds were rounded. I had hoped I could flatten the image with the included software, but gave up pretty quickly.

Here’s tdaveslettertobeapg1withoutglasshe first page of that letter. While it’s legible, the folds and curves troubled me. And it took several tries to get it to look that good.

I found myself really disappointed and even looked into returning it. But I’d waited too long and it was after the 30-day deadline imposed by the seller.

That was actually a blessing in disguise, because when I was at RootsTech in February, I had the opportunity to talk with a Fujitsu representative who gave me a great idea: Buy a piece of non-glare glass to put over the objects I want to scan that have curled edges.

It took me awhile to get that done, but in the meantime I started appreciating how great the scanner is for non-curled documents and photographs. I just lay them down on the mat and push a button. (I can even do more than one item at a pass and they’ll be saved into separate documents) The process is quite simple and I don’t have to worry about damaging the photo by putting it through my sheet-fed ScanSnap S1500M (a precursor to the current iX500). I don’t have a flat-bed scanner.

page 1 dave's letter to bea testI finally got around to buying the non-glare glass and that idea turned out to be a stroke of genius. Here’s the first page of the letter scanned through the piece of glass. It’s not perfect–the folds are still visible and a would take a little bit of effort to lift the glass for multi-page documents. But the pesky curvature is gone and the light is uniform.  It’s a simple, low-cost (under $20) solution.

I love my sheet-fed scanner, which is very fast and will scan both sides of the page simultaneously. But for delicate items and for books or magazines that can be scanned without pushing down on their spine, the SV600 is pretty swell. I haven’t experimented with scanning books yet, but for magazines, I’ve seen that it does a nice job of flattening the image so that the pages don’t slant toward the middle of a double-page spread.

I don’t know that I will use it as much as I anticipated when I purchased it–it’s unclear that my needs merit the $600 price tag. But now that I have it, I’m looking forward to getting to know it better (and appreciate it more). I know it will come in handy.

Now that I think about it, a Flip-Pal mobile scanner might have served much the same function, at much lower price point–and had the advantage of being portable. I’m tempted to purchase a Flip-Pal one of these days. (I’m turning into a scanner collector!) If so, I’ll be interested to see when I choose to use which scanner. And I’ll report here, if you’re interested too.

 

When life gets in the way of research

Finding time for genealogy researchI had a wonderful research trip last month and I really enjoyed being immersed in my genealogy research. But I don’t think I’ve done any family history research since then! That is a crying shame.

It’s not a bad problem to have:  I’m so busy with paying work (helping clients get organized) that I’m having trouble finding time to do genealogy research. But it’s also not acceptable. If I want to do this research (and I do), I need to make it a priority.

I know I’ve felt this way at times before, so I perused the articles from this blog tagged time management. And I was inspired. I noticed a shift in how things are going for me. My lack of research these days is truly due to lack of time, not lack of direction or feelings of overwhelm as it used to be. So that’s progress. (The end result–no research getting done– is the same, unfortunately.) My quarterly plan really gives me direction, which is so beneficial to how I feel about doing research.

But as I wrote in this article, it really is about priority management, not time management. I’m fortunate in that I have control over my schedule, both work and personal, since I don’t have kids and my husband makes few demands on my time. So I could, in theory anyway, reserve a day of the week for genealogy research. It might mean delaying (or possibly even losing) billable hours. Or it might mean prioritizing my desires over my clients’ (which feels really weird).

The bottom line is this (at least right now): If I don’t make doing my family history research a priority, time to do it is not going to materialize. I need to schedule it, not wait for free blocks of time. And, if necessary, I need to sneak it into available pockets of time.

In March 2013, I created a genealogy time-management plan. Looking back, it might have been overly ambitious and I admit it fell by the wayside. So now, I think if I simply block off  four hours a week where I focus on actual family history research (not writing this blog, not reading other people’s blogs), I will make progress. That sounds completely doable.

Maybe in June I’ll be able to schedule a little genealogy staycation of a few days’ duration. That sounds really wonderful.

How about you? How do you find the time to do your family history research?

Photo by nicksarebi via Flickr.

Exploring genetic genealogy

Exploring genetic genealogyWhen I was at the RootsTech conference in February, I was inspired to check out getting a DNA test to help me in my genealogy research. I hadn’t been tempted before, primarily because genetics always made my eyes cross when I studied it in biology class. But I grew to understand at RootsTech (primarily from the great keynote from Dr. Spencer Wells) that the more people who get genetic testing and open their results to others, the more valuable it becomes. It’s part of that genealogical generosity I blogged about after the conference.

Today I was reading a primer on DNA testing for ancestry on the terrific blog Family History Daily. It was really informative, but I have to admit I’m getting a little paralyzed by the options. I did a little Google search and found myself wishing I could find an article in which someone would just tell me what test to take. I did find this terrific roundup, Top Genetic Genealogy Tools by Blaine Bettinger on Family Tree Magazine’s blog, and was struck by the last sentence, “Having a clear purpose in mind–such as finding out where your maternal roots lie or whether you’re related to someone else with your surname–is essential to choosing the right genetic genealogy test.” That makes so much sense. Keeping your goal in mind is always helpful in making choices.

Now I realize I don’t really know my goal. I’m motivated by curiosity and the desire to be helpful but that’s not much of a goal to guide my choice of which test to take.

So I thought I’d turn to the helpful readers of this blog. Have you had a DNA test to help your genealogy? If so, what was your goal? And what service did you use? Were you satisfied with the test results? Would you recommend that testing service?

I appreciate any advice or experiences you’d like to share!

Photo by Alf Melin via Flickr