Doing the research vs. organizing the research

doing research vs organizing researchI suspect that most genealogy enthusiasts prefer doing research to organizing the results. A large part of the fun (for me, anyway) is playing detective and making discoveries. That’s thrilling. But if we don’t process our finds, what good do they do us?

I was thinking about that today as I thought about whether to do some genealogy research or spend the time working on organizing my research. I feel I’ve been so out of touch with my research (still blaming my puppy, Bix, and my long work hours) that I don’t even know where I stand with anything. That makes me feel a bit paralyzed.

I could jump right back into the research and maybe have some fun, but I think I’d be better off taking stock of where things stand organization-wise. And for me that means:

  • Looking over my genealogy to-do list
  • Looking at my progress tracker and updating it if necessary
  • Looking on my hard drive for electronic files related to the Adams family (this quarter’s family) and filing them
  • Pulling out my backlog box marked “genealogy stuff to read” that I didn’t even remember I had and going through the contents. I just peeked in it and it contains documents picked up at genealogy conferences in 2015. I suspect I’ll be able to pretty swiftly dispatch a lot of it. If not, I’ll add items to my genealogy task list (like I described in my blog post, Banishing the stubborn pile).
  • Updating my task list with the tasks that will inevitably result from this activity.

That’s a pretty long list, but it shouldn’t take too long. And, I remind myself, I don’t have to do all of it. Any effort here will be beneficial. Once I have a better handle on what I’m doing and what steps I need to do to improve my organization, I’ll have a clearer head. And I’ll have more direction when it comes to doing actual research. Something tells me it will be much easier to get started researching then!

Photo above taken by me using the SHOTBOX tabletop photo light studio.

Taking notes at genealogy conferences

Template for taking notes at a genealogy conferenceIf you’re going to RootsTech next week (or any other genealogy conference this year) I encourage you to check out the free template I created in Transpose.

Transpose is a business platform/website that I wrote about last year. It allows you to create templates (which they now call “solutions”) to create customized forms. You can also download solutions that others have created and uploaded into the Transpose Public Library.

I’ve created a bunch of solutions for my own use and uploaded seven solutions to the Transpose Public Library. One of these is a solution called Genealogy Conference Notes. It’s designed to make it easy to take notes at a genealogy conference.

I’ve only been to one genealogy conference since I created this solution (the Genealogy Society of Southern Illinois conference last August). Using the template, I created a new record for each lecture. The template allowed me to capture general notes from the lecture and also jot down which ancestors the information might apply to, along with action ideas. It worked out really well for me–I love having a structured place to take notes. When I got home, I had a list of concrete action steps.

I chose to take notes on my laptop, because I prefer a full keyboard. Transpose has an app you can use on a tablet or smartphone, but I haven’t yet tried out taking notes with my solution on a mobile platform.

If you’re interested in trying it, you’ll need a free account at Transpose. Go to the Genealogy Conference Notes solution in the library and just copy it into your account. There it will be among any other solutions you copy or download. Just click on the solution and create a new record for each lecture you attend. All the information you capture will be saved for you in Transpose, in a searchable and filterable database.

You can also use it as a basis creating your own solution that works better for your needs. The folks at Transpose work hard to make it easy for you to use the platform. Here’s a great getting started tutorial.

I can’t wait to use it for the next genealogy conference I attend!

Clutter-free gifts for the genealogists on your list

gifttagcroppedAs a professional organizer, I frequently help clients declutter their physical possessions. Over and over again I’ve seen how difficult it is for most folks to let go of an item they’d received as a gift, even if they don’t use or love it.

This realization has changed the way I give gifts. As I’ve written repeatedly on my organizing blog, I think it’s much kinder to give a gift that doesn’t have a chance to turn into clutter. So I find myself giving these types of gifts:

  • digital gifts (iTunes gift certificate, for example)
  • services (gift certificate for a massage or a float)
  • ephemeral goods (like edibles and cut flowers) and
  • experiences (an outing or meal together)

If you have any genealogy enthusiasts on your list, you’re in luck. There are all sorts of opportunities to give clutter-free gifts to those folks. Here are some ideas.

  • A subscription to an online service, like Ancestry, Fold3 or MyHeritage
  • A membership in a local society or other association, like the NGS or the Southern California Genealogy Society (so they can have access to the webinar archives, my pick for deal of the century)
  • A gift certificate to work with professional genealogist
  • A handwriting analysis of one of their ancestors
  • One or more of my Orderly Roots guides (you could download it for them and email it, or contact me for a special code they can use to download a guide you pay for)
  • Your help with their genealogy (maybe offer to spend a couple of hours on one of their brick walls)
  • Your help decluttering or organizing their research space
  • A trip together to a cemetery or research library
  • Registration for a genealogy conference
  • A donation in their name to a worthy genealogy cause (like Preserve the Pensions or their favorite genealogy society)

If you do want to give a physical item, be sure it’s useful. You could consider a Flip-Pal mobile scanner or a ShotBox portable photo light box.

Before you buy anything, check out the Genealogy Bargains area of the Geneabloggers website to see if there are any special deals to be found!

Illustration by Traci Gardner via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

What’s your biggest organizing challenge?

When it comes to organizing your genealogy, what’s your biggest challenge? (For me, I think it’s finding the time and using it well.)

I’d love to know what your challenges are, so I’ve created a little poll. Select as many answers as you’d like. Feel free to select Other and fill in your challenge if I haven’t thought of it. Also, feel free to elaborate in the comments. Knowing what you find challenging will help me decide what to write about.