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!

How orderly is your research desk?

cleandeskIf you can’t remember the last time you saw your desktop in your genealogy research space, perhaps it’s time to experience the joy of a clean desk. I know that time to do genealogy research is limited for most people and the last way  you want to spend your precious genealogy time is on cleaning up your desk. But it’s worth it. When you sit down at a clear desk, your mind is more clear and you can be more focused on your research.

But there’s good news: It doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming. Here’s a step-by-step suggestion for creating some order on your desk, swiftly.

  1. Set your timer for 25 minutes.*
  2. Clear everything off your desk (and I mean everything except, perhaps, your computer). Put like things together into rough categories as you go. (For example, put papers together in a pile on the floor near your desk; put office supplies together, etc.) It might helpful to have some bankers’ boxes or plastic totes handy to hold the categories, but the floor will do too.
  3. Put away the items that already have homes. For example, put binders and books where they belong. If something belongs in another room, put it in a box or bin that you’ve marked “Relocate to another room” so you don’t wander away from the room you’re working on. At the end of the session, you can put all that stuff away.
  4. Go through the non-paper items and put back on the desk those things that deserve to take up such prime real estate. Only those things you use every research session should be placed within arms’ reach when you’re sitting at your desk (with the possible exception of items that give you great pleasure to look at). Relocate or discard the other non-paper items that were on the desk.
  5. Take all those papers and put them in a box of some sort. Mark that box “Backlog.” (I use a box similar to this one from IKEA for that purpose and I place that box on a shelf.)
  6. Every time you’re at your desk, set a timer for ten minutes and go through the papers in the backlog, discarding, scanning and/or filing as required. Do this ten minutes a day for as long as it takes to eliminate the backlog. (You might be surprised how few of these short sessions it takes.)
  7. Don’t add to the backlog box. Instead, at the end of each research session take the time (probably less than five minutes) to clear off your desk and put everything away. That way, you’ll start each session fresh.

* When your timer goes off, stop what you’re doing and take a five-minute break. Then set it for another 25 minutes and get back to work, unless you’re done.

8 reasons not to print

8 reasons not to print genealogy documentsWhen I started this blog in 2012, I printed everything. I did a lot of research online, but I would print out the documents I found online and read the printed version. Then I would  file them in my paper filing system after recording the information into my family tree software. Gradually, I’ve stopped that practice. I think the turning point was when I created an electronic filing system that I was confident in. Before that, I was afraid I wouldn’t find the document on my hard drive.

Now, the only paper that goes into file folders are documents that came to me in hard copy form. And even some of those are scanned and discarded.

In an effort to encourage others to consider giving up printing, I’ve come up with a list of eight advantages to going paperless:

  1. It’s less expensive. When you print, you’re using paper, toner (or ink) and electricity. And you’re creating wear and tear on your printer.
  2. It takes up less space. As your paper files (or binders) grow, they take up more space. (And certainly piles of unfiled paper take up a lot of space!)
  3. It’s easier to file. More effort goes into filing a piece of paper into a physical file folder or binder than into an electronic folder.
  4. Electronic documents are easier to find. If you misfile a paper file or leave it in a pile, it can take a lot of effort to find it.
  5. Electronic documents are searchable (usually). With a few keystrokes you can find all your electronic documents that share certain attributes (like a surname).
  6. Electronic files are easier to read. You can zoom, adjust contrast, brighten and do all sorts of things to electronic documents that make them easier to read. And that makes your research easier on your eyes. (I can’t remember the last time I used my lighted magnifier!)
  7. Electronic documents are easily backed up. I recommend using both an external hard drive and a cloud backup.
  8. Electronic files are easier to share. No photocopying or mailing necessary!

Do you have any reasons to add? I’m convinced, but I’d love to hear from anyone who would like to make a case for keeping paper copies of everything!

Photo of printer by Sir Adavis via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License. (Red X added using PicMonkey.)

Professional organizers talk family history

As a professional organizer who blogs (in addition writing here, I have a blog at my business’s Peace of Mind Organizing website), I occasionally  participate in the monthly Professional Organizers Blog Carnival. Each month organizing bloggers are asked to submit a single post that matches that month’s theme.

I was delighted to see that the theme for October is Family History. My biggest challenge was to decide which blog post to submit! I ended up submitting one from my organizing website, Tracing my roots: Why I love genealogy research.

The Blog Carnival was published today and it occurred to me that readers of Organize Your Family History might enjoy perusing the 14 family-history-related blog posts in the Carnival. My organizing colleagues write great stuff.

So here’s the link: Family History – Professional Organizers Blog Carnival.

Enjoy!