The Research Tracker in Springpad

researchtrackersampleOne of the features of the Family History Organizer custom notebook I created for Springpad is the Research Tracker tab. Since I started getting serious about family history research about 18  months ago, I knew I needed to do a better job of keeping a research log. I tried a spreadsheet, but failed to keep up with it. I think the problem was that I had so many columns to fill out, it felt overwhelming.

So when Springpad asked me to create this notebook, I requested a place to easily record research sessions. It includes headers that can be copied and pasted into a fresh note for each research session. (I made up the headers that make sense to me, but you can easily edit them so that you’re copying and pasting headers that work better for you.)

I’ve been using the Research Tracker for a couple of weeks and have found that it’s really helpful. I start creating a new note at the beginning of each session, which helps me identify the information I’m looking for in the session. I like that when I finish filling it out at the end of the session, I identify next steps in the research.

I think what I like most about it is that it’s simple and non-intimidating. It may not be as thorough as a formal research log, but it’s way better than what I was recording before (which was nothing). Since I’m trying to do research five days a week (or at least work on organizing my research), I have plenty to enter and am feeling optimistic that this will keep me on track.

If you’re interested in trying it out, simply download the Family History Organizer notebook into your free Springpad account. (Or learn more about the notebook before downloading.)

Looking for my grandfather’s birth home

Looking for my grandfather's birth homeI’m in Portland, Oregon, doing some business planning my friend and colleague, Shannon Wilkinson. (This is something I try to do annually, and it really pays off.)

As I discovered earlier this year, my paternal grandfather, Dave Adams, was born in Portland. The birth announcement I found for him listed a street address for his parents, 749 Roosevelt Street. So I thought while I was here I might see if I could find the home his parents were living in when he was born on November 12, 1904.

Last night, after dark and in the fog, Shannon and I found ourselves near Roosevelt Street. (I had told her about it on the phone when I first found the birth announcement, and she remembered.) As it happens, due to the addition of freeways and an industrial plant in that area, only one residential block of Roosevelt street remains. So it was easy to narrow down our search.

However, some time in the 1930s, Portland changed its numbering scheme for its addresses. The block we were in was the 2200 block. My quest today was to find out whether the last existing residential block of Roosevelt happened to be the same block my great grandparents lived in.

Thankfully, Shannon is savvy about online resources available in Portland and she pointed me to Portland Maps, a city-run website that provides loads of information on each property in Portland. I had written down the address of one of the houses, so I looked it up.  I was able to click on historical permits on that house and the houses around it until I found a permit old enough to reveal the original address. I learned that 2354 Roosevelt was 780 Roosevelt back in the day. I clicked on the next house west and saw that it had been 782 Roosevelt, so I knew I was going in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, there were only a couple of houses east of 2354 Roosevelt, so it became apparent that my great grandparents’ house was one that was destroyed in order to make room for the freeway.

A look at the plat map of Portland in 1906 showed that the whole area had been residential. Shannon and I agree that the turn-of-the-century houses we saw in the last remaining block of Roosevelt probably are a good representation of where the Adams family had lived.

While I was ultimately disappointed in the outcome of this fun little research project, I’m thrilled to have a feel for the kind of housing my ancestors lived in 110 years ago. I’m so grateful to have this information available to me at my fingertips but also glad that I saw those houses in person.

Incidentally, I used the Research Tracker in my Family History Organizer notebook in Springpad (available to you by clicking here) to track this project. I’m finding it a really easy way to keep track of my research without feeling overwhelmed by a big spreadsheet.

My new Family History Organizer notebook on Springpad

sp_fam_hist_orgI’ve become a fan of Springpad, a personal organizer app for the web and mobile devices. I use it to manage tasks and keep track of things like books I want to read and have read, movies, and wines. So far, I’m just scratching the surface of its functionality, but I really am loving it. I wrote on my Peace of Mind Organizing blog about how much I’m loving their Task Notebook.

To me, Springpad feels like Evernote meets Pinterest. I find it intuitive, easy to use, and visually appealing.

I am thrilled to announce that I’ve partnered with Springpad to create a digital notebook that’s customized to help you organize your family history. Called the Family History Organizer, it has these features:

  • A simple to-do list to keep track of and plan next steps, including a quick +Add button for adding tasks and checklists
  • A research tracker, complete with template form, so you can log information and research progress quickly and easily
  • An easy “database” for uploading photos and files scanned to your computer or from your phone
  • Bonus: A resources section filled with my tips and helpful tools

I created the research tracker because I have a hard time sticking with a proper research log. The research tracker is light version of a research log, but I think the information it captures will be helpful. Just copy and paste the template headings into a new Note within the Research Tracker tab at the conclusion of each research session and you’ll have an easy, accessible record of that session.

I’ll update the resources section of the Family History Organizer when I come across great resources (or when I want to share a particularly useful blog post).

I hope you’ll check out this custom notebook. If you’re interested in information and tools about organizing in general (not just genealogy), I also have a notebook called The Habit Maker. This is all part of Springpad’s Operation Organization campaign in which they’ve partnered with a small group of organizing experts to create a dozen or so of these notebooks.

If you try out the Family History Organizer, please let me know if you have any questions or feedback!

Questioning my assumptions

I wrote last year about the importance of keeping a research log and my intention to keep one. I still think it’s important. Despite that, I’m still not really keeping one.

Oh, but I wish I were. My grandfather’s grandfather was George Washington Adams. I had accumulated a certain amount of information about him–and I’d recorded sources for everything. But now as I revisit him, I’m starting to doubt whether the military sources I found are necessarily for the right guy. And I think if I’d been keeping a good research log, I’d have perhaps written down why I was so certain that the George W. Adams from Company A, 35th Kentucky Infantry (Union), who ended up in the National Soldier’s Home for awhile in the 1920s and 1930s was my great great great grandfather. But looking at it now, I’m not so sure.

So I’m going to go back to all the data I’ve gathered for him and cast a critical eye on what I’ve found and make sure that I’ve got the right guy. And I’m going to carefully record my efforts and my reasoning for every fact. I’m not pledging to start keeping a research log for every bit of research I do (though I hope to at some point). I’m just pledging to do it for this one ancestor.

Once I figure out if I have the right guy, I’ll write here and let you know!