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Evernote for Occasional Genealogists

Evernote for Occasional Genealogists: a few tips for what else you should keep (in Evernote) to make yourself a better genealogist.

Have you realized what the biggest challenge for Occasional Genealogists (OGs) is? It's not a lack of research results. It's remembering what research you've done. The solution to this problem is great organization. That's not a very helpful answer, though. Great genealogical organization involves several aspects. These aspects include great note taking, a great filing/retrieval system, and great skills overall---like report/memo writing and analysis.

Write It Down

Occasional Genealogists need to write everything down, AND they need to be able to find it again. Every genealogist can benefit from this, but if you get to research pretty often, you can rely on your memory (you shouldn't, but you can). If you're familiar with Evernote, you probably know where I'm going with this. Occasional Genealogists can't remember everything---Evernote's tagline is "Remember Everything." Evernote was designed to solve this OG problem.

Genealogy Note Taking Form (printable)

Free, printable note taking form for genealogyToday's freebie is a real staple. Well, actually, it's a form, a note-taking form.

You can absolutely use blank paper for note taking. However, since you need to record the same kind of details on every page of notes, a form is nice for reminders. This particular form is aimed at new or less experienced genealogists who need extra help remembering all the source details they need to record. This is great for Occasional Genealogists (OGs) because you very likely don't remember everything between your occasional research sessions.

As a disclaimer, I do not take notes by hand unless it is the only option I have. Below are images with filled in forms. As you can see from my handwriting, there's a very good reason I don't handwrite anything. Since I previously provided a note taking form that had to be used electronically (Plan to Notes Form), I've created a printable note-taking form for OGs who need a form they can fill out by hand. I've tried to include all the parts paper notes require---there are some differences from electronic documents, so let me know if I've left something out.

Page One

The first page of this form doesn't have a place for your actual notes. It is dedicated solely to capturing organizational and source information. It kicks off with a place to indicate where you will store your notes. I've kept this simple since everyone's filing system differs.

There are two blank lines after the file name. One is for you to enter the researcher name and contact information. That's you. Put information on this line for several reasons. First, if your notes get left at the repository, you want them to get back to you. Just your name won't help. Second, at some point, you should assume your notes will be shared. You may be an avid sharer but if not, what about when you die? Are you planning to have your research destroyed? If you have any hope of your research continuing after you, fill in some identifying researcher information. Since this form is for you to use, type your name into your master copy so you don't have to enter it every time you go to research.

The next blank line is for additional identifying details. I haven't included a description on this line in case you want to use it for something else. On this same line is the place for the date you perform the research.

Here's a close-up picture of a sample form in action.
Printable genealogy note taking form, page 1.When creating this form, I've imagined you will do some preparation before you head off to research. This sample shows the first several sections typed in. If you know what sources you will be looking at, why not have your form ready, at least page one.

You can really up your game by always using page one. You may not find the person you are looking for---you need to record this at least in your research log. But, if you're an OG, taking notes when you have a chance is important. Page one has a section called "Notes about source." This is where you make notes based on the preface to a book or from your observations of records.

It might be a note that the transcriber couldn't find volume three although it is supposed to exist. The note might be that the first 20 frames of microfilm are illegible. All of these are vital pieces of information for an OG---or any genealogist. If you're an OG, you don't have time to make another trip only to find it is wasted because you need volume three again. Get these details the first time, even if you don't find your ancestor.

I've kept all the source parts together on this form for your future reference. You may be able to enter some source parts at home based on a catalog entry or finding aid. Other parts you can only enter once you're researching.

After the source details is the place for your very specific goal. The file and secondary identifier at the top may seem pretty specific to you but the goal should be more specific. Sometimes this is harder if you want to save time and are looking for mutiple families in one record. Try and come up with a goal, not just "all Smiths" (although sometimes that may be exactly what you're doing).

Last on page one is a summary section. I've labeled it "Questions raised or ideas for future research." This phrase helps me think about what will happen next. When you're done, don't forget to enter the total number of pages for this set of notes (not visible in the image).

Page Two+

Printable note taking form, page 2.Page two is basically just a blank page for your notes. It does have a place to record a short source, the date, and the page number and total pages. These are all important with paper notes in case things get separated.

There is also a reminder running along the left side of the page to remind you to record any additional source details. This is usually the page of a book or microfilm frame number. In some cases you may need to record more details. Have you ever photocopied a page from a book of abstracted obituaries only to get home and realize the date and paper name were on the previous page? That's the kind of detail to include. Use this page over again for as many pages as you need.

You can download a copy in the Resource Library.
to get free access to the Resource Library.
The form is an extended PDF. If you're using a newer version of Adobe Acrobat Reader, you should be able to type into select fields and save the form. This may not work if you are using another PDF program. Remember, you can always enter your contact info and "print" to PDF for a customized printable.

DIY Page Flags for Genealogy and More

DIY Page Flags for Genealogy: The OccasionalGenealogist.com Thursday I posted about keeping a planner for your personal life. Amazingly, I found a bit of time that night to finally make some paper accessories for my planner. Friday I realized I had even better genealogical uses for my little creations.

FYI, this post isn't exactly aimed at Occasional Genealogists. I have considered that you might be an Occasional Genealogist because your other hobbies get in the way. If that's you, this is a hobby cross-over. This is a fun project for any crafty genealogist, though.

I recently purchased a set of clear stamps and dies at Amazon.com (note: links to Amazon products are affiliate links, I make a potential commission if you click through, you pay the same you would, I can afford to keep writing this blog!). The particular set I chose to start with is from Hero Arts's Clearly Kelly line, "Kelly's Planner Clips Stamp & Cut." Here are a few pictures of my test batch just so you can see what I used and what it made.

A Brief Review

I'm extremely inexperienced at stamping but I've done a good bit of die cutting (or electronic cutting, I can't live without my Silhouette Cameo). A lot of my manual die cutting has been with fabric so I was curious to see how these thin dies worked. They cut really cleanly and are much easier to use to cut the slit than an electronic cutter (I don't want to scrape a bunch of tiny cutouts off my mat). It is a pain to line up the stamped image with the die, though (the directions say "stamp then cut"). For me, it's a toss up if I'd prefer cutting with the dies or my Cameo. I'll probably use the dies when making a few clips. For some of the genealogy uses I'm about to mention, I may find a hybrid solution. But let's talk about the genealogy aspects.

Page Flags for Reference

A few years ago I was lucky enough to get on DearMYRTLE's first panel for her first Mastering Genealogical Proof (MGP) Study Group. Studying MGP requires you flip back and forth in the book from the exercises to the text and articles, and also to the answers in the back. Below are a few images of how I found my copy recently.
The top image is the top of the book once the clips were removed (three on top and one on the side). The other photos are the warping caused by just one of the four clips I accidentally left in the book.

Thankfully I know better than to use exposed metal paper clips so I wasn't faced with any rust stains. But the pages were pretty badly mangled. It looked almost like humidity damage (water damage without stains). I didn't really need or intend to leave the coated paper clips or the plastic clip in the book, but it happened. It's not a huge issue since this isn't a book I was concerned with keeping in pristine condition but it's also lucky I didn't leave more clips in or that this wasn't a library book.

I realized my new paper page flags would be much better for this use. They stick up from the book so it's a little easier to find them (more on the one downside of this in a moment). They are obviously thinner so they have less affect on the book. Here's the big advantage, they're paper. You can label them. They're easy enough to make you don't have to be able to reuse them so if you are doing something like a study group, why not customize them? This particular set comes with two stamps for the arrow style clips, one with a blank section intended for you to write in. You could also use either of the other two styles included if you need larger tabs. You could create tabs for each chapter down one side and then flag sections you want to return to along the top (or any method you like). Page clips are a popular idea so there are plenty of other sources to get a similar product (to DIY or completed flags). Here are the paper page flags in action in MGP.

I tested if these would stay in the book with minor abuse. If you are using these for a study group, you may need them to stay put for a while. Flapping the book around as best I could without damaging the binding, they didn't budge. The moment I set the book down on the flags (i.e. on the top edge or side), they popped right out. You're probably good if you're doing an online study group or if you carry your book in your arms. If you put it in a bag, I don't know if the flags will stay put. A different style might extend farther down the page and not have this problem but just test it before you toss your nicely flagged book into a bag.

Page Flags for Digital Images

This next idea is the idea that got me excited. I've had bookmarks similar to these page flags so using them for reference isn't much of a stretch. I'm also not that concerned about using sticky notes in my personal library so that's another option for longer term bookmarking. Sticky notes can leave a residue on books which is an archival concern, though. Especially for library books which may be used for several lifetimes and may have many more sticky notes placed in them than a personal book would.

If you take digital images of books, and lots of them, like I do, you have to have a system. If you don't you just end up with the digital equivalent of an unsorted pile of paper. Part of a good system is often marking each page in a book you intend to copy and then making all the "copies" at once. Normally I have not done this because the best marking option has been sticky notes and as I said, they can leave a residue. Anything that doesn't stay attached to the page can be tricky depending on the book. Larger books are easier but even the thickness can make a difference (both thickness of the book and your bookmark). Rather than deal with this, I've just gone with gathering page numbers from the index and then starting at the beginning and photographing and reading in the same pass. All the stopping and starting can lead to errors. I've opted for potentially making errors because of this rather than making an error when a loose bookmark falls out.

DIY Page Flags for Digital Copying-Genealogy
I'm excited to try these page flags as a solution. They have the same advantages as mentioned in the previous section. They're thin and don't distort the page. You can write on them. Plus, the flag style creates a little arrow you can "point" at the part of the page you're interested in (use one for each item on that page). This alone is a reason for me.

Here they are in a book of abstracted records.

I think a numbered set would be great to help keep the images and research log entries in agreement. In the event a page number inadvertently gets cut out of the picture, a numbered flag can save the day. They might work as a quick reference. It will also help you flip to the next marked page if you've got lots of pages close together, no more missed pages.
I said I love my Silhouette Cameo so I'm actually considering making a longer thinner version that will be a better pointer (you can always pull them part way out if they cover the text when it comes time to photograph).

If you are looking for a little craft project or a replacement for sticky notes, maybe these page flags can help you.

Time-saving Thursday: Planners

Last week's Time-saving Thursday was all genealogy. Usually, it won't be. Instead, I want to provide a variety of different ways to save time. You can then spend your "savings" on genealogy. The idea is to give you ideas and inspiration, not a to-do list. If you have time to try every Time-saving Thursday, you probably already have some time for genealogy!

This week I want to mention keeping a planner. Call it an organizer, a Filofax, a Day Timer, or whatever you want. When I was younger this was always presented as a schedule you filled in and that was about it. That sounds great for a professional who spends all day running from one appointment to another but for most of us, a timed schedule doesn't make our day go 'round.

Try-it Tuesday: SLIG Problem Solving

Try-it Tuesday: SLIG Problem Solving
The title of this post may not be the most informative to all of you. Hopefully "Problem Solving" got your attention. SLIG is the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. It's going on this week which has prompted me to make this "try-it" suggestion. You can get a little general information about SLIG in my "Institutes" post over on my J.P. Dondero Genealogy blog. You can learn more on the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) website.

Do You Need a Genealogy Vacation?

"Problem Solving" is one of the courses offered at SLIG. Of course, I don't know if it will be held at future institutes as the schedule for next year has not been released. Traditionally it has been an option every year. A few years ago I was so fortunate as to win my registration to SLIG. Since this was a prize, SLIG registration had started two or three months earlier and the advanced courses I was most interested in were already full. I decided instead to give myself a genealogy vacation and take "Problem Solving." It was a great vacation!

Genealogy Research Plan to Notes Form

For this first Freebie Friday, I'm making a custom research planning form available. This form is only to be used electronically, it won't work if you try and print it. It is based on the plan to notes form I described in yesterday's post about three genealogy shortcuts that aren't cheats.
Simple, customizable electronic form for creating a genealogy research plan and then adapting it to your notes. | The Occasional Genealogist


This form is a Google Docs file with minimal formatting. This should allow you to use it on most devices. You will need to save a copy before you can edit it.

Three Genealogy Shortcuts That Aren't Cheats

3 genealogy shortcuts that aren't cheats. Try these research shortcuts online, at home, or at a repository.There really aren't any shortcuts in genealogy.

Most of the "shortcuts" come in organizing, filing, and using technology--rather than record usage.

It's really about being efficient.

That being said, it's Thursday which for this blog is "Time-saving Thursday" so here are three suggestions to save time while still doing great genealogy.

If you haven't been doing some of the things mentioned (like creating a research plan and keeping a research log) because you're trying to save time, you're not taking a shortcut, you're cheating.

It'll come back to bite you in the end.

1. Start your citations before you start to research.


If you're heading to a repository, start your citations at home. Complete them as much as possible before you ever get to the repository. Enter them in your research log.

Speed Up Your Online Research with Five-minute Prep Sessions

Once you're done reading this post, you should feel like this was the most obvious suggestion in the world. If you're not doing this, someone needs to tell you to try it.

Take 5 minutes now and you can speed up your online research when you finally find time.



Spend some time as often as you can on this (daily would be great, weekly almost as good, but monthly is better than nothing).

Try-it Tuesday: Quick Suggestions for OGs and other genealogists

Try-it Tuesdays: Helpful links from TheOccasionalGenealogist.com
It's time for the first Try-it Tuesday. You won't earn a cute little triangle patch like you did in Brownies but you may find some great suggestions. Try-it Tuesdays will probably all be genealogy related (unlike some of my plans for "Timesaving Thursdays"). However, they may not all be right for Occasional Genealogists (OGs). I have an idea in my mind about the type of genealogist I'd call an Occasional Genealogist. Your idea might differ. Try-it Tuesdays add a little variety to the suggestions to try and help some readers that might not be what I think of as an OG. Try-it Tuesdays also provide some subjects that I might not think of when envisioning an OG.

Welcome, How Can "The Occasional Genealogist" Help You?

Tips and tricks for the Occasional Genealogist at theoccasionalgenealogist.com
Welcome to "The Occasional Genealogist!" This blog is for all the enthusiastic genealogists who only occasionally get to work on their own genealogy.

For most of you that probably means you only occasionally get to do genealogy. For some of you, though, you may do other people's genealogy pretty often but only occasionally find time for your own projects.

I'm in that second group. My name's Jennifer and I am an Occasional Genealogist... sort of. As a professional genealogist, I do genealogy almost every day, rarely is it my own.

A Little Bit About Me

I didn't get to be a professional genealogist by going to school for genealogy. I started as a complete Occasional Genealogist. I only got to do research occasionally and that was in the days before the Internet.

How Can I Help?

I've been through many "stages" of genealogy, from being a beginner, and probably making every mistake out there, all the way to being a full-time professional who had free time to spend on my own research. I want to spare you some of the growing pains my personal research has been through as well as share some of the "secrets" that make professionals successful (here's a hint, there aren't any secrets).

Why the OCCASIONAL genealogist?

So why a blog devoted to The Occasional Genealogist? Why not just write about "genealogy" without the distinction?

First, there isn't anything fundamentally different an Occasional Genealogist has to do. However, most beginning genealogists don't research and work in a way that is conducive to infrequent sessions of genealogy. Successful professionals, do. That's right, if you're an Occasional Genealogist, you need to up your skills to a professional level. That doesn't mean you need the specific knowledge of a professional but you do need the organizational skills. When I say "organizational skills," I'm not just talking about your filing system. A good beginning genealogy book, class, or course will cover all of the research skills you need. The skills that aren't specifically related to using records are what I'm talking about. Reading old handwriting is a research skill, keeping a research log is an organizational skill. This distinction is semantics but for an Occasional Genealogist, the big difference is in the organizational skills, not the research skills.

Do you have time for genealogy?

For most of us, organizing isn't the fun part. And even if you enjoy organizing, what you enjoy, may not lead to your success. There are lots of ways to do genealogy correctly but not every option works for every genealogist, or for every genealogical problem. If you have decided genealogy is what you want to spend your limited free time on, but you're starting to become frustrated, you may need to adjust what you're doing. Genealogy takes a lot of time. It's really only thanks to the Internet that it has become a hobby anyone, no matter their quantity of free time, can pursue.

Give Up? Never!

So should you give up if you can't devote a great deal of time to genealogy? No! I refuse!

That's right, I'm personally invested in this concept of a successful Occasional Genealogist. This blog isn't just to help you adapt good genealogical practices to your ridiculously small amounts of free time. It's also to make me take my own advice.

I've paid for the mistakes I made when I was a beginner. I wish I had known which skills would have made a difference down the road. I had limited time to research and I made my own choices about what didn't get done to save time.

Sometimes I made the wrong decision. Rarely was that obvious immediately. Today I see the pitfalls ahead. I'm going to share the tips and tricks I've developed to save time without heading straight for a pitfall. I hope I'll also come up with some new strategies based on what you, the readers, need.

What's Coming Up Next?

So what should you expect from The Occasional Genealogist? You will get advice targeted at genealogists who don't often get to do research. I'll mix up the types of tips, tricks, and advice because only getting to research occasionally happens to different types of genealogists. Just because you have free time doesn't mean you can research. I know everyone's "free time" is different so I'll make different kinds of suggestions. Some suggestions will be for targeted research. Some suggestions will be more about organizing and record keeping. Not all suggestions will work for you. I hope over time you'll start to recognize what you can do with the resources you have available, how you can best adapt good practices to those resources, and also what works for you.

Leave a comment about what you think is your greatest struggle as an Occasional Genealogist. I know everyone is different so give me some ideas what brought you to "The Occasional Genealogist" and how this blog can help you do great genealogy, despite the interruptions.

Resource Library Links

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