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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.

"Evernote for Everything Else"

I have a new lecture this spring, "Evernote for Everything Else." I'm giving it a few times here in Georgia, but I'm also giving it at the NGS Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in May. This post is a quick look at the "Evernote for Everything Else" concept, aimed at Occasional Genealogists.

I'll be writing other Evernote-based posts. I have a central "Evernote for Everything Else" page with links to all the posts plus outside links. If you are curious what the NGS Conference is, you can read my post about genealogical conferences here and get info about the 2016 NGS Conference in Ft. Lauderdale here.

Before I get to the OG specifics, I need to tell you what "Everything Else" means. Evernote is a very popular tool among genealogists. There are lots of blog posts about using it, but most of them are about keeping research results in Evernote. This might be just your research notes or just your research log, or your entire filing cabinet (documents, notes, charts, etc.).

I haven't seen a lot of detail about how to keep other types of genealogical information in Evernote. I've called this "everything else." "Everything else" is not your notes, logs, or documents. Evernote can keep everything, but there is plenty of information from other genealogists about how to use Evernote for research results.

If you haven't successfully used Evernote, you need to know everyone uses it differently. It's a great tool because there are many ways to use it successfully. You will get the most benefit from reading posts from lots of different blogs, attending webinars and lectures from various presenters, and reading books or articles from a variety of authors. You'll also find it easier to use if you use it often. If you're an OG, that probably means you HAVE to use it for something besides genealogy.

Evernote for OGs

Clearly one post cannot cover everything else. Below are a few highlights for OGs. For my lecture, I came up with four categories for everything else: repositories, knowledge, ideas, and travel. In part, these are how I think of my "everything else" and partly this is just a way to organize the lecture. Don't get hung up on these classifications, use whatever works for you.


  • Create a checklist note of information you need about a repository. This is a great "template" note to create, too. When you create your checklist, include information you already have. OGs are more likely to clip the same webpage multiple times because we are working quickly and in little bits of (forgetable) time. Insert hyperlinks to the notes of gathered information. You can also hyperlink to web pages or files on your device (the hyperlinks to files will only work on that device, though).
  • Use the web clipper to clip full pages of information about holdings or clip just a highlighted "selection" on the page. Later you can review this information to create your plan and pre-fill your research log.


  • Put all your handouts in Evernote. You are likely to remember you learned something about a subject “somewhere” and have a handout. That's usually all I can remember. Make sure you understand what kinds of notes are searchable for your type of Evernote account (free, premium, etc.). Use tags or type in some text if you need to add searchable words or phrases. 
  • You can take notes directly into Evernote. These will be searchable. Use the Evernote camera on your phone or tablet if you get a paper handout on-site. On your tablet, you can type notes directly on your freshly digitized handout (some of you may be able to do this on your phone, even). Writing with a stylus is also an option.


  • Did you read the post about a genealogy section in your planner? It gives some general ideas and also a link to a post about a genealogy journal. In short, I suggest a genealogy journal to catch random ideas. This can be a tool to overcome writer's block (including being blocked creating a research plan or writing a report) or a tool to literally catch random ideas. As an OG, you may get genealogical inspiration in inconvenient places, when you can't record the idea where it belongs (such as in a research plan or memo). I suggested Evernote as a digital option for the journal. To be slightly more specific, the tools in Evernote you should check out are the additional ways to keep a note. There are audio notes, notes from your device's camera, and even “handwritten” notes. I often use my phone’s built-in speech-to-text function for short notes. If you get a random idea, Evernote can capture it. Evernote is perfect for this because you can have it set-up with tags so you can easily review all your ideas later and move them to an actionable document (your research plan, memo, a to-do list, etc.).

OG Travel

First, a little note. You may want to combine travel and repositories. I think of them as two different categories but this is an area you should adjust for the way you think.
  • This first suggestion is more a general description of what I call "travel." I create notes such as packing lists which relate to trips rather than repositories. However, repository policies (no paper, no computers, etc.) fall under repositories and that does affect my research bag and it's packing list. My packing list would be "filed" using travel related tags but will be updated with repository information for the specific trip I'm preparing for. Other items I include as "travel" would be a packing list for a cemetery trip (although you can call it a repository, I treat it as travel), and travel to conferences or institutes and the specifics for those. FYI, I don't have stacks or notebooks actually called "repositories," "travel," etc. These are distinctions in my mind that affect which notebooks I place notes in and what tags I create and use. Once again, set-up Evernote in a way that works for you.
  • Clip info about things your family can do while you research. Once a trip is nearing, keep coupons, discounts, passes, and tickets in Evernote. Even if you have to keep a physical item, Evernote can be your index to these rarely used items. (Where did I put my SmartTrip card? Don’t I have a token for that parking garage? How much money is on that rail pass? Did I get that packet of coupons from the CVB and where is it?). You can learn more about organizing travel in Evernote from non-genealogical sources to give you lots of inspiration.

These are just a few highlights of OG uses for Evernote. Currently, I’m planning for the bulk of the blog posts relating to Evernote to come out after the NGS Conference. In the meantime, if you have specific questions, leave a comment.

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