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I'm Jennifer, and I'm an Occasional Genealogist... sort of. For over ten years I've been a professional genealogist. I started researching my own family nearly 30 years ago. Like many of you, I started as an Occasional Genealogist. I had to squeeze research in while in school and while working full-time. Then I got my first genealogy job and for awhile, it was genealogy all the time. Now I have two kids. I do other people's genealogy constantly but my own? Coming up with ways to do great genealogy, despite all the interruptions, is now mandatory.

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Evernote for Occasional Genealogists

Have you realized what the biggest challenge for Occasional Genealogists 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.

Genealogy Organization, Simplified

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." [note: that was the tagline when this post was written] Evernote was designed to solve this Occasional Genealogist problem.

Evernote for Genealogy

I love Evernote and I love genealogy but I actually have some limitations when I marry the two. I highlight this in my lecture, "Evernote for Everything Else." This post is a quick look at the "Evernote for Everything Else" concept, aimed at Occasional Genealogists.

You can find all my Evernote posts, here.

Before I get to the Occasional Genealogist specifics, I need to tell you what "Everything Else" means, though.

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.

How to Successfully Use Evernote

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 Occasional Genealogist, that probably means you HAVE to use it for something besides genealogy.

You'll find Evernote easier to use if you use it often.

Evernote for Occasional Genealogists

Clearly one post cannot cover everything else. Below are a few highlights for Occasional Genealogists.

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.

Genealogy Repositories

Create a checklist note of information you need about a repository.

  • This is a great template to create to help you prep for future trips. 
  • When you create your checklist, include information you already have. Occasional Genealogists are more likely to clip the same webpage multiple times because we are working quickly and in little bits of (forgettable) 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.

Genealogy Knowledge

Put all your genealogy 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.
  • UPDATE: Learn about my favorite tool for taking lecture/webniar notes for genealogy (it didn't exist when I original wrote the suggestions above but use whichever works best for you).

Genealogy Ideas

Keep a "genealogy journal"

  • As an Occasional Genealogist, 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). Use Evernote as a digital option for a genealogy journal.
  • Keep random ideas that don't have a "home." This has been one of the research-changing uses of Evernote for me.
  • Capture any idea you might lose (if you don't act fast) and then move it to the proper document (such as a plan, log, report, etc.) when you have time.
  • A Rocketbook reusable notebook is perfect for keeping a "genealogy journal," especially if you'd prefer to jot down an idea rather than try to type it on your phone. See this post for more ideas using Rocketbook products.

Use ALL the tools in Evernote to keep a note.

  • There are audio notes, notes from your device's camera, and even “handwritten” notes. I use my phone’s built-in speech-to-text function for short notes (I prefer written over audio but that is a personal preference, the same goes for which speech-to-text option you prefer to use). Since originally writing this post I've started using Rocketbook products to make getting info into Evernote even easier.

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 genealogy to-do list, etc.). I actually have a tag called "Research Ideas" so I can easily review and move this type of note.

Genealogy 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."

Keep packing lists, and I'm not talking shoes and shirts.

  • 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 its 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.

Evernote Genealogy

So there is a quick overview of using Evernote for everything else genealogy if you're an Occasional Genealogist. This is a massive topic and so customizable.

What are some of your favorite Evernote uses or tips? Leave a comment.

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