All posts by cattaplin

About cattaplin

Researcher, writer, speaker

Getting Organized: Citations

In my last post, I discussed briefly “separation safeguards” as described in genealogy Standard 8, which states that “genealogists prevent mechanical or digital separation of citations from the” materials, whether it be in the form of footnotes or citations on the front of a photocopied document.1 I have settled on two methods of safeguarding my documents and records from citation separation.

One method is to put the image into a word processing document and adding a text box at the top or bottom that includes your citation.

CitationOnPage

I use Mac Pages, but the system is the same for Word or your preferred software. Simply copy/paste or insert the image into the document, and add text wherever you wish. I usually put the citation below the image as shown above.

Sometimes I get an image that for some reason seems easier to annotate directly on the image rather than inserting it into a word processing document. Typically I find I do this when I have PDF or .jpg files with larger images. I will open the image in my image viewer which in my case is Mac Preview, but this can be done in Adobe Reader with PDF files. From there, you can add a text box over the image to add the citation. Of course, you will want to put the citation in a space that doesn’t change the meaning of the document.

Citation Annotation

This can be done using your image viewer of choice, including Photoshop or Adobe Reader. There are no right or wrong answers here with regards to the process. The only wrong way to do it is to not do anything at all to guard against citation separation.

When it comes to crafting citations, I employ the “Touch It Once” method. I described it in detail in this earlier post, and I highly recommend forming a system for yourself of writing your citations once so that when it comes time to write an article or report to a family member, they are already created and ready for use. This step is all part of my overall process.

Next time I will be discussing my overall process that I use to go from found document to binder. You will need to come up with your own process to stay organized, or you will eventually find a lot of piles on your desk or in your computer of documents you need to organize, and basically back where we started. Don’t get behind again! Tips next time…


1. See standard number 8, “Separation Safeguards” in Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Ancestry.com, 2019).

Getting Organized: The Digital Side

I’ve been going on and on about my binder organization methods for several weeks now. What about my digital organization? There are a couple of aspects that I will cover over a few posts, primarily: files on my computer and scanning/digitizing tips. This week, I’ll address how I organize my digital files so they match my binders (more or less).

I must admit that I did not come up with this idea on my own. We all stand on the shoulders of those who have figured things out before us. Every time you attend a lecture, an institute, a webinar, you learn something new, even if you thought you knew everything there was to know about a topic. At the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy‘s (SLIG) first “Tech Day,” I attended a class by Cyndi Ingle (that famous lady from Cyndi’s List! and who is one of the moderators for the Facebook Group “The Genealogy Squad“) and learned a method that would allow my digital files to mirror what I had already created in my binders.

My binders are in chronological order. I don’t know why I hadn’t come up with a method on my own yet, but I hadn’t. I took Cyndi’s class “Coordinating the Cloud” which was about many technical topics, but the biggest takeaway for me was a file-naming system that I adopted for my digital files. (THANK YOU, CYNDI!) Basically, you can name your digital files in such a way that it will match your binders. Now, this might be a big “duh,” but for me, it was “a-ha!” I just hadn’t realized it yet. There are those moments when something should be so obvious but it isn’t for some reason. This was one of those moments.

So the file naming system goes like this:

YEAR-SURNAME FIRSTNAME – code or description of the document.jpg (or whatever file type it is)

For example:

  • 1850-HIGDON Joseph – census.jpg
  • 1853-HIGDON Joseph & RENFRO Malinda – MR.jpg   (marriage record)

And in my finder it looks like this:

DigitalBinders

Because of the way computers organize files, numbers come before letters. So by putting the year first, those files come before the children, just like my binders. You can choose some style things. I typically like to have the surname in all caps, it is just easier for my eye to land on it, however, in this example, you can see my inconsistency. It happens. Someday when I really want to procrastinate I’ll work on fixing these things.

If you have documents in the same year, you can put a month number (and a day if you wish) after the year and it will sort appropriately: 1851-06-15-HIGDON-Census.jpg. I currently use a, b, c, but may change my mind later if I get a lot of documents in the same year.

If you remember, my binders are organized by each couple and their children except the child I’m descended through. You can see in the image above that the child I’m descended through has a note in the folder name indicating where I will find that child’s information. The rest of the children have their own sub-folder and they are ordered by birth order using the notation “(ch#)” in the file name.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed some files with “wcit” in the filename. That is a duplicate of the image, usually, that has been copied into a word processing file (in my case I use Mac Pages, but you can use whichever software you desire). To that image, I’ve added a text box with the citation to the page to provide “separation safeguards” which prevent separation of an image from its source (citation) information.1 I want to save both the original and the citation-treated images in my digital folder.

This is a work in progress. I didn’t sit down and fix all of my digital files as soon as I learned this naming convention. (Who has the time?) I fix it as I work on various projects in my family. One of the things about getting organized is that it doesn’t happen overnight or in one session of organizing. Make a commitment to work on it 15 minutes a day, or an hour a week, or whatever timeframe works in your schedule.

But most of all, get started! And keep learning!


1. See standard number 8, “Separation Safeguards” in Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Ancestry.com, 2019).

Getting Organized: More on the Binders

I know last week I said we would talk about the digital side of my organization system, but I got a lot of questions and comments from the last post asking for more specifics about the binders. I thought I’d dig a little bit more into that this time.

I mentioned that each binder in MY system is focused on a couple and their children, EXCEPT that through which I’m descended through.

The binder organization is broken down like this:

Binder Map

Each document is in chronological order, forming a visual timeline of their lives. In the back are divided sections for each of their children, except for the one who is my ancestor. They will have their own binder. Rinse and Repeat.

If you think of your pedigree chart, each couple is their own binder. The binder follows the pedigree chart. In the visualization below, each matching colored box represents one binder:

Binder pedigree

Now, as you move back in time, you may find you have fewer documents. For the couples that I do not have that much on (yet), I might put several generations in one binder until it gets too full and needs to be separated due to space issues. For those that I have done a ton of work on, I will get a 2″ or 3″ binder for their documents. Whatever size, I always make sure to get the kind with the clear slip-in fronts, backs, and spines. Then I clearly label what is in each binder.

If for some reason, I do a lot of research on one of the children for a couple that is NOT my direct ancestor, they may get their own binder. In their parents’ binder, I will still include a divided section for them with a sticky note or piece of paper inserted telling me where their information can be located. I will mirror this information on the binder spine.

When discussing the binders, I often get asked about archival quality binders, paper, what do I do with my original documents, etc. MY system is not a system where I keep any original documents. Most of the time, I am obtaining photocopies of documents whether it be from a repository or downloaded from the internet. I am not preserving documents that cannot be obtained again. I have very few of those in my possession. What I do have, I have in archival boxes. Smaller items are in an archival folder my fire safe (I only have a small one) and larger items are in their archival folders but stored flat in a plastic box that will protect them from water damage. Now, if we have a massive fire or a major flooding event, I’m not delusional. I know that these methods may fail. If the worst does happen, I do have most of my materials digitized (even those that are irreplaceable) and backed-up on the cloud. (Like all good genealogists I know, a few projects are still waiting to be done.)

I hope this helps explain the binders and the system in more detail. Next week we will move on to the digitized aspect of MY system. I promise.

Announcing NEW NGSQ Study Groups

During my time as a facilitator for the Certification Discussion Groups (CDG), organized by Jill Morelli, students indicated to me that they wished for some more options in discussion groups to talk more about the “meaty” techniques and methods of genealogical research, particularly when working with evidence analysis and the Genealogical Proof Standard.

IMG_3953I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while and have finally settled upon the details. This is a monthly study group that will examine one National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) journal article per month. We will study these articles with a focus on principles taught in Mastering Genealogical Proof (MGP) by Tom Jones. We will discuss topics on the genealogy standards, evidence analysis and correlation, writing, citations, and more.

The cost is $50 for the year. For this price, you will:

  • Participate in a monthly study group session for up to two hours with your peers, led by me, Cari Taplin.
  • Receive the discussion questions at least two weeks prior to the online meeting.
  • Have access to a private Facebook Group for mid-month discussion. This Facebook group will be limited to study group participants only, no outside noise!

There will be no individual feedback given unless you want to sign up for a private consultation session. There will be no required peer feedback, except for what you choose to post and receive in the FB group. Your commitment is to read the articles, any indicated sections in MGP, and come prepared to discuss the questions (or simply show up and listen). I believe the benefit you will get out of a class is equal to the effort you put into it.

Please Note: You must have access to these articles either by being a member of NGS or from your local library. You will also need to have a copy of Mastering Genealogical Proof. Due to copyright, I cannot provide copies to you.

There are three sessions, two daytime and one evening.

Sign up now or click for more information.

This is meant to be an INTERMEDIATE discussion group, not a beginner or advanced. If you aren’t sure if you fall into that category here are some possibly helpful descriptors to help you decide (all or none could apply but this is the type of group I’m aiming for):

  • You’ve read NGSQ articles and generally can follow them (I’m not asking if you fully understand them, but they aren’t “Greek” to you either)
  • You own Mastering Genealogical Proof(or at least know what it is and will buy a copy before this class starts)
  • You own or have access to a copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills
  • You’re interested in certification or accreditation and have participated in one of Jill Morelli’s Certification Discussion Groups (CDG)
  • You know what the Genealogical Proof Standard is.

If you aren’t sure, send me an email and we can discuss it further.

To keep the discussion manageable and allow everyone a chance to speak, class size is limited to 25 participants, so sign up now!

I’m looking forward to studying with you!

Getting Organized: My Binders

I promised photos in the last post, of my actual binders so you could see what I was referring to. I want to again reiterate that MY system may not work for you. You may think completely differently about organizing and how to locate your ancestors’ information in an efficient manner. You may not do paper at all. That is entirely ok. (I will not be offended if you skip these posts until I start talking about my digital files!)

Here is a view of the binder spines:

IMG_3939

The front of each binder has a family group sheet so I can see at a glance which family that binder holds:

IMG_3942

In each binder, I include a timeline of the documents that will be found inside. You can easily update this when you find a new document. (I personally will add them in by pen until I get several and then I will reprint it.):

IMG_3940

I have the children of this couple in the back of the binder, in chronological order, EXCEPT my direct line ancestor (the child I descend from). I create my own dividers with card stock and use sticky labels that you can write on:

IMG_3941

You might see colored sticky notes and other things sticking out if you examined my binders in detail. Those are generally items that are WIPs (works in progress). Those might be things I didn’t have time to write the citations for but I wanted to get it in the binder rather than put it in a stack. They might be items that need more research and the note indicates what that research might be. Primarily, they are there to get my attention next time I have time to work on them.

That’s basically it. Every document is “processed” (which we will go over that in another post), printed, put into the document timeline, put into a sleeve and put in its place in chronological order in the binder.

Next time we will go over the digital side of this. I mentioned before that I do both, paper and digital. I know it might be duplication of my effort, but it is what works for me. Again, DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. I can’t say that enough.

Getting Organized: Choose a System

First and foremost, you need to decide on YOUR system. Figure out what is going to work best for you. Do you think about your ancestors’ documents:

  • chronologically
  • by surname
  • by document type
  • by family group
  • alphabetically
  • by location
  • by event

There are many ways you can organize your papers. All that really matters is that it makes sense to you, that it is organized, that it preserves your documents, and you can find what you need in a reasonable amount of time.

I think of my ancestors in terms of the timeline of their life. I organize my files (both paper and digitally) chronologically by couple. I’m going to address my paper files first, we’ll look at my digital system in a later post. As I’ve expressed before, I’m a very tactile person. I like to read, organize, and think about my research on paper. It just makes more sense to me. So, I organize my research in binders. Each binder contains:

  • a family group sheet for the couple and their children
  • all of the documents for that couple’s life
  • separate section for each of the children (except for the one child I’m descended through), their documents in chronological order
  • a document timeline (like a table of contents that gets updated after I add new documents) – see image below

doctimeline

A question I usually get is: what about the husband or wife, where do their documents go? In my system, they go with their husband/wife, and not with their parents. I put an indicator page where they should go with a note to “see X binder.”

A few logistics: I typically use 1″ binders. However, there are some families I’ve done an absolute ton of work on that I have 2″ or 3″ binders for. There are some families that I have not done that much on yet; several generations of those families might be in one binder. I also use those white binders with plastic covers that allow you to slip paper down into. So, the front of the binder has the family group sheet, and I utilize the binder spine to label the binder for which couple (birth and death dates) and their children. I also note on the spine something like “except William Long, see Binder X” or something like that to tell me at a glance which binder I need.

The next post will have more photos of my actual binders and discuss some other organizational logistics as it relates to paper.

Thanks for reading!

Getting Organized: Paper or Digital?

The first post in this series last week garnered some comments on the post itself or on my Facebook page relating to digitizing your files. Some are completely paper free which is great. Others still like paper. I say there’s no superior system. The only superior system is the one that is working for YOU. So if paper makes more sense to you, then keep your files on paper. If you cannot stand the clutter, then perhaps a digitized system is yours. Personally, I use both.

I grew up in a world before the Internet (it seems so long ago) and I struggle to really connect with my ancestors when “they” (their documents) are entirely digital. My paper system organizes their documents in chronological order so that when I am looking through a person’s binder, I have a visual timeline of their life, at least in terms of the documents they left behind. (We’ll cover this in more detail in a later post.)

Before you can organize paper or digital, you have to decide HOW you’re going to organize. Find a system that makes sense to you. Spend some time thinking about how you think about your ancestors, their documents, accessing their documents, and so on. You’ll want to match your filing in a way that matches how you think about the documents. The possibilities are endless! Here are a few ideas:

  • by surname
  • by location
  • by family line
  • by event (marriages, deaths)
  • alphabetically
  • by document type/repositoryStay Tuned TV
  • chronological order

Or a combination of any of the above.

As I mentioned, I organize my documents in chronological order. It’s more detailed than that, and it is the subject of the next post so stay tuned!

Review: New Jersey Family History Institute

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the New Jersey Family History Institute … from the comfort of my own home! Melissa A. Johnson, CG® has put together a fantastic two-day course on New Jersey Family History Research. I have a project in mind to work on some of my New Jersey ancestry and so when I saw this opportunity, I jumped on it. njfhi-logoThe course is offered online or in person “to learn all about sources and strategies for researching NJ ancestors and families.” 

I expected two days of lectures giving me a run-down of the unique history, geography, record sets, and other information to help me with my New Jersey research. I even figured I’d fold laundry while I listened. What I got was a whole lot more. I did manage to fold the laundry, but I also found myself paying very close attention, taking notes, answering class exercises in the chat, and creating a research plan for a future research trip!

Melissa has done a fantastic job of creating an in-depth, interactive course (even with the online audience), with in-class exercises pertaining to the topic of the hour. She asked for people to share their answer to the exercises, including those online, and would read them out for everyone’s benefit, which also made me feel like part of the class. Optional homework was given as well.

This course covered topics ranging from the basic timeline of New Jersey, highlighting key points as they would pertain to records and research, to laws and their impact on research findings, a breakdown of the court system, major resources, libraries, collections, and so on. A lot of attention was given to differentiation between the Colonial period and post-statehood. Melissa is a fantastic instructor, not only because she provides the students with the information they need to be successful in their research, but by also giving relevant exercises that were challenging and educational on the topic at hand. Furthermore, she is very cognizant of the online community tuning in as well, repeating questions from those in class and interacting with us in an individual and meaningful way.

While this course is over for this year, I suspect it will be held again. The website indicates that more courses will be added in the future on other topics as well. You can join the mailing list to be informed when new events are added.

I will be watching this educational resource for future opportunities and encourage you to do so as well!

Fox listening in
Even my dog “Special Agent Fox Mulder” (Fox for short) had a fun time listening to Melissa’s course!

Getting Organized: What’s Your Goal?

I’m moving from tech tools for being organized to actual organizational tips and systems for our genealogy (research, notes, files, and more). I’ve always worked on the principle that if you can’t find something in less than a minute, your system is not working.

If you are like me, you are busy and there are never enough hours in the day! Being organized is a key component to getting the most out of our time. Consider the following:

  • You should be able to find your documents in a short period of time. If you can’t find what you are looking for quickly, then your system isn’t working.
  • Your system should be understandable to others. What will happen to your work if someone else has to take over?
  • Your system should preserve your documents. You don’t want your descendants (or whomever takes over for you) to have to relocate all of the same documents.
  • Your system should reflect your purpose for your research. Ask yourself, “What is my goal?” and “What am I going to do with my stuff?”

In this series, I’m going to discuss some of these thoughts as they pertain to my own system, share with you some of the ways I keep organized, tips on research plans/logs (or “plogs” as I call them), and so on.

I’m hoping that the act of writing up this series will also help me get organized again. I’ve let it slide lately because I’ve been so busy! Stay tuned for some excellent tips and thoughts on getting organized!

An actual view of my desk today. Yikes!

Top Tools I Use: Project Management

I have a lot of irons in the fire at any one time. Between client work, volunteer positions, speaking arrangements, and personal projects, I have a lot to keep track of. There are a lot of tools that can be used for this. I like Asana. It allows me to make categorized lists, with subtasks, and calendar reminders.

asana1

I find the interface to be easy to understand and set up. In the image above you can see some of my categories: Lectures, Volunteer Tasks, Calls for Papers, Personal Genealogy, Articles to Write. I also have a category for Client Projects, general business admin, and so on.

The sub-tasks allow you to keep track of more details. I use this most when there are smaller tasks to be finished as part of a larger project. For example, in the image below, you can see that I for upcoming speaking agreements, I keep track of when various contracts, forms, bio and headshot, syllabus and other materials are due. I also keep track of whether I’ve made travel and hotel arrangements, and any other details. You can also attach files and links.

asana2

Asana makes completing your to-do items fun by also playing cute animations when you click off your items.

gamification-asana-unicorn

There are many online videos, tutorials, and help files that help you get into the details of Asana. See some of these for more:

Tools like Asana can help you stay on top of all of your tasks. With so many tasks, projects, and responsibilities, I couldn’t live without it. Well, I could, but I’d be much more disorganized.