Tag Archives: organization

Prepping for Institutes Digitally

I am heading off to Georgia to attend the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR). I am excited to finally take the writing course from Tom Jones, “Course 4: Writing and Publishing for Genealogists.” This has been on my educational “to do list” for years and I’m finally getting to it!

These days, we are saying good-bye to paper more and more. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE PAPER. Ask any of my students, discussion group attendees, family, or friends. I still print all of my research documents and organize them into binders. I also like taking handwritten notes. However, those institute binders really add up and for many of us, space is at a premium. Plus, it keeps the costs down if an institute doesn’t have to pay to print and organize all of those syllabi. Of course, you can still usually buy a printed syllabus or print it on your own. And if you do, do not worry! I’m not here to be down on anyone’s system. However, in order to use less paper, and utilize the electronic syllabi more effectively, I have come up with a system that works for me. Maybe you’ll find something in here that can work for you too.

Before I go to any institute, there is an amount of prep-work I do with the digital syllabus so I’m organized and ready to take notes. I utilize a combination of a PDF-splitter and Evernote. What I mean by a “PDF-splitter” is using a bit of software to make one large PDF into several small PDFs. I believe the full version of Adobe Acrobat will do this (but I don’t use it so do some research first), as will several other programs. I use a Mac and have found “PDF Toolkit+” to meet all of my needs. It has a lot of features, but today I’m focusing on the “split/extract pages” portion of the software.

pdfsplitter
Screenshot of PDF Toolkit+ with a range of pages to be extracted.

Basically, I sit down with the class schedule, the large PDF, the PDF-splitter, and Evernote. Using the splitter, I extract the pages for each class and then create their own note in Evernote, dropping in just that portion of the PDF. This allows me to have each the syllabus material for each class split out into one small file. Then I can type my notes into each note or take handwritten notes on paper to scan/type in later (they say the brain retains information better when you take notes by hand). Evernote also has tools that allow you to highlight, add symbols, draw, or take notes directly on the PDF.

markup
Just an example of some of the ways you can mark up the PDF using Evernote’s tools.

I organize these notes into a new Evernote notebook titled appropriately for the institute I’m attending. You can organize them in whatever way works best for you. I number them according to the order they should be taught based on the class schedule. See my example below.

EvernoteSetup
On the left is the list of notebooks from all institutes I’ve ever attended (and added to Evernote), IGHR 2018 is highlighted. In the middle are the thumbnails of each individual note in the highlighted notebook, numbered according to class order. On the right is the full view of the note with the PDF dropped in.

As the week moves on, I open the note for the appropriate class, and either use the syllabus visually and then take handwritten notes or I type my notes above the PDF. I take handwritten notes most of the time for the reasons already mentioned) but I do also use the mark-up tools available as well, especially if I don’t want to forget something in particular mentioned in the syllabus. Often, it just depends on how I feel when I get up in the morning. Evernote notes are word searchable, and there is a tagging system to help you be organized as well.

The most important thing is that you find a system that works for you. If digitized notes and syllabi are not for you, I hear you! It really has taken me a long time to get to this point…and I’m not completely digital myself and probably never will be. But, to save on costs and space, this is one of my systems for eliminating paper.

Year End Recap – Long Term Goals

notepadWhen I create goals, I like to create two kinds of goals, long-term and short-term. Generally the short-term goals feed into the long-term goals. Also, short-term goals tend to be smaller, easier, things you can take care of quickly whereas long-term goals take more time, planning, determination, and consistency. The completion of short-term goals gives you the sense of accomplishment and the momentum to keep up with the long-term goals.

Last year I created a list of my Long-Term goals for 2013. There were as follows:

  • Organize my office (this is more of an ongoing, every day resolution, but still, I need to keep it visually handy).
  • “Process” my binders. This is in relation to my organization system according to family groups. I recently changed it a little bit and so all of my families need to be caught up.
  • Finish and submit my BCG application by December. (I went “on the clock” at the end of December 2012.)

Let me break them down by goal:

Organize my office – I’m happy to report that this is possibly the only one that I feel is pretty much done. This summer we finally finished our basement and built a very nice home office (that I’m mentioned before). I have plenty of file cabinets, shelves, and desk space to keep my genealogy organized.

“Process” my binders – I know that most of you don’t even know what this means, but in terms of updating my research organizing system, I’ve only done 2 or 3 of these binders. I have about 20. So, while I’ve done some, it’s not as far along as I’d like. I’ll keep working on it.

Finish and submit my BCG application – Well, some things happened with this that have caused me to get an extension. For one thing, I did a lot more education in preparation for the BCG than I had previously thought I would. This was a good thing. In taking those courses, I realized that I would need some more time to really do it right. My new deadline is December 15, 2014. This will make an appearance on my 2014 goals list.

So even though I did maybe half of my long-term goals, I feel like I made quite a lot of progress. These are LONG-TERM goals after all and it’s ok if they carry over to the next year’s list.

 

Genealogical Gratitude – My New Home Office

My home office
My home office

It was only 10 years in the making. We moved into our house in 2003. It had an unfinished basement and we had a young family. My husband and his father got to work finishing the basement. On one side it has a creative studio space, TV/Family room, several closets and a bathroom. On the other … the new home office! It has two U-shaped desks that sit next to each other so my husband and I can work together. We also, finally, got 3 bookshelves for our books that have been in boxes since we moved in, 10 years ago. All of my Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, poetry, Shakespeare and other literature books and his sci-fi/fantasy collections finally see the light again.

All of my genealogy books and files have a home! Genealogy ShelvesMy dog has a little nest and I have a heater to take the chill off of the basement environment. We have two big windows that do let in a lot of light for a basement, so it is not a dark and gloomy as some basements.

I have plenty of room to spread my projects out (I usually have several going at the same time) and my husband has his own section that can be as messy as he likes and it’s not in our living room any longer!

So thank you hubby and father-in-law for all of the work over the years!

 

Pray for NO DIRECT EVIDENCE!

image from wikimedia commons
image from wikimedia commons

So, I went “on the clock” (for BCG certification) in December 2012. In the meantime a lot of “life” has happened but a lot of “life” is going to happen when you take a step like this. I’m the type of person who needs a deadline, so I went on the clock. Once I sat down and tried to locate a family/problem for my case study, I got concerned. One look at my office, my binders, my computer files, told me that I was horribly unorganized and I needed to do a lot of catching up, fixing, data entry (I have a thumb drive with scans from Salt Lake City from 2009 that I haven’t worked with yet!) and organizing, before I could even make an educated guess on the case study.

Well, in the last week, I went through a very large pile of notes with “to-do” items on them, some dating back to 2003. They said things like “find tombstone for …” or “locate obit for …” or one sticky note “I am not convinced that ––– is really –––’s father.” (Names being left out in case this REALLY is my case study.) That one sticky note sent me on a swirl of reviewing documents, notes, computer files, quick look-ups on Ancestry and FamilySearch. I MAY just have found my case study. I have a few pieces of indirect evidence but nothing conclusive that says who the parents of my subject are.

This project is so counter-intuitive for the genealogist. If you’ve never reviewed the Case Study requirements for the BCG portfolio, it basically requires that you use the genealogical proof standard to solve a problem of conflicting evidence or by using of indirect evidence. I know that I have many of these in my family research, but finding a good one can be challenging. And then, what happens when you start to work hard on it and then find that piece of direct evidence? … ah … back to square one.

I did get through my pile of to-dos and either figured out that they had been done (recycled), or if they were easy to do (just did it), or they went into my Evernote to-do list (then recycled). Now, on to some research! So pray for my project, that I find no direct evidence on this man’s parentage and instead am able to locate a lot of really good indirect evidence!