First there was one. A fluffy one.
To Re-cap This Whole Organizational Stuff:
We've already talked about [O.K. I've talked about] what to do with all the stuff you find out about your family's history and how to organize it ~ both IRL [In Real Life]
and in your fantasy world [Oops. I meant on the computer
What's next? How to be organized while you're looking for the information that you so desperately want about your family. I mean, it won't be any fun gossiping about Great-Aunt Bernice and her poor choices if when you go to look through that incredibly long list of bookmarks, you can't find the link for the website that had that incredible story [With sources. Hey, if you're gonna dream, dream big.] about how Great-Aunt Bernice took off one day with a..." [I thought I'd let you fill in the blank.]
You might think, "Caroline, I would never do that. I mean, I only have maybe 10 - okay 15 - bookmarks. I could never have so many that I wouldn't be able to find that awesome story about my Great-Aunt Bernice."
Then there were three.
[Big sigh.] Yeah. That's what I thought, too. Pre-G [Pre-Genealogy]. But it will happen. Remember how I said these ancestors will multiply like rabbits? Well, each one comes with at least 2 stories. They were born. Then they died. [Hey, I didn't say they were all going to be exciting.] And think for a moment about how many people live in your house. I'm not very good at math, but if every living person has at least 1 story and you multiply that by how many people live in your house with you, that could mean you have at least 1 story if you live alone [Not counting your cats.], or if you have adult children that have permanently camped out in your basement because they are on the "hey-they-don't-have-to-pay-rent-you-cook-their-meals-iron-their-clothes-basically-do-everything-for-them" program [And where can I sign up for that?], then you're going to have a whole lot more stories. [See how I cleverly sidestepped that whole math business?]
Anywho. There's a TON of stuff online that can make your online search so much easier while looking for your rabbits' stories. [Oops. I mean ancestors' stories.] And my original idea was to break it down into several posts and try to make it kind of interesting. But that was "Pre-Thomas and his toolbox".
While listening to Thomas MacEntee's webinar on April 6th, I thought, "Oh Crap. I don't need to be listening to this before I write my post. I mean. You know. What goes in, comes out kinda thing?" I would like to say that I'd heard of every little thing he talked about, but I can't. Okay, I knew most of it. [I'm online. A lot. So you don't have to be.] But honestly? The thought of re-crafting everything, putting my own spin on it, and coming up with a better than [or equally as good] analogy as "toolbox", really tired me out.
Then there were grown men dressed as rabbits?
But then I suddenly had this great idea. [Uh-oh. Look out.] Why don't I just send you over to Thomas' webinar, which is now available on CD from Legacy Family Tree for regularly $12.95, but available at the introductory price of just $9.99 at the time of the writing of this blog post. [And just between you, me, & the gatepost? It's worth WAY more than that.]
[Ambulance sirens screeching enough to wake the dead.]
But wait. There's more.
The CD comes with a link to download a 5-page handout. [And the handout wasn't even given out with the live webinar, folks.]
So, here's the link for Thomas MacEntee's webinar, "Building a Research Toolbox"
Could it get any easier? Not really. [Sometimes, I have the best ideas.] And? That's the end of the Getting Started Series, but it's the beginning of your research both online and offline.
Or perhaps it's the continuation because maybe you'd already started. Either way, it's time for research.
That's a LOT of filing to do. Break time!
Well, we're going to try to get ourselves ready for our genealogy before we even find it. A bit ambitious? Yes. But very do-able. Have you set-up your IRL [in real life] folders? Remember, any way you set them up is fine as long as it works for you. And by "works" I mean you stay organized and you're using it. It doesn't work if you don't use it. [Like a lot of things in life.]
The next step is to get our digital files set-up. We're going to basically use the same division in paperwork and/or documents as we did in our IRL files. There are 2 additions that I would suggest: (1) to separate the birth and death records, and (2) to add one for photos. Why didn't we include "photos" in our IRL folders? Because [if you're lucky], that can become voluminous in our surname notebooks and/or file folders. Plus, we're going to want to learn how best to archive our photos. Keeping them with your research is not the best way to archive them. Digitally, we don't have these problems. So go ahead and include them here.
The basic organization of these files should look something like this:
My Documents Surname [e.g., SMITH]
- Research Plans
- Reference Materials
- Family Charts/Reports
- Locale History
- Census Records
- Land Records
- Marriage Records
- Tax Records
- Probate Records
- Cemetery Records
- Church Records
- Military Records
- Birth Records
- Death Records
- Immigration & Naturalization
Feel free to put them in any order that you want. Also, within each main division of paperwork and/or documents, we can then make another level of division by given name. Like this:
My Documents SMITH Research Plans Martha Jane
Thomas II Reference Materials
Marriage Records Martha Jane
Immigration & Naturalization
The alternative way to organize this would be to organize the given names under the surnames, then divide into the paperwork/documents. It's really up to you on how you want to do this. I, personally, like my computer files to mirror my IRL files as much as possible, so I organize by given names last.
Really, one could go on and on and on with this whole organization stuff and never really get to the researching, which is, if you remember, what we are here for. [I kid you not.] Just know that whatever system you come up with is good if it allows you to keep the results of your research in a such a way that you can retrieve it when you need it.
These last 2 posts covered how to organize information that we have already found while researching. The next posts will have suggestions on how to be organized while looking for the information. Then maybe, just maybe, we'll get to that researching. I'm just kidding. We'll get to the researching. Online. And offline. In the mean time, get your folders created ~the IRL [in real life] ones & the digital ones. Then you can start filing any paperwork/documents that you may have and/or if you've already started researching, then start filing those results. Any questions?
Before the internet became such an integral part of genealogy and family history research, all research had to be done offline back before there was even a distinction between offline and online. [Shocker, I know.] People actually had to get dressed and go down to places like the libraries, the archives, and the courthouses. [That's right. No surfing the internet in your jammies and your pink bunny slippers.]
Now? Well, the the computer and internet have enhanced our ability to find information both online and offline.
But don't get suckered into believing that all your research can be done online. It can't. Let me repeat that. Not all your research can be done online. If you try researching this way, you are going to run into brick walls very quickly, get frustrated, and probably quit looking. Or settle for information that was found online, but not credible. Online and offline research work together to provide the most complete research experience.
Together "online and offline" are like...
The yin and the yang.
Salt and Pepper.
Sugar and spice.
Sonny and Cher.
The Captain and Tennille.
Cookies and Milk.
Chocolate and peanut butter.
Jammies and pink bunny slippers.
A Pink Bunny Slipper Festival? Really?
They belong together. Until, of course, every single document has been scanned and every family artifact has been photographed and every old photo has been scanned. Which the chances of that happening are, um slim to none. [And Slim just left the room.] So, it would be more accurate to say that, today, genealogy and family history research is a hybrid type of research that involves combining offline and online resources.
And this hybrid approach has vastly influenced the way we organize our information, and can also be called hybrid as well ~ involving the computer and paper.
And all the information that you are looking for can be categorized in 2 ways:
- Information that you are looking for and
- Information that you find.
And each one can be broken down into online and offline resources and strategies.
So that's what we'll be going over next. First, we'll go over how to organize your search online and your computer. Riveting. I know. But once we get it set-up, then it's just a matter of putting the paper and the file into the right folder. The real folder and
the digital folder. And hey, don't forget. While going to the library in your jammies and pink bunny slippers is out of the question [No. Really. It is.], you can always
read my blog in them. [Really. I don't mind.]
Have you ever gone to the grocery store without a list of the items you need? I do it all the time. Unfortunately. I don't know why I do this. It's unorganized and inefficient. As I proceed through the store, I always forget something. Then I have to backtrack to get the thing I wouldn't have forgotten to get if I had just made a list of the things I needed to get in the first place. It's aggravating to say the least. [Unless, of course, I bring my kids with me, in which case I just send them all over the store to get the things I forgot. But then I have to put up with their bickering.]
Anywho. What does this have to do with genealogy? Well, researching without a plan and some organization can be a lot like my grocery shopping failures [Oops. I mean adventures.] A mess. [Especially since I've not recruited my kids to help me with genealogy research. Again. The bickering.]
Furthermore, are you one of those totally organized, anal people whose food pantry shelves look like the grocery store shelves? [Yeah. Me neither.] The one time I did alphabetize all my spices [I like my food spicy.], someone saw it, and looked at me like I had sprouted another head. And then asked, "Did you alphabetize your spices?" Which, if you kind of think about it, was a silly question because obviously I had. And as I frantically rearranged my "ABC" spices, I replied, "No. I don't know how they got that way. Huh. Must've been a freaky coincidence. Or the Spice Fairy must have visited. Yeah, in the middle of the night. Um. Or something." And that was the end of that. [Of course, they probably thought I was crazy. Spice Fairy?]
And now you're wondering what the spice-genealogy connection is, right? While researching [whether online or offline], you need to be able to put your hands on what you need at the precise time you need it. Trust me on this. It happens all the time. There is nothing more frustrating than needing that one death index, that one birth certificate, or that one piece of correspondence to be able to verify that you have the correct person, and not being able to find it.
So, what's it going to take to get organized? Not much. You're just starting out. And it need not be a complicated-pull-out-your-hair-oh-great-now-I'm-bald experience. There will be some decisions to make on which system is best for you. Then, I'll give you my 2 cents worth. [And if you're like my kids, you'll ignore me. And do it your way. *wink*]
As you continue with your research, you'll probably want to change or modify your system. Why? Because the research that you are doing is a living, breathing thing.
That will grow.
That will expand.
Until one day, as you're looking through your research, you realize, "Wow. This is my family story."
So, over the next few posts we'll go through your options, step-by-step. I'm curious, though [which has served me well in researching]. Based on the research you've done so far [if any], how are you organizing your research? Are you happy with it? If you haven't started, how do you think you'll need to organize yourself? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Wow. Now I'm hungry. Let's see. Where did I put those spicy snacks?]