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<2017 July>

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# Sunday, 01 January 2017
Exercise Your Genealogy in 2017
Posted by Diane

Need some motivation to jump-start your research in 2017? Online Community Editor and Family Tree University Dean Vanessa Wieland shares her journey from hapkido newbie to black-belt expert:

A few years ago, I joined my sister and several other people in our first class to study hapkido—a form of martial arts. We’d been taking my nephew for years and watched as he developed into a confident, successful leader in his classes. But for my sister and me, the first class was rough. Never much of an athlete or physical person, I usually exercised by lifting stacks of books and walking around libraries. So even during warmups in this first class, I felt like I was in over my head, given that I couldn’t do a single pushup on my own.

Like other forms of martial arts, hapkido has a series of belts that chart your progress: 11 in total, from white (the first) to black (the last). Six weeks after I started classes, I tested for my first belt. In those six weeks, I’d learned how to fall without breaking my arm or hitting my head, how to break someone’s hold on my wrist, and, yes, even do some situps and pushups.

It takes a lot of work to get to the black-belt level, and only two people of the 10 who I started with earned their black belts. I tested for and earned mine in February 2015. By then, not only could I do push ups, but I could also break any kind of hold an attacker would attempt, immobilize and flip my opponents around, and break boards with a swift kick, punch, or jab of my elbow.

I also learned a lot about myself: that I can face my own fears, that I’m not that fragile or clumsy, that I’m strong, and that I'm capable of pushing myself further than I ever thought possible without breaking. Most importantly, I learned that I can accomplish just about anything when I put my mind to it, and take it one step at a time.

That’s the key to achieving any goal or resolution, whether it’s starting a new fitness program, organizing your genealogy or learning a new skill.

We’re starting off 2017 with the Family History Fitness Challenge. Each day in January, we'll provide a new task that will help you whip your genealogy into shape! If your New Year’s resolution is about researching and organizing your family history, this challenge will start you off on the right foot and set the tone for the whole year. You can find each day's prompts on our homepage or on the Genealogy Monthly Challenge landing page, so follow along with us there or on Facebook and Twitter.

And while you're setting genealogy goals for the year ahead, we'll be here to help you accomplish them. Check out the Family Tree University calendar of classes and workshops to determine which opportunities you want to take advantage of. We'll be offering plenty of new resources and techniques for researching your family history.

Here are three educational events I’m particularly excited about:

  • Research Logs Made Easy, January 16: In this class, you'll learn the benefits to using research logs to guide and organize your genealogy research, the elements of a good research log, and the various types of research logs you can use.
  • Analyze Your DNA Results Workshop, February 20: This workshop will put you well on your way to learning just what your DNA test results can tell you.
  • 2017 Winter Virtual Conference, March 3–5: This weekend-long conference contains a plethora of new tools, techniques, and strategies for researching your family history.

So get working! There's no black belt in genealogy, but you can still become a master of your family history.

organizing your research
Sunday, 01 January 2017 14:19:46 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 14 June 2016
Braving the Inbox: Five Steps for Organizing Your Email
Posted by Diane

If you’re like many people, your email resembles Pandora’s box: full of unknown content that you might be afraid of opening. The scary part isn’t so much each individual message, but the unending stream of new content filling your inbox faster than you can deal with.

While some productivity gurus preach the elusive concept of “inbox zero,” you actually have a few practical ways to better manage your inbox. Co-host of The Genealogy Guys podcast and author of Organize Your Genealogy Drew Smith shares a few quick steps for organizing your mess of an email inbox:

  1. Set up an email account just for your genealogical research. This minimizes losing important personal and financial messages amidst genealogical correspondence. If you’ve been doing genealogical research a while and are reluctant to start over with a new email address, reverse the situation and create a new email address just for your non-genealogy work.
  2. Check your spam folder on a regular basis. You don’t have to do it every day—just do it often enough so that you won’t lose something due to the automatic spam-deleting system or when you were expecting something but couldn’t find it in your regular inbox. If you’re worried about forgetting to check your spam folder, add that (and any other research tasks) to your calendar.
  3. Learn as much as you can about your email software’s filters. This will allow you to automatically move low-importance email out of your inbox and into another folder, to be read when you have more time. Email that fits into this category might include messages from mailing lists and society newsletters.
  4. Use email filtering to identify important email and move it to a high-priority folder. This might include email coming from specific correspondents, such as another genealogist you are working with on a research project.
  5. Scan through the remaining items. Use the subject line to see if you can delete the item without opening it. In some cases, you’ll want to read the contents, but you’ll still be able to delete it after reading. In a few other cases, you can forward the email to someone else who can do a better job of dealing with it. If the email is something that you yourself can deal with in just a few minutes, reply right away (or do whatever quick task the email is asking you to do).

What remains are items that you want to save for reference (get this content into a note-taking system, such as Evernote) and items that will take some time to deal with (move these into a folder to be dealt with when you’ve scheduled a block of time to work on them).

Learn more about organizing your correspondence and genealogy research by purchasing your copy of Drew's Organize Your Genealogy today.

organizing your research
Tuesday, 14 June 2016 10:04:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 13 June 2016
Three Ways to Get a Closer Look at Your Genealogy With Evernote
Posted by Diane

Evernote isn't just a great tool for organizing your genealogy, it's also makes a good tool for analyzing the information you find.

Kerry Scott, who wrote How to Use Evernote for Genealogy and who will be on hand to answer questions in next week's online Evernote for Genealogy Bootcamp, has a ton of ways you can use Evernote to take a closer look at your genealogy research. Here's a quick look at three of them:

  • Create a table of contents: This is an easy way to see a list of certain notes at a glance. Simply select a number of related notes—here, we've chosen census notes for an ancestor—by holding down Control or Command and clicking (or you can use Control+A or Command+A to select all of them) and click Create a Table of Contents Note. Now, you have one note that lets you see at a glance a list of all the notes you selected. Just click on one of the notes in your list to link to that note.

  • Use tags to find patterns: When you create a note in Evernote, you can assign tags for the name, hometown, occupation, record type, etc. So you might have tags called Smith, Abigail St., Occupation: Railroad, WWII, Public School No. 52, and Census: 1910. Searching for all the notes with the same tag can be a helpful way to reveal hidden commonalities and details. Did two of your ancestors go to the same school or serve together in the military? Did all your farming ancestors turn to different work in the early 1900s? With information like this, you can form new theories and problems to investigate.

  • Save notes with the Evernote Web Clipper: With the web clipper, you can save screenshots of your search queries, websites that contain great historical background for your relatives' lives, and leads you want to follow up on. It would be difficult to keep these items together using another method. (This feature also is great for everyday life: Clip receipts for online orders, recipes to try, items for your holiday shopping lists, etc.)
Want to be more organized about your genealogy research? To have your information and records about each ancestor or family gathered into one place, where there easy to find and view wherever you are, and to know what your next research steps for each person should be?

You can do this with Evernote—learn how in Family Tree University's Evernote for Genealogy Bootcamp, taking place online from June 20-26. See how the bootcamp works and what's included at

Family Tree University | organizing your research | Research Tips
Monday, 13 June 2016 16:36:34 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 07 June 2016
3 Pre-trip Steps for Making the Most of Your Research Trip
Posted by Diane

Summer is the perfect time for taking road trips, including journeying to record repositories and libraries. Co-host of The Genealogy Guys podcast and author Drew Smith shares some thoughts about how to best plan for research trips.

In a time when documents from all over the world are being digitized and made available to us in online databases, we might not spend much time thinking about the need to travel to physical repositories, near and far. Libraries, archives, courthouses, cemeteries and churches continue to hold materials that may never be scanned during our lifetimes, and this means that eventually we genealogists need to pack up our travel kits and hit the road for hours, days or even weeks to accomplish our research goals.

But before you put the first piece of clothing in a suitcase—or even worry about which chargers to bring—you need to knock out a few quick tasks before planning the rest of a research trip;
  1. Do as much online research as you can. There is no point in wasting a single moment of precious research trip time in viewing materials that we could have seen from the comfort of our own research workspace at home.
  2. Learn all you can about each repository’s online catalog, including how to use it. This will help you not only do preparatory research, but also make you proficient in checking it when you’re at the physical repository. You should also read (and if possible, download) a copy of the finding aids for the research collections you plan to use. These finding aids will describe the scope of each collection, and may identify the specific boxes and folders you’ll want to request when at the repository. In some cases, you may want to request that the repository pull the items you so you can have them as soon as we walk in the door, saving you time better spent on examining the materials.
  3. Study the repository’s hours, rules and regulations. What can’t you bring into a repository’s research room? Can you make an appointment with an archivist or member of the staff? How long is the repository open? Knowing answers to these questions ahead of your visit will free you to do more research when you’re actually at the archive. Specifically, you might even email the repository in advance with your planned dates of visit and the kinds of records you’re looking for. The repository can then inform you of any unusual closures for local events or renovations, or if records you want to use are actually located elsewhere.

When you’re done with all of this pre-trip research work, you’re finally ready to create your research itinerary, book your flights and hotels, and think about what to pack. Safe travels!

Learn more about planning research trips and organizing your travel by purchasing your copy of Drew's Organize Your Genealogy today.

Libraries and Archives | organizing your research | Research Tips
Tuesday, 07 June 2016 09:59:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 31 May 2016
The Big Picture: Using Mind Mapping to Organize Research Ideas
Posted by Diane

When the dreaded brick wall hits, genealogists often step back and collect their thoughts. A difficult problem may require a plan of attack, and you can create such a plan in a brainstorming session in which you generate as many ideas as possible. In this guest post, author and co-host of the Genealogy Guys podcast Drew Smith describes how to use one organization strategy, mind mapping, to brainstorm and arrange new research leads and tactics.

While plain paper or a whiteboard can be useful tools for recording and visually organizing these thoughts, you can also find a digital solution: computer-based mind mapping. And when the mind-mapping tool is online, you can then collaborate with other researchers and put the brick wall problem in front of as many other people as possible.

A number of free web-based mind-mapping tools are available, and my current favorite is Coggle. Set up your free Coggle account on the app’s home page by using any Google account that you might already have.

Coggle allows you to create as many different mind maps as you like; Coggle refers to these as “diagrams” or “documents.” When you start a new diagram, you begin with a central concept or question. For instance, you might start with a brick wall question (e.g., “When and where did Edmund Manley Martin die and when and where was he buried?”). This forms the center of your diagram. From there, you can add branches to the left, right, top or bottom, entering any new questions and ideas that pertain to the central concept/question (e.g., “When does he last appear in the census?”).

At each step, you can choose colors for the lines that link the parts of your diagram together, change the size of the text, and include images and URLs. You can create branches again and again, creating a complex diagram that captures everything in your head related to the question. Then you can drag items around in order to change where they appear on the screen and how they relate to each other.

When you are done, you can save the diagram as an image, print it or share it with others. And you can continue to edit it as new ideas occur to you. If you have many diagrams, you can organize them into folders.

If you like to visualize your genealogical research problems—or just like to get any kind of information out of your head and into an organized structure—you should give mind mapping a try!

Learn more about mind mapping and other organization techniques by pre-ordering your copy of Organize Your Genealogy today.

organizing your research
Tuesday, 31 May 2016 11:23:50 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 23 May 2016
It Takes Two: The Research Benefits of a Two-Monitor System
Posted by Diane

Handling all your data and research can be a struggle. In this guest post, author and co-host of the Genealogy Guys podcast Drew Smith explains why it’s important to have dual screens in your workspace to best keep your research organized.

Before genealogists had the benefit of computers, they used a desktop or table to spread out their documents and notebooks. In the ideal workspace, they had plenty of room in which to make notes to themselves or fill out a handwritten pedigree chart or family group sheet. With a large desk, they could simultaneously view a printed copy of an original record. They could put two records side-by-side, comparing the information to see whether or not the records referred to the same person or to different people.

The modern genealogist is more likely to view digital documents and record their research conclusions in desktop software or in an online family tree. But if everything is displayed on a single average-sized monitor, you’ll have to switch the view back and forth between different windows, just to make comparisons between records or to record notes and conclusions.  

A larger monitor may make it possible to have two different windows viewable at the same time. You can buy 27-inch PC monitors for as little as $200, but higher-quality monitors may cost as much as $500 or more. If your budget allows you to do so, you can even find 32- to 34-inch Windows monitors for around $900 to $1,000. But for the price of a 32-inch monitor, you can easily buy two 27-inch monitors, with far more total viewing space.

If your physical workspace provides enough room for at least two 27-inch displays, I would recommend considering that configuration. This provides room to do your writing on one display (taking notes, entering data into your software, etc.) and to do your research on the other display (viewing one or more records). You’d be surprised how much time and mental energy you save by not having to switch window views in and out.

Besides the cost of a second monitor, is there a downside to having multiple monitors? Yes: If you try to do serious research work on one screen, you may have distractions on the second screen, such as your email inbox or social media sites. In this case, you may find yourself less productive than if you had only a single screen! So if you don’t need to do real work on the second screen for a while, use it instead to display an inspirational photo or the text of your research goal in big letters.

Learn more tips and strategies for organizing your genealogical workspace by pre-ordering your copy of Organize Your Genealogy today.

organizing your research | Tech Advice
Monday, 23 May 2016 14:43:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]