Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Paperless Genealogy - Status Update

Even though I haven't been very active in the blogosphere lately, work HAS continued on the paperless journey.  Of course, I have had to remind my wife a couple of times that this is a marathon, not a race to the mailbox...  but overall things are going well.

A few key updates to mention:

1) (this is mostly for my wife if she stumbles across this blog :) My paperless journey started with genealogy because that's where the bulk of my papers come from. I do continue to have paper in and around my desk, but FAR less than before. Once we get the genealogy system ironed out, other things will fall in place.  For now though, I will still have some work papers floating around, a few emails I've printed off and of course, my most favoritest paper... bills.

2) I have had great progress on the genealogy front. In the past serveral weeks I have printed only 4 new papers, despite working on a new 30 page section on our family history for Christmas gifts.  In past years, when taking on a project like this, I type, print, edit the hardcopy, make changes, reprint, etc.  This year, I've taken a new approach.  Using One Note, I write a paragraph at a time in a "block."  I can easily treat each paragraph as it's own entity and move it around at will until it fits the story just right.  For a particularly difficult passage, I have found it helps to add a new page and look at that section on it's own without anything else distracting me.

3) (this is mostly for my wife if she stumbles across this blog :)  I'm still hoping for a FlipPal scanner for Christmas.  I see great progress in my future with the Flip Pal in my life.   Just Sayin'...

So, the obvious question on everyone's mind (everyone that cares, that is) is... "After annoncing to the world a little over 2 months ago that you were going paperless, is there any significant change?  Is it working?  Are you sticking to it?"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - Birth Mother's Letter

In my last post, I mentioned how I was working on writing up a new "paper" to share with the family this holiday season, but I wasn't sure what to focus on. I finally decided I need to share the current state of my search for the birth families of my Great Grandmother, Frances Marion (WILLIAMS) KNOWLTON (DOW) MONTGOMERY.  So... yeah, I'm not quite sure the proper way to put that on paper.  She was born Frances WILLIAMS.  Adopted by a KNOWLTON family when she was about 2 years old. Later, she married Raymond A. DOW, but Raymond died before their only child was born (my grandmother) and then she remarried Floyd MONTGOMERY.  I don't really expect anyone to follow all of that. It's confusing enough for me sometimes, but it sets the stage for what could be a messy research project.

Frances was born in 1914 in New Jersey.  All the rest of my mother's family was from Maine... all the way back to 1790 and earlier, so in addition to the adoption, this is my first project where I've had to do some long distance research.  It's been a long road, and I think I may have found the right family, though I am still trying to get some supporting documentation.  What's made it more "fun-strating" (that's my name for something that is fun and uber frustrating at the same time) is that this whole time, I've been guided by a letter from my GGrandmother's mother, Louise HARDING to my GGrandmother written sometime around 1930.  For anyone that's researching adopted children's ancestry, this letter would seem like a gold mine, but until recently it has raised more questions than solved problems.

As I think about the Geneablogger's blogging prompt, Amanuensis Monday, and my most recent project to document what I've been able to find, it seems only fitting to share the context of this letter today ...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Follow Friday: Nutfield Genealogy

Well it happened today...  I got a new comment, "Where have ya been?"  Ya, I know it's been a while since my last post.  I'll go through spells. It happens when you have 5 kids and "other" things you want to do, too...  like doing some actual research.  This time of year gets really busy for me, not only because of the holidays, etc.. but its about the beginning of November each year that I start writing up another aspect of my family's history to share with family at Christmas.  It's something I started doing a few years ago, and each year I seem to find some new interesting story to share.  I'm not sure which it will be this year yet... Maybe something about my paternal Great-Great Grandfather who was convicted of murder in the woods of Maine around the turn of the 20th century, in a case that was covered internationally by the press... or maybe it will be how I (actually a friend of mine) was FINALLY able to crack the mystery of my maternal Great Grandmother's birth parents.  At any rate, my time for doing a lot of blogging has been limited, and probably will be for a little bit, so I thought I would share someone else's blog that I often stop by to watch when I have some time...


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Introduction To OneNote For Genealogists

Well, I've started using Microsoft's OneNote to organize my digital files, and I realized as I started that there a lot of videos and "How To" articles on the internet about organizing your genealogy, but most of them assume you are dealing with stacks of paper, which of course, I am trying to avoid.

So, after a little bit of use, I put together this "Introduction To OneNote For Genealogists" video.  It's my first attempt at any kind of "How To" video, so I'm open to whatever criticism, good or bad, comes of it. If it's something people seem interested in, I may do some more shorter videos that identify some of the "neat" features of the program and how they can enhance your research, but this particular video is meant as an introduction and to get people thinking about how easy it can be to convert countless binders to a simple set of OneNote notebooks.

Feel free to leave a comment with what you like, didn't like, etc about the video and/or if you are interested in hearing more about OneNote.

Monday, October 31, 2011

It Snowed In Maine Yesterday

Seriously.  Yesterday we woke up to a few inches of heavy, wet snow and no power.  What to do?  What to do?  Given where I'm at in my mission to go paperless, I could have spent a good deal of time organizing what's left to scan and enter, but it got me thinking. When I am "completely" paperless, what will I do the next time a snow storm hits and I don't have internet access to work on my genealogy.

It seems to me like it's a good time to spend some time with my living family and make some memories with them. I like to point out to people that we, as genealogists, need to not get so caught up i tracking down our ancestors that we neglect our living relatives and descendants.

Do you have a "favorite" power outage activity?  In our house, many of us pick up a book and read. Sometimes we play Monopoly when we suspect its going to be a while.  What does your family do when you're disconnected from the grid?  Have you recorded those special activities in your own family's history?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Is Paperless A Joke?

First, let me say Thank you, Dick Eastman for your recent plus article titled The Paperless Genealogist.

This is not a joke. It can be done. In fact there is no reason why it shouldn't be done.  We hold on to paper because we like the certainty of having it in our hands and being able to feel documents.  It seems impersonal to pull up a file on your computer, magnify it, drag it around and then close it, but paper...  Paper is there.  It's in your face, a constant reminder of what you know.

We use excuses all the time about why we use paper, but we know, from our research that it doesn't last forever.  It can be easily destroyed by any number of things, but we still cling to it like it is the be all/end all.

If you haven't guessed, I had a bit of slip, almost, this weekend, where I seriously considered printing out 38 pages of Civil War Pension file documents i found on fold3.com for my 4th great grandmother, Edna (RICHARDSON) BABBIDGE. Her husband Erastsus died of dysentary in Louisiana and left her with a number of very small children to care for...  Ok, off topic a little there.

The point is, why do I want to print paper?  What is bringing me back there?  The documents are clearly already online at fold3.com so.. that's one place.  I have them saved to my harddrive, so I have them there.  They are also on a flash drive so I can bring them around with me during research.. so...  I have 3 accessible copies of these documents, yet I still wanted to print them out and put them in a binder.

Glad to say I didn't do it, but I have to ask myself.  What's wrong with me?   Am I afraid of losing this information. Do I just not trust technology (which would be a shame, given that's sort of my job...)  What draws me... us... back to paper?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tech Tuesday - OneNote vs. Evernote

I was reading an older post from Elyses's Genealogy Blog today in which she discusses her preferences in the OneNote vs. Evernote debate.  It really struck a chord with me when I read the beginning of the second paragraph:

A year or two ago, I played around with Evernote but just didn’t fall in love with it.  I was attracted to Evernote because I’ve seen so many blog posts written about it; how easy it is to use, very mobile, syncs with the web – the list of cool features was pretty long.  So I tried it.  But I didn’t fall in love.  I felt that the interface wasn’t as intuitive as I would have liked and I got confused a few times.  After a few weeks, I gave up and moved on.

I know exactly what you mean, Elyse. I did it too.  Then I found OneNote and I love it.  I used it for a little bit with my genealogy files, but as I continued to read about how great Evernote was...  I dunno...  I felt like I was missing something and OneNote wasn't really the tool of choice, so I left it for a while.

Now, as I am working on my paperless office, I realize I need a program like Evernote or OneNote to help me beter organize my thoughts.

Now I need to pick up one, or both of these tools and try again.  Maybe there is another option I'm not even considering.

I'm curious what other family historians think about the topic. Are you using one of these programs or something similar?  Why did you pick one over the other?  Did you try other options before settling on the program you use?  I'll likely try both ofr a period of time, but if you have consideration you think I should factor in, please let me know.  It would be helpful to know what other genealogists find useful.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Place For Sticky Notes

 Last weekend I cleaned off my desk of most paper, save for a few things.. bills, mostly.  I also left a handful of sticky notes, business cards and some random pieces of paper taped to my monitor. I have a 26" monitor in my home office, so I've had plenty of "surface area", if you will, along the outer edge to collect various notes over the years.

I also have countless pieces of scratch paper that were laying around my desk, now neatly stacked in a basket ready to be gone through.  The question for me is how I was going to get rid of this stuff in a way that I can maintain going forward.  In the past I've tried putting things in Word documents or text files on my desktop, but then  my desktop (the Windows desktop, I mean) gets cluttered. I also don't like having to launch Word or notepad everytime I want to look at something.

So, while I'm not sure I have the perfect solution for ALL the scrap paper, I decided to replace all my sticky notes around my monitor with... Sticky Notes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unintentional Consequences Of Going Paperless

As I was working on general cleaning up of my office on Saturday and Sunday, I realized there is another unintentional consequence of my quest.  I have a relatively small office space, so even as I was organizing and cleaning it still seemed cluttered to me. Then it hit me.  I have a basket hanging on the wall for important papers. There is a small set of plastic bins for... papers.  I have a holder for my paper bills.  A filing cabinet, 2 sets of accordion files, multiple plastic bins and a slew of file folders all lining my walls and covering my work surfaces... and all for papers.  Heck, I have a stapler  and a tape dispenser I should have little use for going forward.  Scissors won't be as much of a necessity.  And hopefully I can find a way to get all these binders under control....

I might be able to yard sale all this stuff off in the spring and buy me some more records... 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Desk Progress

I realize there has been little genealogy talk on this blog to this point. The reason is I need to get my office into working shape to get moving on this whole project. That's starting to come together now after a good day of organizing and getting my ducks in a row.

I was very focused yesterday on getting my desk to a point that I could tackle the project of scanning & entering all the information I have. One step at a time, right?

So yesterday, I was focused enough to make some good progress on my desk and I thought I would share the before/after photos again, if for nothing else, to pat myself on the back a bit.  I know it's nothing spectacular, but I hope to be able to look at this 3 months, 6 months, a year from now and really show people how it all started.  Thanks for listening...


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sorting Saturday

So, I was looking at the Blogging prompts on Genealobloggers this afternoon, and 'lo and behold...  "Sorting Saturday" shows up on the list.  Perfect.

After soccer games this morning, I came home and started my mission. The first step, of course is to get some organization to the chaos that has become my office.  Some work has been successfully accomplished here.  My desk is usable again, though, as usual I have a big basket of genealogy papers to weed through.  But I have a new way to tackle this today.

The old me would try to organize everything in my office into piles.  One pile was typically "Home" related things. Another might be "Work" related.  I often would have a "Music Boosters" pile which contained things related to the High School Music Boosters I volunteer for.  Then I would have a series of genealogy piles.  "Genealogy" itself was just too big a pile to try to keep together, so I would have "Mom's Genealogy" and "Dad's Genealogy" to try to separate things out.  Then, I have to have "Wife's Genealogy"  and of course, "Genealogical Society Papers & Projects."

Then, as I mentioned in a previous post, I would end up so wiped out by the end of it all, everything would get shoved in piles on my desk and worktable, never to be touched (until the next cleaning spree).

Today, I made simple.  Fill a basket.  Empty the basket.  And whatever is being emptied from that basket needs to be taken care of in a way that gets that darned paper out of this office for good.  Well, the basket is almost full, so now I need to figure out how to tackle it.  Wish me luck.

Before And... Well, Just Before For Now.

With any "transformation" project there is a certain amount of power in being able to show how things look "before and after."  At least that seems to be how all the great infomercials do it. (so I've been told).  So yesterday I decided to snap some "Before" photos of my office. It's hard to tell from the photos, but trust me...a lot of the problem here are my genealogy notes, copies, handouts, forms, etc.  Certainly the is more to do than just get rid of the genealogy paper, but that's a big part of it.  So for those who were wondering how my mess compares to yours, here it is.  All I ask is this...  Please don't judge me :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Impetus

I announced my new goal of a paperless office, and more generally, a paperless genealogist to some friends yesterday afternoon and one of them, asked the question, "What's the impetus for THAT decision?"

It's a good question to be sure. I mean I've been doing genealogy research in various forms for the better part of the last 15 years, and the system I have has been working so far, right?  So once I looked up the definition to be sure I understood the question, I came up with what is actually a pretty basic answer, but I think sums it up well.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Day... New Goal...

Today I have a new goal...  A Paperless Office.  And since most of my office is swimming in various genealogy papers, I thought I would start this blog dedicated to my quest and hopefully I can help some other slob like me get out from under the mountain of genealogy notes, birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc.

Well, in all honesty, it's not really new.  And in reality, it's not even my idea.  My wife has been trying to get me to clean up my office since we've been together.  Every once in a while I get real ambitious and start sorting papers into various piles in my office and bedroom (I have a lot of piles....)  Then I break for lunch.
Then I HAVE to check my email accounts, facebook messages, Google+ updates, etc.  Oh yeah, usually I end up doing this on the weekend, so by this time there is usually a baseball or football game on television, or a good movie, or something else that is WAY better than sorting through papers....  And by early evening, after a wonderful dinner lovingly cooked by my wife I'm just too wiped out to do any more. So, later...  just before bed, I gather up my indivividual piles of paperwork and carefully put them all back into a few larger piles in my office.  There must be a better way, but how am I going to do it?