Sunday, 24 January 2016

Making Progress - Making Distractions



In this post I will discuss why I am not following the Organisational Prompts in the Get Organized challenge. 

What I am doing instead.  

The challenges this approach has had and how I have dealt with them.

FINALLY Get Organized challenge

This year I had intended to follow along with the weekly challenges set by DearMYRTLE in her FINALLY Get Organized prompts. 
Week 1 
I had previously done much of what was suggested, somewhat fortuitously, with the week coinciding with catching up at work after the Christmas and New Year breaks.
Week 2
This was where I started to see that the system being suggested was close to what I had previously tried. This way of organizing I had found to work for some of my digital files but not everything.
Organizing by family group works for items specific to that family but stumbles when previously unconnected groups collide. One example of this would be a group photograph at a wedding or a newspaper report of that same event.
I am trying to avoid duplicates of the records and have devised a modified version keeping the family group as a hub containing an index to the relevant documents and other media.

I have gradually realised that a key element in citation is being able to accurately pinpoint the provenance of the source. Whilst digital files can have this information embedded in the properties it is a greatly underused function. Most of the files just contain the filename for that computer and a date. Making use of this ability will take time so I have started with a quicker fix to ensuring the correct provenance is recorded.

The System

This is a screenshot of my system as it stands today

I discussed this system briefly in my featured earlier post.
The Media file in my Family Historian project has subfolders which I have colour coded using Folder Marker .

I have further subdivided the folder named Official Archives as shown below

I expect some of the folders will be moved, renamed or deleted as I decide the best place to use for those census images and other items I have downloaded. I need the flexibility at present that this system provides. I also want something that can be easily modified at a later date.

The process has been far from straightforward and I find myself having to go through earlier emails trying to discover who sent me pictures or documents. When I find the relevant email I have sent it to Evernote and added tags.

This has slowed down my folder organization but will pay dividends when I start to rebuild my tree as part of my Genealogy Go Over.

I did not create a research log when I started out so I am going to create one retrospectively from interviews, photographs, scans and correspondence to ensure the sources are correctly cited.
If I am unable to accurately date something I can no longer replicate, such as an interview with a deceased relative, I will date with a year range.

I am sure I will find other distractions to send me "off course" but hopefully most of them will help me attain my ultimate goal to get organised and digitised so I can find, analyse and preserve the history of our family. 

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

GenTools Study Group with DearMYRTLE and Cousin Russ 6th Jan 2016

Transcribing and Indexing Tools

I am not going to go into great detail in this post but just post a few links and suggestions to websites, programs or apps that may help with transcribing or indexing your aquisitions or finds be they digital or physical objects.
If you want to know more watching the hangout discussion should help or post a question in the DearMYRTLE community on Google+ or in her Facebook group or The Organized Genealogist Facebook group.

To make it easier to add to this list I am linking to a Google Sheet. A Google Sheet is similar to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and any other spreadsheet you may have used and can be in the cloud or on your computer or android device if you download the application. All you need is a Google account and internet access to set it up. Spreadsheets can be a very useful indexing tool and some of the programs that help with indexing are based on spreadsheets. 

If you know of any additions I can make please leave a comment below.
I will add anything which is mentioned in the hangout and include links to websites.

Photo: THIS is the link to REGISTER for the GenTools Study Group - 6 Jan 2016.  where you'll also find the calendar of upcoming events.

Noon Eastern US (New York) 11am Central US (Chicago) 10am Mountain US (Denver, Salt Lake City) 9am Pacific US (Los Angeles) If you need a time zone converter, this is the one Ol' Myrt uses: HERE are the scheduled topics for the balance of this study group:

Wednesday, 6 Jan 2016
Transcribing and Indexing Tools

Friday, 8 Jan 2016
Research Tools

Wednesday, 13 Jan 2016
Map Tools

Friday, 15 Jan 2016
Analysis Tools

Wednesday, 20 Jan 2016
Compiling Tools

Friday, 22 Jan 2016
Sharing Tools

This DearMYRTLE Hangout is presented at no cost. If you find the information useful, consider the Pay What You Want business model Ol' Myrt employs:

Now everyone can log in to VIEW and COMMENT on DearMYRTLE Hangouts. YUP! Log in with your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email or G+ account. You'll only need a G+ if you wish to JOIN the panel as an "official" participant.

COMMENTS before, during and after each hangout. The comments are right there with the video now that we're hosting them at:

We open the "green room" 15 minutes early if you'd like to test out your microphone and webcam. Consider JOINing the panel as an official "participant". We may even "scramble" to mix up the conversation a bit with new panelists.

ARCHIVED VERSION If you miss the live events, catch the archived version at your convenience. It's usually available within the hour after the live recording has concluded.

The video will also be archived on DearMYRTLE's YouTube Channel located here:

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Improving Digital Organisation

Why reorganise? 
  • I have difficulty finding what I am looking for on the computer and search doesn't always help find the file. 
  • I have too many duplicated files. 
  • I need to be able to go through everything systematically. 
  • I need to improve my citations. 
  • All the systems that I have tried in the past have failed.

Why have the previous systems not worked? 
  • Lack of consistency. 
  • Too complicated. 
  • Not set myself clear guide as to what goes where. 
  • Merging before checking the content.

What guidelines do I need for the new system to work?
  • The system needs to be simple. 
  • Use shortcuts if possible for file names. 
  • Ensure that the details are contained within the actual file rather than the name. 
  • Use tags.
  • File by provenance to help with citation. 
  • Move everything not in the new system to a holding area. In this area create a folder called To Do for anything that requires more work. 
  • Set realistic goals. Do the easy things first and get them right. It is not a race.

My new system
  • Family folders
    • Family Id Number as in my software program followed by ... then Last name and First name of the couple starting with husband. I will keep indexes. research logs and analysis documents here and anything which is specific to the family.
  • Official Archives
  • Personal Archives
    • Documents
      • Type of Document
    • Photographs
      • Folders labelled by author or if unknown who held them

I will discuss the system in more detail in another post as I am still finalising the details such as where I will put images that I have downloaded from places such as Ancestry and Find My Past.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Week 5 Cycle 3 Genealogy Research Toolbox

Sitting in my mailbox when I got home today was the email from Thomas MacEntee about the tools for genealogy.

When I got a new desktop computer I did not have a spare copy of Microsoft Office so I decided I did not need it. 
I would use Google Docs more and if I do not want to upload something I use Open Office, which I installed for free. 

I have started to use the ability to add links to webpages. 
I think that for this week's task of building a genealogy toolbox this will make it so much easier and I will be able to ditch most of the browser bookmarks. 

I have started a new Google Sheet for this and have a tab for each topic as listed in the example given by Thomas MacEntee. I will add in the resources I use for my research, which may differ from those he uses, due to the concentration on English rather than US research.

Eventually I hope to combine as much of the online sheets I have created for genealogy as possible provided they do not create an unwieldy document.

Some researchers may find it easier to use Evernote to create their Toolbox. 
I am trying to consolidate what I use and have not yet got into the habit of using Evernote to store my links. 
I may change my mind but my lists should be easy to move if I need to at some later date.

What do you use? 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Plan of action for Genealogy Do Over

Like many others I have found that the organisation can take over the whole process. 

So here is my plan of action.

  • I am starting a tree from scratch putting in the family I know. 
  • Then I will add the information from close family. 
  • The documents that I have for these individuals comes next. 
  • Then to set up research goals in a log. 
  • Using a research log is my biggest challenge. 
  • If I know when and where I found a record that I already have, I will document it in my research log, to avoid having to repeat the work.
  • Certificates and digital images are dated and I started to date the notes from research trips. 
  • Some of the early stage work which cannot be reproduced like family interviews I will have to give an approximate date. 
  • I have finally decided on a system that I hope will work but I have changed the way I am going to implement the system. 
  • Create the files as I add the information to the tree. 
  • Import the things I need to into the new system and discard the duplicate (but only when I am sure that I have a backup). 
  • Back up the new tree as I build.
Before I started to reorganise my Genealogy I had lots of duplicates on my computer. I hope that I will reduce these by removing all copies other than the original and any enhanced copy. I scan images in tif format but they are easier to upload as jpeg so keeping the original and a copy as a jpeg in my project file should work.

I have decided on a system that will help with citations. Digital images will be stored based on their provenance. I hope to have everything in a digital format as physical items can be photographed if not scanned. My physical archive will consist of originals and anything I want as a physical backup. This should eventually reduce the amount of storage space needed.

Online and local backup of everything is essential and how I do this will need to be reviewed regularly.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Too Many Distractions

Are You Like Me Finding it Difficult to Complete things.

I frequently start to do things and then find myself doing something else other than what I started out doing and totally forget to do the thing I originally wanted to do.
This is particularly true when I turn the computer on to do something, The same can be said for the other devices my phone and kindle. As soon as the internet is connected those messages start coming in along with the emails.
I seem to spend more time reading and responding to messages and less time doing the tasks that need doing both at home and work.

Unfortunately I do not have any magic answer to how to avoid these distractions. It takes time to weed out the unimportant from the most do now and the one that can be left till later (but then never get a second look), you cannot rely on the system to highlight what may be important.
The quantity of mail/post that come through the letterbox (in the mailbox) has dwindled, although we still get the unwanted flyers delivered by the mail service (the mailing preference service cut out much of the unwanted mail), but I am sure the quantity of other messages has more than made up for this.

Joining websites to connect with others in the genealogy community has led to much of this but is not the only reason. As soon as you buy something or show an interest in something you get bombarded with the marketing emails, most of which never get read, banking is done online and much of the news updates I read are the same.

So as someone who finds it difficult to finish things, how do I discipline myself to restrict myself to the important things. Calendars can be useful especially those with attached to do lists and reminders, but you do need to look at them everyday. The worst distractions can be the addition of new websites or datasets for genealogy.

I have been trying to organize my genealogy information for some time now as some of my earlier posts will testify. When Thomas McEntee announced the Genealogy Do Over I thought here is my chance to really get organized with the help of others. Life, a genealogy conference and WDYTYA live all added to the excuses for not getting this past first base, with the start of Cycle 3 I really must decide whether I have my priorities right.

My first priority is to decide what time I have available and how I am going to use that time. Get the balance right between work, family and pastimes.
Plan time into my day for the things I want to do and also the things I have to do and don't take on more than I can manage.

Then maybe when Cycle 4 starts I will be commenting on my progress and adding to the distractions for other researchers.

Friday, 3 July 2015

The Advantages of having an Online Collaborative Tree.

I thought I would share with you something that happened this week.

I have gradually been adding ancestors to the Family Search Family Tree and follow any changes to direct ancestors.
I noticed that someone had added an image to one of my ancestors which turned out to be a copy of a marriage certificate.
As this was her second marriage and I descend from the first marriage I had not sent off for a copy of the certificate, so was pleased to be able to confirm some of the details.
Marriage certificates are not cheap so I decided to contact the person who added the image and say thank you. I also thought that maybe they could have a cousin connection.

Today (2nd July) I received a reply and although we have no genetic connection, as this individual is a descendant from the first marriage of the husband, it is interesting that we have both found the information contained within the certificate to be of value in establishing the father of an ancestor. The first marriage for each party took place prior to the father being named.

In the 1861 census my gt grandfather is to be found in the same household as this person's 2 x gt grandmother. The following year she is marrying in Salt Lake City, Utah.  
She appears to be one of the Utah Pioneers. 
Her name was Huldah Ponton and she was baptized in Warminster, Wiltshire, England on 17 March 1834. Someone on Find a Grave  has entered her birth as London but this does not fit her census record and the fact that both her parents were born in Warminster. I have not been able to find any passenger records for her or her sister Eliza who appears to have married in Salt Lake city in 1857. A third sister also appears to have gone to Utah but exactly when is uncertain.

I would be interested in finding out more about how they traveled all the way from Wiltshire to Utah.