Some recent comments by fellow genealogists on my prior Evernote for Genealogy posts brought to my attention that I have not yet discussed the hyperlinked Genealogy Index note that I mentioned in my post from earlier this year about research logs and note links. Sorry this is so belated!
I use Evernote to maintain a master Genealogy Index listing everyone I am researching for our family history. My Research Log notes for each ancestor or relative each link back to this Index note, with that Index link placed at the very top of each Log note so that I can quickly move between each note.
If you recall from my post about Research Logs, the main reason for my Evernote system is that I wanted the simplest, easiest, most accessible workflow possible across all of my devices regardless of internet connection.
The Index Note
I actually maintain two separate Genealogy Index notes: one for my side of the family, and one for my husband Jeff’s side. Initially I tried using just a single note for both sides of the family, separating each side’s index list with a large heading (i.e., “Colleen’s Genealogy Index” and “Jeff’s Genealogy Index”), and identifying each ancestor/relative listed with my Dollarhide-inspired ancestor coding system. But that list soon started getting too unwieldy, so I split these into two separate notes:
- My side “_Colleen’s Genealogy Index”
- Hubby’s side “_Jeff’s Genealogy Index”.
Keeping these Indexes in two separate notes also allows me to better organize each under the appropriate notebook: my side, or Hubby’s side (see this post for an explanation).
Appending each Index with an underscore forces the Index note to appear at the top of the list when I am inside a research notebook and sort alphabetically by note title.
Remember… this is not supposed to be a pretty polished list or database of ancestors and relatives, like what I try to display on our family history website or in my Family Tree Maker program. This system is rough, ugly, meant to be quick (I’d rather spend my time doing research), and is constantly being modified.
The hyperlinks go to the Research Log file. Usually I work on these as I focus my research efforts on a particular ancestor or relative…so there are a lot of missing Logs.
Mentioned in my post about Research Logs and Note Links, “Part of why I find Note Links so valuable is that they generate a permanent hyperlink that remains intact even when you edit the Title of a Note.”
I referenced above, and in my post about Research Logs, that I use a Dollarhide-inspired ancestor coding system. This is to help me keep track of individuals with the same or similar names, and keep track of generations, as well as birth orders. Unlike my Family Tree Maker software or Ancestry Member Tree, my Evernote system provides no way to visualize ancestors and descendants through charts or an automatic way to determine an individual’s relationship to me or my husband. So a coding system is critical here.
I can’t claim to have mastered the Dollarhide coding system yet, and am still working out how to incorporate non-ancestor spouses and children of non-ancestors (ancestor siblings). But so far, it functions pretty well for me.
The only modification I make to the Dollarhide system is the inclusion of a prefix to each number, which allows me to quickly identify if an individual is from my side of the family or from my husband Jeff’s side of the family.
- My Side: Prefix “C” for Colleen is added (i.e., C2.0, C4.0, C4.1, C4.3, etc.).
- Hubby’s Side: Prefix “J” for Jeff is added (i.e., J2.0, J4.0, J4.1, J4.3, etc).
Because I keep a separate Genealogy Index note for each side of our family, and I keep all of our research notes in a separate notebook for each side of our family, this prefixed coding system may not seem like it is all that important since I can quickly identify if a person falls under my side or Jeff’s side by looking at the Index title or the notebook title. Where it becomes important is when viewing research notes outside of that context. For example, if I search within Evernote for all research notes pertaining to a location (i.e., Virginia) or to a particular topic or record type (i.e., WWII), Evernote displays all notes outside of the context of my side vs. my husband’s side of the family. That gets confusing. So being able to distinguish between a “C” code or a “J” code helps me quickly identify the applicable side of the family history.
Once I assign a code to an ancestor or relative, I then apply that code as a Tag to every single note I save about that person. I apply it to my Research Log note for that person, and to every single note I clip from the web or upload from my computer about that person. For something like a census record, I apply the coded Tag for every individual in the household. Applying the individual’s coded Tag to each note allows me to quickly aggregate and focus on all research notes pertaining to a particular individual, because Tags are hyperlinked in Evernote. I can search on that coded Tag, or go to the Tags view and simply click on the Tag.
In my Family Tree Maker database, I create a custom Fact for each person titled “Dollarhide Number” and assign the appropriate code. Just another way to keep my various genealogy research systems more tightly organized.
I maintain a Tag titled “key files” in Evernote, which allows me to aggregate and quickly retrieve my most important reference notes and cheat sheets (such as my list of current medications). I apply this Tag to the two Indexes, so they are always immediately found.
Just to reiterate, my Evernote for Genealogy system is not a replacement for a fully functioning genealogy database program. I use FTM for Mac for that, and sync it to my public Ancestry Member Tree. But there are often times where I do not have access to my FTM when I need to look up research notes or have a chance to do some quick research, such as during lunch breaks at work or when I am mobile (my FTM is on my MacBook at home). And I have run into quite a few times, especially lately, where locations I was visiting for research purposes (the Sierra Nevada range, and Shenandoah National Park, just this year) did not have wi-fi or a good data signal. So, my mobile Ancestry app was pretty useless. My Evernote system is invaluable in those situations. Which is why my genealogy notebooks are all set up as synchronized Offline Notebooks (a feature available in Evernote Premium), so that I can access my research on any device even when I do not have an internet connection.