In Search of Organization – Evernote



One thing is for sure after a week of intensive study at the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR) there is no lack of inspiration for blogging. This past week in Georgia was no different. This post is a shout-out to Evernote. A little piece of free software that is quickly becoming a favorite tool for organization in my research.


However, I have not yet met a person who fell in love with Evernote right out the gate.  I admit I did not either. In fact, it has been a slow miserable courtship as I began to get to know the software the genealogy community was swearing by. What was the point of Evernote? I already kept my digital and document files in a structure I called my “digital file cabinet.” In this file was a large and crazy cascade of sub-files. One could say there was a form of organization. Most of the time I could find what I was looking for. That was as long as I had my computer with me.

organization book
How to Use Evernote for Genealogy.

Earlier this year I purchased Kerry Scott’s book How to Use Evernote for Genealogy, a Step-by-Step Guide to organize your research and boost your genealogy productivityI warmed to the book initially because Kerry openly admitted she too was skeptical of the advantage of using Evernote. Unfortunately, it appears that Evernote may have made some fundamental layout changes since the book was published in 2015.  This left me struggling to get past the first few chapters.  Kerry writes in an engaging style, so I finally skipped ahead and just thumbed through the pages grabbing the highlights. I started utilizing Evernote for my various logs, such as correspondence. Slowly true organization began to fall in place. It is hard for us old-school dinosaurs who love paper. I am still contemplating the move for my research log.

Organization of Books

But it was on page 157 that I found this little gem. Here is a section on book inventory tracking. Like most genealogists, I am a book lover. Always have been, always will be. Keeping a log of my books is something I have always done. I keep the log in Excel and that allows me to sort as needed.  The downside is that I  don’t always have my computer with me in the various places I discover myself unexpectedly stumbling onto books. This can be from Amazon to tiny charity shops in remote Scottish villages. Having an inventory is only as good as the access you have to it.  After many years of book collecting, a paper copy kept in my purse just isn’t practical. I carry a tiny shoulder bag not a suitcase.

Paul Milner, M. Div., coordinator of the Scottish and English track at IGHR, is a bookie too. Among many things, he is an accomplished author and book reviewer for the Federation of Genealogical Societies FORUM, and the British Interest Group of Wisconsin and Illinois Newsletter. If you have been lucky enough to have experienced a course with Paul, you know he comes laden with books. This past week was no different. Along with the various Unlock the Past guides to British Isles research, Paul also brought a number of excellent condition used books for sale at reasonable prices.

Organized Mobility

At this stage of the game, I still recognize most of the books I have on my shelves.  Occasionally, I do still get caught-up in new book heaven, and purchase a duplicate.  With so many books on my wish list I try very hard to limit this. Hence, the inventory of my personal library mentioned earlier.  Just last month, I uploaded the Excel file with my book list to Evernote. I also pasted a copy of the information in table format into the same notebook.  So now for the payoff. While everyone else was calling home to their better halves asking for photos of their library shelves I pulled out my I-phone. Right at my fingertips was my Evernote app.  A couple finger taps and I was into my library catalog. I was able to confirm what I was interested in purchasing was all new acquisitions!

Apparently I don’t really need to paste the log into a table. I can access the excel file itself right on my phone. So when I update the inventory later today with the recent purchases, I’ll likely remove that from the notebook and just update the file.

Stay tuned for more Evernote updates and my struggles with organization. This is a love affair of the slow marinating kind.

organization list
Easy access to library catalog from mobile phone using Evernote

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