Never Stop with an Index

I was born in the 1960s, and just about everything I knew of technology came from watching Star Trek. The coolest thing for me had nothing to do with transporters and warp speed. For me it was all about the little communicators Kirk and the others wore on their shirts. Keep in mind those were the days before cordless phones. I’m not even sure we’d discovered touch tones yet.

In college, there were a couple kids with enormous clunky computers set up in their dorm rooms. We thought they were freaks. Around that same time my family got an Atari game console, which we plugged into our television and played Asteroids on for hours. My first experience with computers, not counting the FORTRAN class I took my senior year (why I did that is beyond me now) was the DOS computer I used at my first job. It ran LOTUS, an early spreadsheet program which I used to track financials for my boss, the VP of Finance who was afraid of computers.

Sometime in the early 1990s, maybe 1993?, the MIS manager where I worked at IDX pulled me into his office, absolutely beside himself because he’d found a way to connect to something called “The Internet. ” He used his computer (the latest IBM clunker featuring a wireless mouse–TOTALLY cutting edge…) to bring up the bus schedule for Washington D.C. The value of knowing what time the busses ran in a city 800 miles away escaped me, but I was happy that it seemed to be making his day.

Flash forward to today…. every member of my family has a laptop computer sharing a household network and three wireless printers. We scan, fax, and make paper copies whenever the need arises. My children carry their entire music collections around with them at all times, read textbooks online, submit assignments to their teachers on a cloud called Google Docs, have instantaneous conversations with friends across the country, and network with friends around the world, sharing news and photos which were taken with their digital cameras. And I do all of those things too! The difference is they think this is the way it’s always been.

My laptop weights three pounds, so it’s effortless to bring along when I work onsite at repositories. When even that seems like too big a burden, I just rely on my WAY COOL Android smartphone: one gadget which fits comfortably into a pocket, and makes James T. Kirk’s communicator look like a party favor at a preschooler’s birthday party 🙂

It handles with ease all my phone calls, emails, chats, and tweets, often simultaneously! I use it to keep up with my Facebook friends, navigate to places using GPS and Google maps, identify celestial objects in the night sky, keep track of the phone numbers, addresses, websites, dates with and birthdays of everyone I know, and (theoretically) never miss an appointment. It has a 16 megapixel camera and takes amazingly clear video that I use to capture those random spontaneous family moments no one ever used to have a camera nearby to catch. It holds my favorite family photos and about a million pics of my cats, lists of all sorts, my entire genealogy database, audio recordings of my favorite genealogy lectures, the latest research reports on all my current genealogical projects; and, I can, on the fly, view and edit documents, watch a webinar, attend a video meeting, lookup or edit an Evernote, access my favorite websites, and use it to scan original documents in a repository.

What it cannot do, and what, despite a constant streams of technological advancements, it will never, in our lifetimes, be able to do, (and finally, she comes to her point) is make it possible to do quality genealogy research, the kind that meets current industry standards, the kind that reliably and provably solves our brick walls, on the Internet alone. Certainly, online databases and digitized records make our research infinitely easier than pre–Star Trek days, but they represent only a minuscule part of the records our ancestors left behind. And so, for this last issue, I leave you with a last thought, a phrase really, never let the last record you check be an online index or transcription. When it comes to genealogical research, the Internet is neither a beginning, nor an end, it’s just a tool to make the journey a little easier.

Managing Research Projects & Tracking Searches

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months evaluating the options for tracking my work. In the fledgling years of my business, my client load was part-time and the work just sort of managed itself. But this past year, more months than not found me juggling three or four clients at a time, which, combined with my Editorship of the ESGR’s quarterly, added a rather unhealthy degree of anxiety to the work. (as a total aside, four clients this winter were researching Irish immigrants named James McSomething, and, just to make it more interesting, all either had wives, mothers, or sisters named Mary! Although keeping track of those projects was stressful, there was also a sense of the ridiculous, which kept the anxiety somewhat at bay 🙂

In my survey of project management tools, I first considered an Excel spreadsheet, but, quickly realized I needed something more automated. Maybe automated isn’t the right word. I needed something always close at hand, so I’d remember to actually track my time, because what’s project management without the time component? Way back in another life, I was hired by a software company to create a cost accounting system, and what was immediately apparent, at least to me, was the rather large stumbling block of the lack of a corporate-wide time management system. That observation, not surprisingly, met with great resistance from the employees whose time tracking was the most critical in determining profitability: programmers and customer support staff. It had to be easy. Mindless. Effortless. The feedback on the program we took a year to design and write was that it was all those things, and, in the end, they got the cost accounting system they’d asked for in the first place.

My approach to choosing a project management for my genealogy research was the same: time based. I made a wish list:

  • Time based
  • Task driven
  • Ability to use sub-tasks
  • ALWAYS at hand
  • Simple to use
  • Minimal input

There are, it turns out, about a gazillion options (curious: gazillion is apparently a recognized word in WordPress Land!). It quickly became clear that in order for the system to work for me, I needed to be able to do it on my laptop or my phone. And, it had to be fun. Time management is drudgery. Drudgery is hard to stick with. So…… system:  (a task/to-do app)

Toggl (a time tracking app)

both, I believe, are available on Windows, iOS, and Android.
What I did:

First, I had to break my research and reporting processes into specific tasks. I also defined tags, which both and Toggl handle with ease, which fit with my business: things like Billable, Non-billable, Professional Development, all of which could potentially work with a variety of my tasks. Both apps are also capable of tracking tasks and time by clients, as well as types of clients: lineage society applicants, forensic, brick wall, etc.

Once I’d laid all that out, I loaded it into the apps and I was off and running. is not only a beautiful, multi-layered app, it has an absolutely endearing interactive personality, popping up from time to time during my day to remind me to take a breath and regroup as needed; and Toggl is what it says – it works on a toggle basis, two key strokes and I can toggle the time tracker on and off, and it too reminds me if it starts to suspect  I’ve forgotten all about it. It happens 🙂 Both apps are present and effortlessly accessible on my phone and my laptop.  Life is good 🙂

My system helps me stay focused. I start every day with a cup of coffee and an Moment. I review my tasks, and revise my research plan where needed. Toggl keeps me on track. The benefits? Not only do I have an automated reporting system for billable client work, over time I’ve begun to see patterns in my research process which helps me to better estimate client projects and helps me to hone in on areas where I could be more efficient.

As for topic #2: tracking searches…I’ll just say this: Thomas MacEntee has some good arguments for doing this. I often incorporate the search parameters in my research log, particularly when I get negative results, but I’m not consistent. I’ll try to be more aware of that going forward.


More About My Research Log

Revamping my research log, began with considering all different sorts of logs. At first, I looked at the Excel spreadsheet Thomas MacEntee shared, here. It is a great design, and provides a lot of useful information. In particular, given that it’s Excel, the data can be sorted in any number of ways. I like that I can sort it by repository, or proof point.

The keys to being faithful to a log, at least for me, are accessibility and ease of use. And, while I use Excel for a good many things, I am much more comfortable with Word. Having abandoned my genealogy software some time ago, the majority of my research is now stored in Word documents, and I’ve come to rely on Word’s features to stay focused and on track. Whether working online or onsite at a repository, research can move rapidly in one direction or another, and the record keeping can quickly get out of hand. If online on my laptop, I find I work most efficiently when I have a window for my document, and one (or a dozen) windows open on various websites. When onsite, I find it simplest to either type my findings right into my Word document, or take handwritten notes which I type into my document later. I prefer to keep everything in one place, so introducing another software application leaves me with a bad feeling of being disorganized. Plus, if I’m somewhere without my laptop, I at least always have my smartphone to take notes with. While I can manage, with difficulty, to edit a Word document in Android, Excel spreadsheets are even more unwieldy and difficult to navigate through.

At first, I thought the simplest thing would be to just use the Research Notes section of my Research Report Word template, which is in an outline form and looks something like this:

Research Notes

 1. First source examined, in full reference note format

     a. Detailed findings 1- could be notes, an extract, abstract, or transcription

     b. Detailed findings 2, etc.

        i. My comments on source, conflicts, or discussion points. 

 1. Second source examined, etc.

This works really well in a research report, but as a reference tool, it’s a bit bulky and isn’t as easy to sort and search through as a table would be.

Evernote, on the other hand, is my goto app for pretty much of my life, and it lends itself perfectly to log keeping. I decided to create a template, which I first laid out in Word, and then copied into a note.

The Note looks like this:
2015-02-03 13.49.58

I already use Evernote for my research: I save photos of original documents taken on my smartphone to Evernote; I keep to-do lists for family names and repository check-lists; I create notes by forwarding emails with research information to my Evernote email address; and, I use the Evernote Web Clipper to instantly capture online data and digital images. Regardless of how I created it, every research note includes the SURNAME of the research subject in its title. I also use myriad tags to facilitate searching, and because Evernote indexes all the text, I can quickly find whatever I need with just a few keystrokes.

The Evernote table is structured so that the text wraps, so I can add as much information into each field as I need, without it expanding beyond the width of letter paper, because I do find it helpful to print my research notes when I’m analyzing and correlating evidence. Also, it makes it easier to copy and paste the table back into a Word document. The Evernote Desktop application makes notes available offline, so if I do take my laptop into a courthouse or archive, I can key in my findings and the note with sync later when I have an internet connection. Also, of all the note taking apps for Android, Evernote is one of the simplest, most accessible way to take notes, which means if I’m somewhere without my laptop, I can still keep my notes up to date.

Tracking Research: Keep a log!

This part of preparing for a research project is where many of us stumbled in the formative years of our genealogy adventures.At least it was the case for me. Tracking my research has been the single biggest time waster, and is at the root of many of the brick walls I ran into early on. It’s such an obvious concept…keeping a log of all the resources used in pursuit of an ancestor’s vital information or proof of a relationship. Such a log would in turn create an organized, focused to-do list, once again, brilliant in theory, but somewhat elusive when it comes to actually doing the research. It’s so much more exciting to prepare a mental list and then jump right in to the thick of things.

As I’ve said before, my client work revolves around keeping a detailed research log, which becomes an integral part of every research report. My personal research deserves the same care and attention to detail. Thomas MacEntee has created an excellent Excel spreadsheet which you can download here to track his research, and with a few modifications, I could make it my own, but I’m more of a Word girl. As appealing as an Excel log would be, I’m inclined toward creating one in Word, because that’s my comfort zone. I suspect I will have more success this way; that there’s more of a chance I’ll stick with it. Plus, I love Word tables!

My Genealogy New Year: or, Why I’m Abandoning my Genealogy Software

I’m kicking off the new year with the rather lofty goal of starting my personal family history research over, from scratch, follow the lead set by Thomas MacEntee, who is spearheading the very popular project which he’s calling a Genealogy Do-Over; you can read all about it here. Using his program as a guide I’m going to begin by:

1) Setting Previous Research Aside
2) Preparing to Research
3) Establishing Base Practises and Guidelines

Notable of course is the concept of NOT diving right in. If you’re anything like me, beginning research on a new ancestor is a lot like opening a big bag of your favorite candy. Despite every good intention of moderation and common sense, before you know it you’re feeling bloated and maybe even a little dizzy from the sugar rush, and nothing gets done the rest of the day because all you can do is nap. Needless to say, when, as a young teen, I embarked on this journey, I took a lot of naps. Thirty years later, there are family facts I feel certain are true, but proof is often precarious and the documentation to support my convictions is in many cases non-existent. Hence the allure of the Genealogy Do-Over!

Setting Previous Research Aside

Not as hard as you might have guessed because: firstly, I’m just moving my files to a virtual place known as HOLD EVERYTHING; and, secondly, it’s really a mess, a very unattractive, stress-inducing mess, kind of like that hall closet where I shove everything out of place within reach when an unexpected visitor rings the  door bell.

What I am not putting aside, are original records, scans of original records, and copies of vital records and paid research findings because to do so would be a waste of money and time. The difference this time will be the methodology I apply in analyzing and correlating the evidence found in those documents. The original records are filed by family name, and all of them are digitized and stored on my OneDrive for safe keeping and easy access from my laptop, tablet, smart phone, and any computer I happen to find in front of me that has internet access. Redundancy is EVERYTHING!

Preparing to research

For me, this involved determining which branches of my tree would be the focus of re-do. I’m over committed as usual, and can realistically, and in good conscience, dedicate only one day a week (and at this point it’s looking like Saturday) to this endeavor. I could have gone in any number of directions, but I’ve settled on three generations of my paternal grandfather’s forebears.

Ernest Napoleon Varrieur and his wife Elsie, the author’s paternal grandparents

It’s doable, my documentation appears to be only moderately disorganized, and there are a couple of tantalizing brick walls. Plus, I find the families interesting. Really interesting. There’s a painting I love by my dear friend and gifted artist, Frank Sullivan, called The Stories We Don’t Tell. As Frank so eloquently puts it,

We all have our stories – the ones we tell the people in our lives. The one that define us, the ones that everyone we know has heard at least once, the ones that we can’t wait to introduce to new people who come into our lives….They’ve shaped us, made us who we are and they help us to show others who we are. But there are other stories. The ones we don’t tell. The things we’ve done or that have been done to us that we don’t want anyone to know about. The stories that have scarred us or that reveal our dark side. The stories that we’ll take to our graves.

Our ancestors left us bread crumbs. If we’re lucky, those crumbs are more fact than fiction, but we can never really be sure of the motivations behind their actions and the veracity of the details they chose to share. Yes, they took a lot of stories to their graves, but if we dig deep enough and carefully enough, using patience, good organization, and The Genealogy Proof Standard, we can find clues they left behind for us, whether intentionally or inadvertently. I know I missed a lot in the infancy of my role as family historian, which is why I’m going to follow Thomas’s lead and take is slowly this time round.

Establishing Base Practises and Guidelines

So…about abandoning my genealogy software. I bought a new laptop a few weeks ago, a Surface Pro 2 which, by the way, is the best laptop I’ve ever had. Moving my software and files took a lot of time, and one thing I never got to was downloading Rootsmagic 7, my tried and trusted genealogy software for as long as I can remember. Last night, as a first step to my Do-Over, I installed the software and imported my personal Gedcom. My database contains around seven thousand ancestors (at least, I hope they’re mine, although the confidence that they are has waned exponentially with the honing of my research skills). It’s orderly, and easy to search and maneuver through, but, and it’s a big “but,” the structure of the database limits its use in getting an accurate picture of the thoroughness of the research on each family group, quickly highlighting brick walls, and determining the reliability of evidence for each person’s life facts. Family group sheets, while great for some purposes, are no where near as useful, at least for me, as narrative or compiled genealogies. The Board for Certification of Genealogists provides excellent samples of three different formats here. There are pros and cons to each format, and I’m not sure at this point which will work best for me. However, I am sure that the net positives of these written styles clearly out way the net positives of any reports produced by genealogy software.

This opinion has formed over a number of years, beginning in 2011 when I took Boston University’s genealogical research course. My long term clients will have noted an evolution in my research reports since then. I’m really happy with the research template I’m currently using. Essentially, it contains five parts:

  • A defined genealogical problem or question & all known facts and previous research of relevance.
  • A summary of key findings, followed by a detailed discussion of the research, and my written conclusions. Also, if appropriate to the problem or question, a formal genealogy of the research subject.
  • A research log, with bibliography and full source citations, including sources containing negative findings.
  • Recommended next steps
  • Scans of all documents referenced in the report.

Structuring the report as such allows me to quickly ascertain the status of the problem or question, what sources have already been searched, the structure of the family with proof summaries and arguments, with complete source citations, on which I’ve based my conclusions, and a plan for continuing the research. Having images of the documents referenced also refreshes my memory of the research when I next pick up the project, and allows me to further evaluate my findings and conclusions before moving forward. This approach works really well in my client research, so why would I not want this for myself????

One other base practise, which is so critical to good research, it deserves notice here, is to never work without a research plan at hand. Not even, or perhaps especially, when there’s just a few minutes to spare while dinner cooks. In the beginning, research took time, the pace often determined by the post office. The advent of the Internet, while wonderful, introduced speed to the hunt. The ease of accessing information online is mindblowing, and without a plan, you can head off in a dozen different directions in the blink of an eye. This willy-nilly approach, while seemingly productive, generally results in poor or non-existent source citations, and no real proof of anything. Research plans, while malleable, keep us on the straight and narrow. They give direction to our research, and create a work flow that we can refer back to later. I never tackle a client project without one so, here again, why handle my own research any differently??????

My plan then (and, for sure, one in written form!)…while I’m certainly not going to delete my Rootsmagic database, I will begin at the beginning with Word. And about that: my good friend and colleague, Brent Chadwick, over at Knox Trail Ances-Tree, has been hard at work on a Word template which is designed to automate the numbering of a compiled genealogy. I, happily, have been a bit of a guinea pig, and in the process have incorporated much of his automation into macros in my own research template. I generally use the Modified Register method of numbering my genealogies. Entering the numbers by hand is simple enough when one is working with a single lineage, or just two or three generations of a person’s ancestors or descendants; however, things can quickly become unmanageable as new research reveals additional children, or siblings, who need to be inserted in their proper place. Brent’s macros allows for easy insertion and adjusts the numbering automatically and effortlessly.

And, there you have it. I’ve filed away years of research and am armed at the ready with a blank Word template, eager to start afresh with focus, solid research methodology, and my already dog-eared copy of Mastering Genealogical Proof. I’d love to have you join me 🙂

Genealogy & the Computer Users of Erie

One of our own was the featured speaker at tonight’s Erie Society for Genealogical Research’s monthly meeting.

Dave Howell spoke about the Computer Users of Erie (CUE) which has a genealogy special interest group that meets at 7:00pm on the first Tuesday of every month. The genealogy group was organized twenty years ago, by four or five CUE members who shared an interest in learning how to research their family history. They were novices, and their mission was to learn how to do online genealogy, to develop a legacy they could pass on to their children and grandchildren, and to have fun doing it.

One of their first tasks was deciding on a software program which would produce family charts and narrative histories. They chose Legacy Genealogy software, and still use it today. They also decided to invest in one search engine. They chose Ancestry and were allowed to have a group membership which allows three online sessions at one time. Some members have their own Ancestry subscription, but for those who don’t, they have the option of buying into the group subscription. The cost varies year to year, depending on how many memberships sign opt in, but it’s typically $15 to $20 each.

The group meets at members’ homes. They tackle research problems members are having, and troubleshoot members’ software problems, working collectively to find solutions. There are lots of happy discoveries and laughter, and over the years the group has developed quite a camaraderie. They have also offered classes, geared at helping others get started on their own genealogy research.

Anyone interested in joining is invited to come to one or two meetings, and if they decide to join, a membership to the CUE is $24/year. You can find more information at the group’s website:

Organizing Your Genealogical Data Digitally

In the world of genealogy, documentation is everything. Genealogists have long struggled with how to keep the mountain of photocopies, charts, original documents (and then some), organized and protected, while at the same time keeping everything within reach and easily accessible. There are a host of really excellent books on numbering schemes and filing systems, any one of which would be a good place to start if you are new to research. See bibliography. These are exciting times for researchers, as more and more records are being digitized, indexed, and made available online. But that same plethora of information, while moving our research ahead in leaps and bounds, creates even more of an organizational headache. Rather than panicking, however, the organized genealogist is embracing technology; taking advantage not only of computer programs with amazing database and indexing capabilities, but also online storage systems which can protect research long term and make sharing data simpler and less prone to error.

To be honest, I’ve never been especially good at maintaining a filing system. It seemed as if just when I’d gotten all my family group sheets, record copies, and pedigree charts printed and filed, I’d make some new discovery and need to print everything all over again. At some point in the 1990s, I discovered Rootsmagic, my genealogy software of choice, which is very similar to Family Tree Maker, Legacy, and a variety of other software packages, all with their own fan base, and all equally adept at keeping track of your ancestry database. Rootsmagic (and no doubt all the others) offers the capability of attaching images to families, individuals, and even single facts within one individual’s record. So, I began to upload family pictures and documents I’d received digitally from repositories with websites. It seemed like the best thing ever!!! And, that was the start of my transition to a digitally based genealogy system, the crux of which is this:


A cloud based storage system which crosses platforms; meaning—it’s accessible on a PC, a Mac, a tablet or iPad, a smartphone, and really anywhere and on anything that has an internet connection. Setting up Dropbox is as easy as creating a free online account at, and downloading the free software on your computer, smartphone, or tablet, and creating a Dropbox folder. A free subscription includes up to 2GB of storage space, which is expanded whenever people you’ve referred to Dropbox set up their own account. Additional space can also be purchased.

There are a lot of cloud based storage options, but the beauty of Dropbox is that whatever files you save to your Dropbox folder (or sub–folders) are automatically updated in the cloud whenever you make a change. No more remembering to back up your work!!!!

The FOLDER structure on my laptop looks something like this:

      • Rootsmagic database files and GEDCOMs
      • FAMILY (1) FOLDER
        • Saved Rootsmagic reports (narratives, family group sheets, etc)
        • DOCUMENTS–scanned documents and other digital files
        • PHOTOS—scanned family photos, etc
      • FAMILY (2) FOLDER

• And so on………

My file naming convention typically begins with the family name, given name if applicable, and a reference to the document, for example:


Digital Scans

Reducing or eliminating paper requires converting that paper to digital format. I’m able to accomplish that using either the camera on my smartphone, or my portable scanner. My Samsung Galaxy phone has a 10 megapixel camera which captures detail beautifully, but most smartphones on the market today will do an adequate job of capturing all but the tiniest print. Because I have the Dropbox Android app on my phone, I can easily upload it to the cloud.

The portable scanner is perhaps my favorite and most useful tech gadget when it comes to genealogical research. Of the several on the market today, I prefer one called Neat Receipts, which is available online and at stores such as Best Buy. I’ve seen it on sale for as low as $99.

This comes in handy when someone gives me paper documents, or when I print images off a microfilm reader onto 8 ½ x 11 paper. It can even handle irregularly sized papers, such as personal letters, and newspaper clippings.

 All I have to do is attach the scanner to my laptop with a USB cord, line the paper up in the feed, and press a button on the scanner. The paper feeds through to the other side and I’m left with an image of the document in a PDF which can easily be saved as an image file in one of my Dropbox folders, which is then instantly saved to the cloud for safe keeping.

Between my smartphone, my scanner, and the images I’ve received online from repositories, I have accumulated hundreds of digitized records which are now organized into computer folders, backed up in Internet cloud storage, and attached to the appropriate families and individuals in my genealogy database. I am able to easily bring them up on my laptop, tablet, smartphone, or from someone else’s computer with Internet access, and can almost effortlessly share them, or embed them into Word documents and other reporting software. The prospect of digitizing three decades of paperwork was overwhelming to say the least, but I began at the end, scanning each new record as I received it, and little by little working backwards through my earlier files. The only paper copies I’ve kept are originals and copies of originals which are either particularly significant, or would be nearly impossible to find again. Everything else was recycled.


This free Internet based software is central to my note–taking system, and I’m certain I’d be nowhere near as organized or efficient with my research without it. Similar to Dropbox, it works on several platforms including my laptop, tablet, and smartphone. The company’s slogan is “Remember Everything” and I use it to jot notes, make lists, paste things from websites, or really anything I think I might need to recall quickly later, from wherever I happen to be.

Think of Evernote as a collection of binders called “notebooks,” organized in whatever way makes the most sense to you. Within each notebook are folders, like the tabbed sections of a binder, where all kinds of things can be stored for safe keeping. One of the best features of this software is the web clipper. If I visit a web page with information I might need later, I just right click on my mouse and choose the option to “web clip” the entire page, thereby creating a note with a link to the page, a copy of every image, all the text content, and even any working links. Best of all, the text on the page will be searchable within Evernote, so I can easily find it later.

find the web clipper feature invaluable when doing online research. When I find something potentially useful on say or a Google search, I simply clip the page and save it to a folder with the family name I’m researching. I set up my Evernote notebooks the same way as my Dropbox folders, which keeps it all parallel and quite simple. Some of the things you’ll find in my Evernote are:

  • Website links and images of maps where my ancestors lived.
  • Records clipped from Ancestry that contain names of the people I’m         researching, but which require more research to determine if they’re the right people, so I don’t want to link them to my Rootsmagic database quite yet.
  • Other notes of a general nature, such as resources for researching English probate records by century; lists of record repositories by region; links to digital copies of Massachusetts vital records by county, etc. These types of notes are particularly useful, because not only are the notes searchable, they also contain hyperlinks which serve as shortcuts to websites and other notes.

Putting it all together

Recently, I used Dropbox, Evernote, and my portable scanner to bring order to the mountain of genealogy magazines I’m “going to get to one of these days.” For years, and maybe you can relate to this, I’ve saved magazines whose tables of content contain something that interests me or that I think I might someday have a need for. The stacks were getting unwieldy, so I decided to experiment with scanning the articles I want to read, using a feature in Evernote which imports PDFs into searchable notes. It took a while, but I eventually came up with a system that does what I want:

  1. I created a Dropbox folder on my laptop called “Magazine Articles,” and I created a notebook with the same name in Evernote.
  2. In Evernote, I went to Tools>Import, and defined the Dropbox “Magazine Articles” folder as an “import folder.” I specified that any PDF Evernote finds in this folder on my laptop is to be imported into the notebook called “Magazine Articles.”
  3. I connected the portable scanner to my laptop, opened the scanner’s software, and in Settings, checked “Combine pages into a single item.”
  4. I ripped the pages of an article out of one of my magazines and, in order of first page to last, fed the pages one at a time through the scanner set to PDF.
  5. When all five pages were scanned, it took about three minutes to process the PDF, which I was then able to Export to the Dropbox “Magazine Articles” folder. 

In less than two minutes, the imported PDF appeared in the Evernote notebook. I added some Evernote tags (keywords) to help me locate the article later, and moved on to the next article I wanted to scan and save.

I was able to scan articles from half a dozen magazines while watching the news. Because I have access to Evernote on my smartphone, I can access the articles that I’m interested in from virtually anywhere, when I have a few spare minutes, and the magazines aren’t taking up space on my bookshelves, or in messy stacks around the house. Thanks to Evernote’s tags and PDF search capabilities, I can find the exact information I’m looking for, whenever I need it, with just a few keystrokes. Also, because I saved the scanned articles in a Dropbox folder, backup copies are available in my cloud storage in case I should ever need to refer back to them.

These are just a few of the ways technology has helped me organize my genealogy data and facilitate my research process. There are probably hundreds more. If you’d like to chat about how my system works, or if you come up with some tips of your own, please email me at You can also find other tips for using technology in your research on my blog at

Bibliography and Reference

Carmack, Sharon DeBartolo. Organizing Your Family History Search: Efficient & Effective Ways to Gather and Protect Your Genealogical Research. Cincinnati . Betterway Books, 1999.

Fleming, Ann Carter. The Organized Family Historian: How to File, Manage, and Protect Your Genealogical Research and Heirlooms. Nashville, Tennessee. Rutledge Hill Press. 2004.

Levenick, Denise. “Four Tried and True Systems for Organizing Genealogy Research.” Blog article. 18 July 2010. The Family Curator. Http:// 2013.

“Organize Your Genealogy.” FamilySearch. 2013.

Software discussed in this article—

Dropbox, see

Evernote, see

Neat Receipts Portable Scanner, see

Rootsmagic, see

(This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Keystone Kuzzins, the quarterly bulletin of the Erie Society for Genealogical Research.