I’m a diehard fan of Evernote, for all aspects of my life, not just genealogy notes, but I’ve been giving OneNote a serious look this week and I think it might be a real help in keeping my research organized.
OneNote is a program in the Microsoft Office family (I’m using 2007). The program allows you to create something akin to tabbed notebooks. Each notebook can have any number of tabs, or sections as they’re called. I decided to create a notebook for each family I’m researching. To keep things simple, and to maintain consistency, I created page templates for the different sections of my notebooks:
•Surname tab—Basically an overview of the family name, with general notes as well as a table of contents to get to the sections of the notebook quickly – essentially bookmarks which jump to a specific section, or a certain page (or even a paragraph) within a section. As the research log, findings, and document pages grow, this table of contents and its associated hyperlinks will keep me organized and allow me to quickly locate information.
• Research log tab—where I state the genealogical problem or question, list bullets for what I already know, and keep a research log with dates, sources, search criteria and any findings (see documents tab) I also added links to my favorite search engines (up in the right corner, also very easy to do) so I can quickly jump to a search engine from within OneNote. As the research log grows, having hyperlinks to document pages and other related notes will help me stay on track.
• The next section is the Research Notes tab, for anything I find of value using the search in the log. Under the findings column above, I added a link to the Research Notes page with an extract of the information I found:
Along with the extracted information, I’m including the source information for writing the citation. Although I threw this together quickly to see how it all works, I think the best practise would be to write the citation correctly the first time, so I can cut and paste it into a report later.
• The Documents Tab includes pictures of the actual sources. In the picture above, I’ve added a link to the 1881 census, which takes me directly to the page in the Document section. Incidentally, when I copied and pasted the census image into the documents page, it also pasted a hyperlink to the exact ancestry.com source page below the image. This alone is a wonderful time saver.
Each tab or section can hold as many pages as you need. The various pages appear over on the right of my screen so I can see at a glance everything I have:
The icing on the cake is that I was able to download an Android app called Mobilenoter which allows me to access the notes from my smartphone. I can now take my research anywhere. Although this is a terribly blurry picture, you can see a list of my notebooks (I’ve assigned each its own color to theoretically match my file folders or binders if I ever get around to becoming that organized!) and below the file folders you can see links to the sections and pages.
I’m going to give this system a trial run for a few weeks—possibly on one or two particular puzzles in my personal family tree, and maybe for some research projects I’ve got going on for the Erie Historical Society. I can see potential here for client work, as it keeps everything in a neat package, which is portable, integrates nicely with Word for reporting purposes, offers redundancy (Although I haven’t figured out exactly how to store my files online yet), and there’s the ability to print whole sections or even notebooks at one time. As a begin a new family or research project, I can start with a fresh notebook with all its sections. I also think I will keep a more general reference notebooks with various links and citation templates for the sources I use over and over. Wow…..I’m excited!!! Off to do some research
****UPDATE I’m continuing to play around with OneNote and I’ve got more about it and how I’m using it in my research here.