Sunday, January 10, 2016

FINALLY Get Organized! Jan 10th-16th Checklist

Before we get started with this week's checklist, let's review a bit of feedback from last week. Steph says she aims "to stop changing my organisation and stick to one so I can progress further with my genealogy." She decided to use orange and blue folders in place of the red and green clipboards. That's great, Steph. Whatever works for you! The idea is to quickly list and then cast aside worries about computer training or genealogy conundrum issues until help arrives. That way you can progress through our weekly checklists.

Becky says "I have been involved with genealogy since the 1960s when I could keep my information in notebooks. I have been working off and on - starting the Reunion Mac computer program - then Ancestry and doing many things on line. Eight friends and ancestors have left me their genealogy books, photos, notebooks, stories, videos, audio tapes and I am clearly and I am absolutely overwhelmed. I have now retired and am ready to go. We have bought six file cabinets and things must be done. I'm not getting any younger and so I need this organization." I think you'll love Reunions to identify your sources and document your conclusions about family relationships. You can create separate databases for each of your friend's families, as we discuss during this week's checklist.

Susannek via iPad said she must get busy "organizing papers, info. Straightening out complicated relationships." You are a wise woman! Sometimes the best clues to unravel complicated relationships are found in documents we've already gathered. You'll be checking for common threads like witnesses in christenings, land records and wills, 

Susannek wasn't sure "how to report her progress since she is using an iPad." There is an app for Blogger, and probably one for WordPress. Alternately log in to Google Drive where you will have online versions of a word processor, a spreadsheet program, etc. Items may be shared publicly to document your progress with the rest of us.

This week we’re developing a filing system.
One binder and one digital file folder.
Now that Ol' Myrt is half paper and half digitally-oriented, I'm clearing out most binders, and scanning all supporting documentation. It's only the priceless, one-of-a kind documents that I keep in my binders now, but don't let me get ahead of myself.

 First, back up your data. You must preserve your genealogy data, in fact all data on your computer. No one wants to experience a hard drive failure after scanning and typing you'll be doing this year. You've got a number of options. Merely backing up to an external hard drive won't suffice. I've heard too many horror stories over the years where fire, floods, hurricanes and other disasters have destroyed years of hard work. One of my DearREADERS came home to find burglars had stolen her computer and the external hard drive, along with the printer and scanner.

Ol' Myrt here advocates some sort of cloud storage for both paper and digitally-oriented genealogists. You've got several choices. Cousin Russ uses Backblaze, the free Google Drive and Dropbox.

Cloud storage is defined as data stored off-site. 
This means storing your data outside the confines of your genealogy office,
preferably in another state in your country.
Ol' Myrt here also uses a combination of Backblaze, Google Drive and Dropbox. The idea of utilizing inexpensive cloud storage in more than one location helps me sleep better at night.  

Backblaze is good if you don't want to move files. The Blackblaze program looks for all your document, image, photo and video files on any of your computer drives, then backs them up to the Backblaze cloud with unlimited storage for about $5US per month. Backblaze does not back up program files or iTune files. Check here for a complete list. This helped with my Family Tree Maker data files and images downloaded from my Ancestry Member Tree. I had forgotten to change the FTM data file folder to my Dropbox folder when I first set up FTM.

This is what Ol' Myrt's "genealogy data" folder in Dropbox looks like. Notice the surname folders.

Dropbox to sync files between
multiple computers.
Ol' Myrt began using Dropbox to ensure that the research I documented on my desktop computer would be seamlessly synced to my laptop computer and vice versa. 

For the syncing to happen before a research trip, Ol'Myrt here:
  • Makes sure to leave my laptop online for sufficient time, the day before leaving, so all files saved on my genealogy office computer are synced to my laptop.
When Mr. Myrt and I return from a trip, Ol' Myrt here:
  • Fires up my laptop to permit it to sync new files to the Dropbox cloud, in case I did some typing on the road without an Internet connection.
  • Fire up my genealogy office computer.
  • Walks away and permits Dropbox to sync the new data from the Dropbox cloud to my genealogy office computer.
With this trusty method, Ol' Myrt here takes full advantage of the Dropbox syncing feature and I never have to worry which computer has the most up-to-date version of my genealogy database. I am very careful not to save *anything* on my Windows desktop on either computer.

I use Dropbox to store my PowerPoint slides and lecture handouts. Well, actually all the artwork I create as well. I can save money when teaching a class by sharing a document with my students  before each session. 

Once I was snowed in under 4 feet of snow in Flagstaff, and couldn't make it to a genealogy conference in Mesa. No problem. I shared my PowerPoint and my handouts to a colleague via Dropbox. He was able to carry on masterfully without me. I'll bet that program chair was relieved.

  Decide on a genealogy management program.   You may as well take advantage of technology. You don't want to type everything up again for a different report form when our genealogy software programs do a fairly nice job on a variety of reports. 

You may have heard all the hub-bub last month when Ancestry announced it is discontinuing Family Tree Maker support after Jan 1, 2017.  Cousin Russ and I, along with some thoughtful panelists, created a video discussing alternative desktop programs for both Windows and Mac computers. Make sure the program you select is FamilySearch Certified and that it can import and export GEDCOM files. These are the kind you might share with or receive from a newly-found cousin.

This video also explains why Ol' Myrt here  absolutely does not recommend using an online service as your only copy of your compiled genealogy.

Starting with yourself, ensure you've entered your personal data and that of the three older generations by that surname in your chosen genealogy management program. It isn't necessary to throw out what you've done, just be sure the info for each generation is in there correctly. It isn't necessary to put info about siblings in your database yet either.

Set aside a 3-ring binder for your surname, maiden name for you gals.

Label oversize tabbed 3-ring dividers and insert in the surname binder.

1st generation
2nd generation
3rd generation
4th generation  

Print out family group sheets starting with yourself for four generations on your surname from your genealogy management program. These printouts will serve as a place holder to insert photos and documents later in the week

Place the 4 family group sheets  behind the appropriate generation dividers  in your surname binder. This means you, your parents, your paternal grandparent with that surname, and your paternal great-grandparent along that same line. 

My maiden name is PLAYER.
Here's how I filed the four generations of family group sheets printed from my genealogy program in my PLAYER family binder:
  1. ME Ol' Myrt here.  (Where I am a child, and my Dad is head of household.) 
  2. MY DAD Glen S. Player, MD (Where my dad is the child in his parent Shirley Player's family.) 
  3. MY PATERNAL GRANDFATHER Shirley Player Generation 3 Family Group Sheet (Where my Dad's father, Shirley, is a child in his parent Alma Oades Player family.)
  4. MY PATERNAL GREAT-GRANDFATHER Alma Oades Player Family Group Sheet
    (Where my Dad's grandfather, Alma Oades Player is a child in his parent Charles Warner Player's  family.) 

  Scan and file photos and documents relating to each of these four generations in your surname/maiden name binder. Those documents concerning my childhood are in the PLAYER surname binder. Don't worry about where to put things after I got married. If you are a paper-oriented genealogists, be sure to print out the documents you've downloaded from the Internet. This is how my surname binder would look when you open it up:

Introduction (We'll get to that later in this checklist.)
1st Generation (oversize divider)

Generation 1 Family Group Sheet (where I am a child)
My birth certificate, photos of me as a cute little girl, my original Camp Fire Girl certificates, my high school graduation certificate, etc.
IMAGE: The author, age 2.
Seattle, Washington.
2nd Generation (oversize divider)Family Group Sheet (where my dad is the child ) followed by his photos and certificates of birth, marriage and death, etc.

3rd Generation (oversize divider)
Family Group Sheet (where my dad is a child) followed by his father Shirley Player's photos and certificates of birth, marriage and death, etc.

4th Generation (oversize divider)
Family Group Sheet (where my Dad's grandfather Shirley is a child)
followed by Alma Oades Player's photos and certificates of birth, marriage and death, etc.

  As soon as you've scanned them, place all important "must save" photos and documents in top-loading page protectors for those first 3-4 generations in your surname/maiden name binder. The rest of the photocopies you may discard, unless you are a die-hard paper-oriented genealogist.

There is a lot to be said for being a paper-oriented genealogist.
When my half-brother David, from a different father, came for a visit, he wanted to see everything I had on his Dad's side of the family. I didn't have surname binders at that stage of the game. It took me quite a bit of gathering from here and there to show him the pictures and documents I'd discovered mentioning his father, grand-parents and great-grandparents.

We could call it "The Coffee Table Approach to Sharing Family History." Instead of an artsy book about my favorite Andrew Wyeth, I can now pull place the TATHAM surname binder on my coffee table for my brother to peruse at his leisure. 

  Create an introduction for those that follow.   Your surname binder and surname digital file folder on your computer each need an introduction to quickly orient those who find your work later.

Elements to include in your surname binder intro: You will be adding to this at least once more, but let's get started. The final copy will be placed in this binder and each subsequent surname binder you create. 
  • Explain your filing system. Surname binders are filed by generation, starting the youngest in your direct line, then his/her father, his grandfather, great-grandfather, etc. I know we haven't discussed your children and grandchildren or other surnames/maiden names yet. We also haven't discussed research in progress and disproved lines.
  • In your surname binder, explain there is a digital version of this information on your computer.
  • Consider including the location of the password to log in to your computer. This may be a trusted relative or your attorney.
  • List the genealogy management program you are using and the name of your permanent database file. 
  • List additional databases you may have used merely for experimentation.
  • Explain that all photos and documents for each family member found in this surname binder are also attached to individual and family profiles in your genealogy program.
  • Indicate if there are multi-media audio/visual files attached to people in your genealogy database that are not found in the surname binder.
Elements to include in your computer's genealogy surname folder intro: You will be adding to this at least once more, but let's get started. The final copy will be placed in this folder and each subsequent surname folder you create. 
  • Consider including the location of the password to log in to your computer. This may be a trusted relative or your attorney.
  • Explain you understand most people will look at your image files first. 
  • Explain that all photos and documents for each family member in the surname folders on your hard drive are also attached to those individual and family profiles in your genealogy program.
  • Explain there are precious, one-of-a-kind "must save" hard copies of some digital files that are to be found in your surname binders.
  • Indicate where your surname binders are found in your home or office.
  • List the genealogy management program you are using and the name of your permanent database file. 
  • List additional databases you may have used merely for experimentation.
  • Indicate if there are multi-media audio/visual files attached to people in your genealogy database that are not found in the surname binder. 
  • Indicate where your genealogy database has been included as an online tree. 
  • Consider how to share the location of passwords to log in to those online trees if you are unable to do so yourself.
  Add a "genealogy codicil" to your will by making an appointment with your attorney. Gena Philibert Ortega posted "Protecting your Heirlooms: Adding a Codicil to your Will" at Gena's Genealogy Blog. See also her report of "Dear Abby's Advice on Family Heirlooms." You might also look into "Genealogical Codicil to Your Will" from another friend, Katherine Willson. This last checklist item may take a few weeks. At least fill out Katherine Willson's form for these reasons:
    1. You'll have time to consider whom to appoint as the custodian of your genealogy files.
    2. You'll set aside funds to assist that custodian in moving those files to his/her jurisdiction until items can be dispersed to family members and/or donated to your specified archive.
    3. Having thought through alternatives and made a clear choice, you'll be prepared to express your preferences to your attorney during your upcoming appointment.
    4. You'll have a printed and digital copy in your surname binder and computer file should anything happen in the mean time.
    Want to Hangout?
    We will be discussing this week's checklist during our Mondays with Myrt hangout. Here's the link to register using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Now everyone can view and comment. With my new hangout interface, you only need a Google account if you want to appear as a filmstrip panelist.

    Here's the link to the calendar of other upcoming DearMYRTLE genealogy hangouts:



    Hangouts: Pay what you want. So it's simple. If you value the work Ol' Myrt, +Cousin Russ and our beloved panelists do week in and week out on your behalf, please:

    Check the DearMYRTLE Hangouts Calendar for upcoming study groups and hangouts. There you'll find links to the GeneaConference (in-person) and the GeneaWebinars Calendar with over over 200 hours of online genealogy classes, webinars, live streams and tweetchats from other hosts and presenters over the next 12 months.

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