I have tidbits of information that I just don’t know what to do with. I certainly don’t want to delete them, but they don’t “qualify” for my permanent genealogy files. They are links to cool websites I want to keep. Information on a historic place, person, or time that I think I’ll use in my research. A blog post that has great tips I want to remember. A map of a region my ancestors lived…I think. A Wikipedia article that explains who, what or where that I was dying to better understand. Notes about a particular courthouse and it’s rules.
I’m not a pack rat. I like files. I enjoy organization. But I freeze when it comes to things like this that don’t fit my regular file structure. So what happens? I get an enormous Inbox full of emails I can’t file or delete. I have a folder called “Resources” that I forget about while it collects virtual dust. And I spend precious time and energy chasing my tail looking for the same information over and over again. Ugh!
Some brilliant person came up with a solution – probably because her files were collecting virtual dust, too – that I had long heard about, but never looked into until now. Once I did, it changed my little digital life!
There is a product called “Evernote.” The logo is an elephant’s head, and their tagline is “remember everything.” I couldn’t have marketed it better myself. You see, it is an online service where you sign up for an account with just your name and email, and it creates your own digital sticky note filing cabinet with easily accessible index.
It Works Something Like This
Imagine taking all of those tidbits of information I mentioned above – websites, notes, books to look for, spelling variations, contacts in other cities, etc. – and writing them each on their own paper sticky note. Okay, you’d have a mess all over your dining room table. But stay with me. Now, imagine giving each of these sticky notes a title (like a book in a library), a link to the website you found the information on (automatically!!!), and a subject tag or two, i.e Vanderstay Family, or Kansas State Historical Society, just like a library card catalog. Then put all of those titles and tags in a searchable database, along with the now digital sticky notes, and you have a real system where you can “remember everything.” AMAZING.
I have to tell you, when I first got into this I was so, so excited. I was buzzing through my Inbox, cleaning out and organizing emails that were languishing. I cleaned out my Resources file. I went on Wikipedia to do some research and saved more than a handful of articles and pictures – with their Wikipedia URLs – in my Evernote account. I was like a kid in a virtual candy store…admittedly with files and not candy! But let’s not lose site of the fact that my organizational stress went down. My focus became clearer….I knew what I had, where it was, and it made prioritizing – heck even knowing what projects I’m working on so much easier!
It seems like any good digital service these days, there is a web interface. Yes, you, too, can access your account through the Internet on any computer. You’re at the library? Go for it. Sneaking some research while at work. Okay, but don’t say I said you should! ;> Working on the other computer at home. No problem. Your notes are where you are.
And the cost –
If you’re wondering this is too good to be free, you’re kind of right. You can sign up for free. You can use the service for free – up to a point. Remember, I said I got wound up about it and started saving everything that wasn’t nailed down in it? Well, I quickly titled my monthly allotment of free space. Now, don’t panic. To upgrade to premium and get 1 Gig of space, is only $5/month or $45/year. Personally, I couldn’t get my credit card out fast enough. But certainly that’s a decision for you to make – personally. But let me tell you, if you do a lot of research, it’s well worth the money for the savings of time and headaches.
So, check it out. If you’re already using it, I’d love to hear your feedback. How do you use it?
In the meantime, Happy Researching!