Evernote Premium Has Changed My Life!

My relationship with Evernote has been a tumultuous one.

I first started using it about 5 or so years ago.  I HATED IT.  I found it a little hard to use and didn’t really see an advantage of using it, so I stopped.

Later, I saw a few webinars about using it for genealogy and once I saw some examples, I decided to give it another try and I quite liked it.  I had a free account but it served my needs just fine.  I even did a presentation about how great Evernote was at one of my local genealogy discussion groups!

Then Evernote changed the rules for a free account.  I could no longer use Evernote on my 2 laptops, a desktop, a phone and a tablet at one time.  Now I was limited to 2 devices.  Booooo Evernote.  I was NOT going to pay pretty much for the ability to use more devices, especially when I had another option.

I subscribe to Microsoft Office 365, so I have a TB of space to use with OneNote.  So I figured I would just switch to OneNote.  One of the advantages of OneNote (besides being able to use it on 5 devices) was the ability to use my Apple Pencil on my iPad Pro directly in OneNote to write notes on my uploaded PDF files from meetings or seminars.  With Evernote, I had to use another app outside of Evernote (I used Penultimate) to add those handwritten notes.

So, I exported all my notes from Evernote, imported them into OneNote and tried for about 6 months to use OneNote.  It was OK, but I just didn’t like OneNote as much. I really did like Evernote better.  I liked Evernote’s tagging, the ability to easily create a table of contents note without a 3rd party app and just the overall organization.  There weren’t huge differences between the two but the differences were enough to make me go back to Evernote.

I reinstalled Evernote and used the free version again.  Ultimately I decided that I would bite the bullet and pay for Evernote.  I chose Premium for the ability to search and annotate PDFs.

Now that I had a larger monthly upload limit I decided to upload all of the newsletters and quarterly publications from the various societies I belong to into Evernote.  I previously had them in Google Drive.

WOW!  Now that I have them in Evernote I can search all of those publications quickly.  I have found 4 articles so far that pertain to branches of my family that I would have eventually found, probably by looking at indexes at the various societies, if I took the time to do so.  (P.S. – I don’t think I am smart enough to search in Google Drive correctly because I can never seem to find anything using the search.)

The Evernote searching capability within my PDFs makes it well worth the subscription price for me!

My Ability To Transcribe Deeds Just Got A Lot Faster

I hate to type.  I love land records.  These two things do not go together.

I have found so much great information in land records and I am lucky that many of the records I need are in Maryland.  In Maryland, all verified land instrument records are on-line (and free) through MDLANDREC.  All that is needed to access the records is a username and password, offered with a free registration.

The problem with getting all these great records is that the older records are hand written.  In general the copies are good, but they are tedious to read and even more tedious to transcribe, especially when you hate to type.

SOURCE – BALTIMORE COUNTY COURT (Land Records) WG RR, p. 0172, MSA_CE66-92

So since I had some gift cards burning a hole in my pocket, and a bunch of records to transcribe, I decided to spring for Dragon NaturallySpeaking.  I had heard some good things about the software and several administrative people in my office use it.

After my purchase I installed it and have been using it for about a half an hour.  So far I love it! In fact, I’m not typing this blog, I’m having Dragon do it for me.

I was hesitant on buying a voice recognition program because I have problems with phone systems that can supposedly use verbal cues in their menus.  But to this point I haven’t had any issues.  During set up it had me read a few paragraphs of text so the software could learn my voice.  Also, I have the TV on in the background and Dragon doesn’t seem to have an issue with picking up that noise.

I still have a lot to learn about the software, but to be able to go from installation to using it successfully in ten minutes is awesome.  I’m sure the cost of the software will be prohibitive for some, but for me the amount of time it’s going to save his worth that cost.  I purchased the Premium version which is supposed to work with spreadsheets, so I may not even need to worry about using Google Forms any longer.

Oh, and not only does this software type better than I do but it spells better than I do too!

Going Paperless??

Anyone doing genealogy research knows there is paper…stacks and stacks of paper.  There are books, there are copies of newspaper articles, death certificates, marriage records, pictures, census records, military records, letters, land records, funeral cards, funeral books, spiral notebooks and other notepads full of miscellaneous notes.

I usually handle all the paper by scanning the paper, saving the scanned image on my hard drive and on Dropbox and then filing the originals in my file cabinets.
When I receive a paper record, if I don’t have time to scan it immediately I place it in a bin in my office and wait for a nice rainy day to scan everything in my bin.  Since electronic delivery is becoming more popular, my bin does not fill up nearly as quickly as say 10 years ago.
Scanning allows me the flexibility of attaching the records to my genealogy database for that particular event.  Additionally, since I have a copy in the cloud, I can easily email or share files directly with family members.

I am very comfortable with this process for most of my paper “stuff”.  MOST.  I do not follow the above process for my notes, and boy do I have notes!
I am a serial note taker.  I think it stems from my school days.  Many of my teachers were “lecturers”.  They talked, we took notes.  There were minimal handouts.  We had textbooks but the majority of the classroom time was spent taking notes.
So in my adult years I jot down things all the time, for everything from reminders to pick things up at the store to reminders to call people, etc.  For my “personal life” notes I typically use the Notes app on my phone, or I set up a reminder on my phone.  This works fine.
But what about my research notes. The main problem is that my research notes largely have no organization.  I grab whatever is at hand, scribble a note and throw it in the pile.  I have at least 15 spiral notebooks and probably 30 notepads of various sizes with no more than 10 pages written on each, some pages may have just a single line.  There are also post-its, napkins and scraps of paper, some even just corners of papers torn from something, who knows.
I will come across something, a name, an address, a reference and think “oh, I have a note about that” but then I can’t find it because there are so many notes to wade through (if I am even at home when it comes up).  So, how do I resolve this?

Well, since most of my genealogy stuff exists digitally (the exception is large maps and portraits that are hard to scan), why not convert my notes to a digital format??  If my notes are digital then they become portable if they are “in the cloud” without lugging around a big box of notebooks.
OK, well, since I embrace technology this is a no brainer…digital it is!

Next, where do I store these digital notes in the cloud?
I am a heavy user of both Dropbox and Google Drive.  I started using Drive first and like it because it integrates so well with my other Google apps.  Then I started using Dropbox, liked it as well, and it is easy to earn extra storage space.  I earned a bunch of free space and then moved much of my genealogy stuff to Dropbox.  I still rely on Drive for my personal on-line storage.
So, either of these services would be a natural choice right?  Hmmm, maybe not.  Drive and Dropbox are great at storing files, any kind of file.  If I scan my existing notes as PDFs I can store those PDFs.  But besides naming the file it really isn’t an “intelligent” note and not searchable.

Then I thought about Evernote. It is made specifically for notes, all kinds of notes.
I have had an Evernote account for several years.  I have never really used it because I wasn’t committed to using it.  In fact I haven’t even logged into my Evernote account in probably 2 years.  However, I’ve read several articles recently about using Evernote for genealogy and it has made me want to dive head first into the Evernote world.  It seems much more evolved than when I first got an account.
Evernote allows users to create notes and notebooks. There is also the ability to add tags and text is OCR’ed, making notes searchable.  It allows the user to “clip” items from webpage, so all my notes from some page I saw on the internet can not be captured more accurately (because we all know websites change).

My next week or so is going to be spent reading and watching tutorials on Evernote to figure out how I should import all my existing notes.  Then to wade through all those paper notes and get them into Evernote.

I guess I need to hope for a lot of rainy/snowy days in the future!

Part Three of Computer Upgrade – Software Audit

Continuing my preparation and evaluation before upgrading my laptop, here is Part 3 – Software Audit.

As part of evaluating what I need to upgrade my laptop, software is my next consideration.  Not only the software itself but also any customization or configuration that may need to be copied to the new computer.  Since I typically only use my home computer for social networking sites and genealogy, I don’t have a lot of software that I use.  But what I use is important and deserves some thought and planning.

Genealogy Software
Database – For my genealogy database, I use Legacy Family Tree.  When I first started I used a couple different programs.  I finally settled on Legacy.  I don’t remember specifically what it was that made the decision for me but I have been a Legacy user for around 10 years and I have been very happy with it and don’t plan on changing.  The only thing that has ever made me slightly consider changing is that I have a tree on ancestry.com and Legacy is not “syncable” with my ancestry tree.  Since I don’t use my ancestry tree as my “working tree” but more for “cousin bait”.  Definitely a keeper.

Utility – I also use Clooz, which is a document analysis program.  It is a little hard to explain and it was a little hard to get started with but I really like it and will definitely carry it forward.  As part of my electronic file organizing I have some documents that I also need to get entered into Clooz.  I have found it a great resource for helping with brick walls, and I have a few that Clooz may help be break through.  Definitely a keeper.

Utility – Another utility that I use quite often is a little freeware program called Transcript.  It is basically a split screen that allows you to load an image file in the top screen and transcribe the text in the bottom screen.  Sounds simple but boy is it a nice utility!  Definitely a keeper.

App Interface – I use the Families app to view my database on my iPad and my iPhone.  The app does not read the Legacy file directly but has a program that is installed on the computer that syncs the database file with the app.  Definitely a keeper.

Cloud Software
As I discussed in Part One, I use both Dropbox and Google Drive to manage my cloud storage.  Both of these will need to be installed on the new computer.

Office Suite Software
I definitely need office suite software on my new computer.  My current laptop came with the Starter Edition of Microsoft Office.  I find it hard to use, but at the time I assumed that between that and Google Docs would get me through.  Not the case.  I even tried Open Office but it really didn’t fit my needs.  For the new laptop I will need a full blown office suite.  This preference probably comes from the fact that I use Microsoft Office quite heavily at work, so I’m used to having it at my fingertips.  I don’t want to pay for a version that will be out of date in a few years so I am considering Microsoft Office 365, which will also give me access to Office on my mobile devices.  

PDF Software
Just as with the Microsoft Office software, I am used to using Adobe Acrobat Standard daily.  Although many programs and websites allow you to save files as PDFs without having the Standard version, I also combine multiple types of files to create PDfs and like to do page numbering, etc.  I will continue to use this going forward.

Image Software
I use image software all the time.  I tag, crop and edit photos and documents.  I currently use Picasa but it can sometimes be a little quirky.  I am considering purchasing something along the lines of Adobe Photoshop Elements.  I can probably have that added to my new laptop configuration at a discount.  I am going to plan on working this into a new laptop.

One thing that I currently do not have installed is a mapping software.  This would be used, for example, to query county boundaries during different years.  I should probably take a look at something like AniMap.  I have also recently seen a couple webinars covering using KMZ files from The Newberry Library.  This also deserves a look, more research and feedback is needed here.

Although bookmarks do not really fit into software, I am going to eliminate using bookmarks within my browser(s).  Without some user exporting and importing bookmarks are not shared between browsers or devices.  I “lose” bookmarks all the time.  Going forward I am going to have a links file.  This will be just a text document with all my links that will be saved in the cloud.  So I’ll be able to access my links from anywhere.

I’m sure I missed something but these items are my major concerns when upgrading.  Looks like I have a pretty clear path on most items, I just need to decide on what I’m going to use for mapping and imaging.  That seems pretty manageable.

The only thing left to consider is the actual make and model of the new laptop. But since I need to get busy organizing my files I won’t even look at that yet.  By the time I have everything filed I’m sure there will be new models out.