“Organize Your Genealogy: 35 Workspace Ideas!”
It’s the cover story for the new issue of Family Tree Magazine (May/June 2014). For those 35 inspired ideas, author Denise Levenick interviewed six people who work in the genealogy industry, including both Lisa and myself. Keep reading to learn how sharing your own organizing tips on our Facebook page can score you an organized prize!
Lisa’s organizational strategies and home office (below) are featured on page 27. It’s a gorgeous workspace that she keeps free of clutter, which helps her stay focused. But it’s also decorated with family photographs and mementos that inspire her. Notice the quilt displayed behind Lisa? There’s a story behind it–check out her blog post about it.
I love Lisa’s tips on going paperless, using color-coded Google calendar entries for home and work and cloud computing. Think how much cleaner an office can be–and how much less paper you have to lug around–when all your research lives online.
My own office is definitely packed with paper. I consider myself a “hybrid” when it comes to going digital. Anything I get in digital form remains that way. But I haven’t been ready to invest the time in digitizing all my old binders, which still line my shelves (see page 22 of the same article).
What’s YOUR organizational style? Are you brave enough to share a photo of your office? Upload an image or tell us your best tip to organize your genealogy on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page. We’ll choose one of you to receive a FREE CD with all the 2013 issues of Family Tree Magazine. (If you’re already a subscriber, share it with a friend!) Post your photo or tip by May 15, 2014!
Doing some spring cleaning? Don’t forget the hard drive! Genealogy Gems Premium Members head to the Premium Videos section of the website to watch Lisa’s two-part video class on Hard Drive Organization. (Not a Premium Member yet? Learn more here).
Just about every major genealogy website these days lets you build your family tree from scratch right on their website. But you may wonder what will happen to millions of carefully-constructed trees if the company goes out of business or the site goes down.
Before the days of internet genealogy, researchers organized family history findings on their home computers in specially-designed software. These programs generated .GED files (called GEDCOMs), a universal file type that allowed researchers using different software to share their findings. Software like this still exists. These days it can communicate your research to any genealogy sites you care to share with–by using those same GEDCOM files.
If you do choose to build your family tree online, make sure you can download your tree anytime as a GED file. Keep this file as a backup both on your computer and in a second location (like cloud storage). But my recommendation is to build your tree at home, in your own software. Then you can upload or synch your data to your favorite genealogy websites whenever you want–and you never lose control of your research.
Choosing the Right Software
There are lots of family history programs out there, and all of them will serve your basic needs. But you only need ONE. What’s the best genealogy software? It depends on how much you want to spend and how sophisticated you want your database to be. In many cases, you can order the product or purchase a digital download. I really don’t think you need the physical boxed product. All the help you need is online. All of these products offer a free demo that you can download to try it out before you buy.
FREE AND EASY: Family Tree Builder by MyHeritage helps you stay organized with streamlined screens to work in and doesn’t require a lot of startup time. Family Tree Builder offers lots of family history charts; custom reports; helps you share your data and pictures on a CD or DVD; allows you to back up your files to CD or DVD; and includes genealogy apps for mobile devices. Download the software FREE at the above link.
PC (and NOW MAC) OPTION WITH GREAT REPORTS: If you’re looking for great printed reports that you can share, and loads of free online help videos, then RootsMagic is a great choice. (and we are honored to have RootsMagic as a sponsor of The Genealogy Gems Podcast.) And they now have an iOS app.
Some of the differences you’ll find between these products is the types of reports and charts they produce. So if that’s important to you, you can try the demos and see which you like. But again, I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of these products. They are all well established and supported. (Update: There have been many updates since the post was first published, including a Mac version. Click here for a series of article by date on RootsMagic updates and their app.)
POPULAR PC AND APP PROGRAM: Legacy Family Tree is also an extremely popular program and solid choice. To give it a test run, download the free version. Then check out its strength in regards to source citations: you can now record the quality (original vs derivative, primary vs secondary, etc., direct vs indirect) of each source as you work on proving your conclusions. And they have an app called Families for your mobile device. Learn more about the app here.
AFFORDABLE MAC OPTION: iFamily for Leopard is the most affordable at $29.95. There’s a free demo you can try before you buy.
TOP-SHELF MAC OPTION: Reunion 11 by Leister Pro is fairly pricey at $99.00. We’ve featured Reunion in the past: listen to Episode 51 of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. In that episode you can listen to a review of Reunion 9 by Ben Sayer, the MacGenealogist. And if you want to compare iFamily against Reunion to see what you’re getting for your money, you can also listen to Ben’s review of iFamily in Genealogy Gems episode 53.
Do you have old family letters that really should be shared with loved ones, but you’re not sure how to go about doing it? You’re not alone. Jane wrote in recently with that very question. She came across my blog post 6 Tips: How to Organize Your Family History while searching the web for ways to solve her own family history problem:
“Now that the grandchildren of my parents (long since deceased) are raising children of their own, I would like to share at least some of the 75 or so letters that my mother wrote to my dad in their first year of marriage, 1947. Her letters are filled with many of the same concerns that still plague new moms.”
Jane goes on to mention three options she’s considered:
- “Scanning them, and then printing out the sheets into a spiral binder has some possibilities, but the chances of busy moms with young children sitting down to read such a tome seem minimal.
- Taking just a few of the letters, and adding a photo (I have very few from that time period!) to make a little book (through Shutterfly or Picaboo or such) would be another idea. Although that doesn’t really do justice to the whole year of letters.
- Emailing a transcription of one letter a week (for a year?) has also occurred to me, but I’m really not sure I know how to proceed.”
She concluded by asking me to direct her to anyplace on my website where can i buy malaria medication in india I’ve addressed a question like this. Here’s what I told her:
“If you are comfortable with the letters being public, I would recommend starting a blog and featuring a letter in each post. Our kids and grandkids are much more comfortable online and they can easily subscribe to your blog which can automatically email the posts to them. An added benefit of blogging is that other folks who might be related can find your family history content through Google search, perhaps helping you connect. I talk a lot about this on my free Genealogy Gems Podcast (at my site and in iTunes). I have a series of free videos at my Genealogy Gems YouTube channel that show you how to start a blog for free.
As for publishing small books through a service like Shutterfly or Lulu, I’ve also covered that on my website. Genealogy Gems Premium Members have access to three Premium episodes on the subject that include instructional videos:
- Premium Episode 54: Publish Your Family History on Demand Part 3
- Premium Episode 53: Publish Your Family History on Demand Part 2
- Premium Episode 52: Publish Your Family History on Demand Part 1
I also cover these books including an example of one I created in my book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies (Chapter 13).”
Hopefully these resources can help you with your challenge, Jane, as well as any others who want to know how to organize old letters (or other precious family memorabilia) and share them.