Thursday, January 19, 2012

Got Records and Good Notes? Try these ideas to help.

A mark of a good genealogist is their attention to detail while researching records of the past. This means keeping good notes and being organized with your information.  Some techniques I have honed over the last 30+ years is to adapt different technologies to genealogy.

For example, if you are on a research trip, it helps to have several good maps, such as a: USGS topo map or BLM map, contemporary map from last 10 years and a period map for the era you are researching.    You can get most of these online or at the library for free. 

A GPS comes in handy and should NOT be the sole substitute for a printed map.  Too often batteries run out, you get out of range (well if you are in certain locations) and frankly, they can mislead you.  However, one key benefit of a GPS is that it can help with markers and tracking, every step.  This data can then be used to help overlay on a Google map and show where you wen. during your research.   I use a GPS for long trips too, but mostly for data gathering of where I went.   This can help when you need to recall the location you were at the 1st stop, 5th and somewhere toward the end.  

Besides geo-locating tools, another invaluable tool I carry with me is my digital camera.  For years, this has been the best way for me take "notes".   Of course I still have to transcribe them later, but when it comes to tracking down details quickly, this helps tremendously.   I have found that it doubles more in rural locales when copy machines don't exist or when the document get to be too old or too big.   The digital camera can make life a lot easier when researching and depending on your resolution, can be equal to the quality of the original.    Not only does the digital camera come in handy for recording notes, records, books, pictures, but it is GREAT for gravesites and headstones.   If you have a smartphone with GPS and a digital camera, you can also setup the phones so that they capture the GPS location that the picture is being taken.   This feature works great for times when you want to map out images.   You don't have to manually locate them as they can be "read" through the coded information in each digital image.

With all the images I take, this can be rather daunting.  To help manage my immense collection of genealogical pics, I use Picasa desktop and web (NOT Pablo Picasso).   Picasa also doubles as a powerful tool for editing and sharing these images with family and other researchers.   

For recommendations on cameras, please leave a comment if you are interested in knowing more.   I will be writing a future post on the qualities and necessary features for the budget minded researcher.  

Technology can help us today and there are many tools to make your research more efficient and easier.   Be sure to use the best of them to take good notes and keep good records.   They are critical to everyone's research!

 Until then, enjoy

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