Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sometimes we forget to use the simple tools

Wordle: Life of a Genealogist

I admit it, my memory gets worse every year.  Never was I in need of lists like I am now.  These are not reminder lists I'm talking about, such as:
  1. Request death certificate for Grandpa Baudermann
  2. Request SS-5 for Grandma Lucking
Although I do have those types of lists, the lists I refer to are filled with bits and pieces of information that I want to remember, but know I won't, hence the lists.

What brings on the need for lists?  No, I will not give an credit to "you are getting older."  My reasoning, or more likely, my excuse is that never before have I had so much information at my fingertips!  How can I take it all in, process it and remember it all?  I use tools designed to help gather, store and organize information, that's how.

I love the Internet, FaceBook, LibraryThing, Twitter, Google, podcasts, wikis, message boards, mailing lists, blogs and YouTube.  I love gadgets, widgets, toolbars and apps.  I love them all!!  And it is these very things I love so much that fuel my information overload and lead to my forgetfulness.

Now, I could get more tools to manage all my information gathering tools, but that will only add to my problem, won't it?  Because you know just any free down-loadable tool managing tool will not work.  Once I have downloaded and installed the tool to manage my tools, it would need to be customized to my liking, with a creative background and cool fonts and graphics.  The tool most likely would have capabilities to manage tools that I currently don't have.  Of course, I would need to add these new tools to my arsenal (I can't miss out on the latest and the greatest) and then the circle would start again.  I would begin asking myself "what was I using Feedly for and why, doesn't Google Reader do the same thing?  Do I really need TweekDeck and Hootsuite?"

Now you see my dilemma.  I am a fairly early adopter of technology and realize how all things tech can enhance our lives.  But, my first passion is genealogy not technology.  How great those two "ologys" can work together...and one can certainly get in the way of the other.  Time and again I find myself distracted from my research because some tweet came through that sounded so interesting I had to click the link right then.  A half hour later I might get back to what I was originally doing.  So, will I dump all my tech toys?  Absolutely not!  Will I continue to use these tools to support my genealogy research?  Absolutely!

How will I address my forgetfulness and wandering web browsing, in the wake of this time of information overload I find myself in?  Very simply, I have a notebook, with paper and I write in it with pen or pencil.  I have it with me all the time and I call it my "Gem Keeper" (after my favorite genealogy podcaster).  The notebook is 4"x6" so it fits in my purse and goes where I go.  Anytime I run across a website, article, blog or document or task that I want to remember I jot down the "gem".  I don't have to visit the site or read the article right then because I've created my reminder.  Once or twice a week I'll flip through my notebook and pick something out that interests me.  Some items get marked off as completed and some items stay "open" forever.

I'm composing this post in my notebook right now and I will leave the pages in here, scribbles, cross-outs, arrows and all.  Some other genealogist down the line will find this notebook and probably say "too bad she had to use pen and paper."  That's OK, I'm going to stick with this simple tool.


  1. I like the notion that "the best tool is the one that works... for you." And you are so right, sometimes technology makes things more complicated than they need to be. After bouts with online calendars, task lists, and PIMs I went back to P&P too -- first the DIY notebook and now the Moleskine. Go Analog.

    Thanks for a good think with this article!

  2. Excellent post Jenna...I have found pen to paper the best for me, I am just old school that way. I too have a notebook with me and try and jot everything down I can.

    I have lost hours and hours of personal research because I get very distracted with all of the wonderful online apps we so need.

    I recently made the decision to be much more disciplined in my own family history research (why I am not on twitter as much!). I am not getting any younger and my memory gets worse and worse! You said it perfectly and thanks for that.

  3. Thank you for your comments ladies! Yes, I have definitely found the tool that works best for me!

  4. This was so creative, I loved it. I'm a little bit like you and a little bit like Gini. Love technology, but have trouble with some of it. Writing on paper or the computer is under my control. Regarding overload, sometimes it feels as though my brain is going to explode. Now, I've got to buy a notebook! Thanks.

  5. Barbara, good luck on finding a notebook, there are so many neat designs out there now. I've got my eye on my next notebook, I think I'm going to go green with all recycled material. Thanks for posting!!

  6. Nothing like a notebook, they fill up fast, how do you store all of yours.

    I Happen to see a mention of Library thing, Now I will have to search that topic. i always learn something new here.

  7. So far storage hasn't been a problem, I only have 3 notebooks. My first notebook was 8 1/2 x 11 and I soon realized that size was not very portable. I switched to the smaller size, which do fill up quickly!