Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What is a Digital Genealogical Workflow? Part Two

As I work, I move from computer to computer. However, the process of converting all of the paper-based records into digital format is only partially computerized. For example, when I order microfilm at the Brigham Young University Family History Library, I still have to fill out a two-part paper form. The student employee at the Library then keys in the information on the paper and I am given one of the two parts as a "receipt" for my order. Theoretically, I am supposed to be informed when the microfilm arrives in the Library, but that almost never happens. I have to check from time to time to see if the films I ordered are now "available" and I can order more films.

We are constantly caught in a wide variety of similar issues. As I have written about recently, some of my major breakthroughs in research have come from reading the book shelves in the Family History Library. No, not all the books are digitized and no they are not likely to be digitized as long as the United States has a copyright law. Notwithstanding these paper issues, much of my workflow has been digitized.

I am going to write about my own personal research process. I realize that I have written previously on this subject but my methodology keeps evolving and I am doing things differently than I did just a few months ago. I begin formulating a research objective by closely examining the information contained in my online family trees. For serious and complex research objectives, I cannot rely completely on my memory; I have to create a research outline. I use an online word processing program for this step such as Google Docs. By using Google Docs, I can access any of my notes from any computer including my iPhone and my laptop.

There is a simple reason why I use Google Docs or Dropbox or the equivalent. Many of the so-called note taking or research assistance programs are not free and not completely available on all of the computers I use. For example, I am frequently using a computer at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. Almost all of their computers are older PCs hooked up to the internet through the BYU network. Of course, I cannot put my own programs on their computers and I see no reason to lug my own computer into the Library and work on WiFi. But I do carry my own computer to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City because I am usually there for an entire day at a time and I like the convenience of having my own computer to work on. Also, by using internet-based programs, I can access all my notes and documents on my iPhone or an iPad. Since my wife is frequently working on presentations, research and helping others also, we move between different devices all the time.

Some of the basic digital techniques that move me from using paper notes include screenshots (frequently featured in my blog posts) and photos taken with my digital camera. Here is a screenshot of some of the photos I took recently at the Family History Library in Salt Lake.

These images were taken with my iPhone. I have set up a Google Photos connection and all of these photos are "backed up" on my Google Photos account for free. When I get home from the Library, they are already available on my computer at home or at the BYU Family History Library or wherever I happen to need them. Here is a closeup of one of the pages so you can see that I can certainly use these images later.

Of course, the images are not "archive" quality. They are electronic notes. It takes me a few seconds to have all this information rather than laboriously copying parts of the information by hand onto paper.

Now, some of these notes are not pertinent to my research. Some come out too blurry or whatever to use. But those that I do use are helpful. I do not usually spend the time in the Library analyzing these digital pages. But sometimes that is necessary. Because I am working on a computer linked to the internet, I have all my research and access to all of my online family trees. This constitutes a massive amount of information and by having it all digitally available, I save the huge amounts of time it takes to manage the paper records, notes etc.

In the next installment, I will focus on orgnizing and accessing the digitial notes.

Please see the following for part one of this series.

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