Sorting Saturday – My fractured love affair

I really didn’t mean for it to happen this way.  My relationship with E was so new and so intense that I really never thought that it would end up with another being brought into it, but here we are…all three of us.  I guess it was meant to happen because O just filled gaps in my world that E never could.

I may be delusional, but I think I’ve found a way for all three of us to live in harmony…
Okay, so that description was probably just a little over the top considering that I’m talking about software that I use. Hopefully my description got your attention and conveyed the excitement that I felt when I finally found my perfect combination of genealogy note-taking/research log/genealogy assistant programs.  (And for the record, my entire family thinks that I’m just a little odd after writing that.) E and O in this case are Evernote and OneNote, two of the most popular note-taking/research organizing programs out there right now.

To translate that little romance drama earlier, I started out using Evernote for my genealogy research because when I first found Evernote, I absolutely fell in love with the program.  I use Evernote for nearly all aspects of my daily life – my professional career, my hobbies, my general reminders and organizing.  However, for my genealogy research, Evernote never quite felt right.  Something just didn’t fit with how I wanted to organize my notes and research and what Evernote would seem to let me do.

Enter OneNote….

After doing quite a bit of research by reading blog posts of others, looking at templates and samples, and then doing some experimenting, I have finally hit on an organizational setup in OneNote that feels right and that fits how I organize my research.

Before I show you my final product, I need to give credit where credit is due.  During the course of my research, I came upon a blog post from Caroline Pointer over at that was pretty much the linchpin for my set up.  I took one of the templates that Caroline provided and modified it in a few different ways to fit what I was looking for.  I can’t say thank you enough to Caroline for sharing her templates because the moment I saw them, the vision of what I wanted out of OneNote became crystal clear.

Now on to my setup…

My setup in OneNote involves creating a notebook for each surname that I am researching. Within that notebook, each individual that I’m researching will have their own section.  Inside each of the person sections, I have pages created for various types of research notes and phases of research.  You can see the full list of pages in the photo to the right.  Some of the pages that I have are a general notes page, one for items to be analyzed, Reference Materials, Military records, Correspondence, Land Records, and the list goes on and on.  In some instances, I am creating sub-pages such as for the Charts and Reports – there I have created a sub-page for a timeline of the individual’s life.  The beauty of the sub-pages is that they can be collapsed into the main page if I need to clean up the view I am looking at.

The next illustration shows a surname notebook put into practice.  One of the awesome features with OneNote is the ability to move or copy sections and pages from notebook to notebook.  I already utilize this feature in that I have created a “family section” template that contains blank versions of everything that goes into a Family section.  I can just copy this section template into any one of my surname notebooks when I need it.  Additionally, I expect I will be using that feature as I create Section Groups for larger families.

A section group is something like what you see in this illustration.  The icon to the right of the person tabs has a label of “Earl LINK.”  When you click on this, what it contains is a set of family tabs for Earl and each of his children.  For many of the individuals that I am researching, I most likely won’t use this feature, but where it will come in handy is when I have an ancestor that I begin to research his or her down-lines.  At that point, in order to keep the family “together” in my research, I can group them into a section group labeled with the patriarch’s name.  The “move/copy” feature of OneNote allows me to take the individual sections and quickly shift them into a group when I deem one is needed.

I am really just getting started with this new setup in OneNote, so most of my pages and notebooks are pretty much blank as I still need to transfer my notes from Evernote over to OneNote.  Even as I am starting this, I am working with features such as linking notebooks (I can keep the section for a female ancestor under her maiden surname, but link her section into her husband’s section for quick reference between lines) and tagging notes for easier searching.

I still have a long way to go with getting completely setup with OneNote, but overall, this new organization feels right and for me is so much more intuitive to use than what I was trying to do with Evernote.  Evernote is still my go-to application for so much of my daily life, but OneNote has definitely become my “genealogist’s best friend” primarily because of the added depth of organization that it has allowed me.