22 April 2008

Using Google Notebook for Online Genealogy Research, Part 2

Hopefully you've taken the opportunity to play around with Google Notebook since the last installment on using Google Notebook in genealogy research. This post will assume you've played around a bit with Google Notebook and have at least a basic understanding of how it works. This time around, I want to show you some of the features of Google Notebook which really make it perfect for organizing online research. And, as always, Google doesn't pay me for this. This stuff is just cool and useful.

Keeping Information in Context

One of the great things about clipping information to your notebook is the fact that items stay contextual, while at the same time the pertinant information you need is isolated and at your fingertips.

What do I mean by that? Take a look at this clipping I have from a page of a cemetery transcription:

The number one most awesome thing about this clipping? FORMATTING! Tables stay tables in clippings, which is fantastic. If you've ever tried copying and pasting a table from an HTML page into a text document or a Word document, you'll understand why this is so convenient.

Perhaps more importantly, I now have, noted and marked, information on my family of interest, without having to clutter my brain with all the other data on the page from which it came. The information of interest is isolated in my notebook, for easy reference, yet because the URL of the originating page is filed with the information, the context from which this little table was taken is just a click away... meaning that returning to the page to answer questions about the data, write a citation, or research another surname is easier than ever.


My notebook is organized around surnames... all items I find online for families I am researching get clipped to a notebook devoted to that surname. But how do I make sure that I can easily locate items that cover more than one surname... for instance, a record of a marriage?

You cannot currently copy an item from one notebook into another.. it's a move-it and lose-it (to its new location) type deal. That said, cross-referencing is made easier by the use of labels, pointed out by the red arrow above.

Using labels, one can file items with the preponderant surname (in this case, the groom's surname), but also label them with other surnames (e.g., the bride's maiden name). Clicking on a label in the labels panel (located underneath the notebooks panel in full screen view) will bring up all notes with that label, including a descriptive line telling you where each item is located:

By labeling all clips with the surnames they contain, you can easily locate information on all surnames you have information on, regardless of whether or not you have notebooks dedicated to them. This is especially handy for clippings that reference an entire family (like a biography or obituary). If you didn't use labels, but wanted the clipping accessible for each name mentioned, you would have to remember to re-note the item for each applicable notebook. Using labels, you can note once, label once, then rest assured that you can find this information later when you need to consider it through the lens of a secondary surname.


Within a notebook, you can organize your notes by adding Sections. Sections could be timeframes, locations, individuals or life events:

Items are easily re-arranged by dragging and dropping (within a section, within a notebook, or between notebooks), so you can organize information in whatever way seems most natural to you. In my case, it's life events for each surname.

Another useful organizational tool is the comment field associated with each clipping. In the comment field you can elucidate on items, pose questions to yourself for further research, or keep tabs on research to-do's. Information we find online often leads us to a process of off-line research. Comment fields are great places to keep track of your progress on just that sort of process:

One could annotate clippings for certain items with codes like "OrderDoc", then use the "Search My Notes" to find all items that have actions outstanding. Codes should be distinguishable from ordinary text that may be found in clippings, though, as the "Search My Notes" searches all data within the clippings, not just the comment fields.

I hope this little look into how I have used Google Notebook to organize my online research inspires you to consider using this tool for your own genealogy endeavors.

Next time in the Google Series, I'll be talking about Google Reader and genealogy blogging.

Till then, I remain,

1 comment:

Miriam said...

I've been using Google Notebook for a while now. It's a great research log that I can easily access from either my desktop or my laptop (a necessity when our family of four computer lovers has to share and switch back and forth between the two). Right now, the one I most use is for tracking the descendants of my 4th-great-grandparents, Jeremiah F. YORK, I and Rhoda SWEERS. As I do Internet searches, I report my findings--and negative searches--in my York notebook.

I also have two notebooks, one labeled "Beginning Genealogy," and the other "Intermediate Genealogy." I teach online courses through my local community colleges district, and keep track of many of the changes that happen in Internet genealogy to keep my syllabuses and teaching current. Whenever I happen upon a new or changed link, or new databases or resources, I add them to the notebook. A couple of weeks before each class, I update my materials with the info found in the notebooks.