Friday, May 19, 2017

Organizing Your Work for the Non-Enthusiast

Recently I was chatting with a friend. He indicated that he knows he should work on his family history. But, every time he sits down to start, he feels like he starts all over again and does the same thing every time. He felt that he needed an easy way to organize his work so he could see what he had accomplished the last time he was working in FamilySearch Family Tree. He felt this would help the work seem more do-able in small bites.

For years the standard ways of keeping track of family history work have been through the use of Research Logs and Research Planners. There are also various checklists out there that folks like to use. And I've used all of these tools and over time developed my own personal approach that suits me best. But, I think that these tend to be organizational tools most often embraced by the family history professional or enthusiast. My friend, and probably many people, would prefer something very basic and easy to use.

So, FamilySearch.org to the rescue!

Sign in to FamilySearch.org these days and you'll see a personalized home page. Everyone's looks a little different depending on callings, how full your tree is, special campaigns, and what-not. Here is an example:


On the left, the top box is going to vary depending on your experience, the fullness of your tree, your current Church calling, or current campaigns. You might see another box under it encouraging you to fill in the My Family: Stories that Bring Us Together booklet. Then you'll see any memory items "recently" added to your ancestors. Actually, many of the ones I see were not recently added and all of them were added by me, so I sincerely hope our engineers will decide to make this section collapsible in the near future.

On the right, everyone should see these 3 items: Recommended Tasks, Recent Ancestors, and To-do List. Notice the arrows pointing to the right for each of these. You can collapse these fields and I did so to make a smaller screenshot above. You'll also see a box that varies. You might see suggestions for trying the descendancy view or capturing family stories or visiting the app gallery or getting help at a family history center. And at the bottom of the right side are quick links to help you get to frequently used spots on the website.

I think that Recommended Tasks, Recent Ancestors, and the To-do List are wonderful tools for the an-hour-a-week or less family historian. They can help you keep track of what you've done and what you want to do next. Let's look at each one.

Recommended Tasks doesn't really fit in the organizing category, but is handy if you have just a few minutes and want to look at some record hints to add sources to ancestors. Sometimes that might be all you really have time for, but it does help you learn more about your family members and can be heart-turning. I've written about this sort of activity before in regards to the Ancestor with Tasks and Descendants with Tasks lists you can generate using the FamilySearch Family Tree mobile apps, so I won't go into any detail on that.

Recent Ancestors shows you the last 5 people whose records you have visited in Family Tree. If it's been awhile since you sat down to work on family history, this can jog your memory as to who you were working on last. Click a name on the list and bring up the summary card and then click the name on the summary card and go to that person's details page and resume your research or clean-up work or whatever.

The To-do List can be whatever you want it to be. I like to use it to leave notes for myself each time I am ready to stop for the day. I make some notes about what I found or didn't find and what I want to look for or do next time I sign in. I also note problems I noticed with records but didn't have time to fix yet. When I no longer need a note or have completed what I wanted to do, I click in the box to the left of the item and it goes to the Recently Completed Items section. And, if I want to go back and look at something in Recently Completed Items, I can click Show at the bottom right of the To-do List box to see those items. If I click the box again, the check-mark goes away and the item returns to my To-do List. If I don't want to see something in Recently Completed any more, I can hover my mouse over an item and a red X appears to the right. Click the X and that item is permanently gone.

Simple ways to keep track of your work and leave yourself notes and goals right in FamilySearch. Can't get much easier than that to be involved and not spin your wheels.

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