Did you know that Samantha Stevens, the magically empowered housewife on TV’s “Bewitched,” was a genealogist? It’s true: In season five, after the Burning Oak Country Club’s snooty screening committee concluded Samantha’s pedigree was polluted, she exposed the members’ black-sheep ancestors. Of course you didn’t notice Samantha’s enchantment with roots research. Her home showed no telltale signs of her hobby—no family tree charts, legal pads and dog-eared books piled high on the dining room table; no photos spilling out of shoeboxes. You never witnessed Samantha’s frantic search for her father’s birth certificate or cousin Serena’s e-mail message bearing the names of Aunt Clara’s parents.
Even though her mortal spouse, Darrin, begged Samantha not to use her supernatural abilities, how could she resist instantly organizing her research? With a mere wrinkle of her nose and that tinkling-bell sound effect, manila folders would leap into their drawers, neatly arranging themselves by surname. Flurries of five-generation ancestor charts, photocopied marriage certificates, gravestone transcriptions and research notes would file themselves. Samantha’s computer hard drive would whir to life, sorting digitized documents and GEDCOMs.
“If only I had such powers of organization,” you think, “my research would be immaculate, too.” But wait—you do have the power. Granted, it’ll take more than a nose twitch, but you can clear off your dining room table, make e-mails easy to locate and avoid return trips to the library to re-photocopy those records you misplaced. The payoff? Your ability to research faster and smarter. Just use these simple tricks.
pmjones-bcrequest.doc. File names not enough to jog your memory? With Windows XP, you can add file descriptions—title, subject, author, keywords,comments—by rightclicking on the document icon and then selecting Properties>Summary. In Mac OS X, you can add details by selecting the file, hitting command-I (for Get Info) and
typing in the Comments field.
you searched for and information you found. This will save you from repeating searches and remind you when it’s time to go back for another look.
and the name and e-mail address of the respondent. Schedule time once a month or so to check the boards for responses.
(less-organized) people, too. Outlook for Windows lets you change the subject line by opening the message, typing a new subject and selecting File>Save.
files. Label the backs of the prints using a special photo-labeling pencil. If you opt for albums, don’t worry about
fancy decorations right now. Just use photo corners and caption each image with names, dates and everything else you know about it. You’ll find more photo-storage advice in Maureen A. Taylor’s Preserving Your Family
Photographs (Betterway Books, $19.99).
can move the photo to the suspected subjects’ folder). Attach a copy of each mystery shot to a photo-identification worksheet (find it in the May 2005 Trace Your Family History) and keep them with your family files.
can visit it whenever you want). If you’ve got the space, box up extra books and store them under a bed. The rest should go on a shelf arranged by categories, such as Family Histories, Immigration and How-To, then alphabetically by author or title. Naturally, you want to save heirlooms such as family Bibles and Great-grandma’s
journal. The May 2005 Trace Your Family History has advice on caring for antique Bibles; for other precious tomes, buy archival boxes from the suppliers on page 25.
in a first-floor, interior closet. Donate data discs you don’t need to a genealogical society or sell them on eBay <www.ebay.com>.