Whether you know it or not, you probably have some sort of genealogy research toolbox. Your tools are those frequently used online resources you return to again and again, such as RootsWeb or FamilySearch. Your toolbox is the “container” you use to keep track of those tools—perhaps browser bookmarks, a website such as Evernote or a Word document full of pasted links. You have a research toolbox even if you do most of your work in libraries and archives—you might use online tools to search catalogs, get directions and search indexes before requesting records.
Bookmark My Words
Bookmark a web page here, a web page there, and before you know it, your Bookmarks folder is ready to burst. Follow these tips to get control of the situation:
In Firefox, select Organize Bookmarks, then click the down arrow by the star. Choose Export HTML and pick a location for the exported file. Click Save. Open the file, and you’ll have a hyperlinked list of the web pages you bookmarked.
In Safari, look under File to export bookmarks.
Breaking it down
As they say, knowing you have a problem is the first step in fixing it. Here are three potential problems with your research toolbox:
- It’s all in your head. Do you search for the same websites over and over again because you can’t remember them or haven’t bookmarked them?
If this sounds familiar, all your research tools are stored in your head. Think about taking this valuable knowledge and placing it in a document, or better yet, in an online location where the tools are always ready to work for you.
- It’s out-of-date. Do you copy and paste genealogy website URLs into a Word document? Do you write copious notes about researching at a specific library, but you can’t find those notes when you need them?
These habits indicate your research toolbox is outdated and cumbersome to use. You can modernize it and make it easier to use by setting up an online toolbox.
- It’s disorganized. Do you have hundreds of favorites or bookmarks to genealogy websites? Do you spend more time looking for the link you need than you do actually visiting that website?
Your toolbox is too hard to organize and update. You’ll save time by reorganizing your tools and moving them to an easier-to-maintain toolbox.
Thinking inside the box
Would you continue to wear a pair of shoes that just didn’t fit right? Take the same approach when selecting a “container” for all your genealogy research tools: Your toolbox should be easy to access on your home computer and whatever other computer(s) you use to do your research. It should let you quickly find the sites you need, perhaps with a search function or folders you can use to categorize sites. You should be able to add and delete tools without unnecessary clicking around. If you want to share your toolbox with others, the container should make that easy.
Now that your container is rehabbed, inspect what’s in your toolbox. When was the last time you checked to see if your bookmarked links still work? Maybe you’re missing some handy tools, or there are new sites or pages that would better represent your research topics. The types of sites I recommend you put in your toolbox are in the chart at familytreemagazine.com/article/feb-2012-tool-shopping-chart.
Keeping it up
You’d probably like to avoid having to make over your research toolbox again. Just as for many things in life, keeping your toolbox organized and updated requires commitment. You’ll need to find new tools, categorize them so they’re easily found, and delete those that have disappeared or are no longer useful.
- If you’re sharing your genealogy tools on a blog or website, consider focusing your toolbox on an underserved niche—perhaps a specific ethnicity or location. Who knows? Your site could become the next Cyndi’s List for a certain type of genealogy research.
- Keep a neat research toolbox by scheduling a half-hour every so often to organize your uncategorized genealogy tools, update broken links and delete sites you no longer use.
- Build Your Research Toolbox video class
- 1,001 Best Genealogy Websites CD
- International Genealogy Passport CD
From the February 2012 issue of Family Tree Magazine
More great genealogy resources from Family Tree Magazine: