08 May 2011

This is getting ridiculous!

I keep starting new posts and then they get terribly bogged down with details. Henceforth, I abandon the draft and attempt a new one, keeping the old original in case I need it for another time.

This is turning into a nightmare of partially written blogstubs.

I'm beginning to understand that there is no easy way to tell a genealogical story in small, intelligent and interesting bits.  It is certainly no wonder family genealogy books are so huge - and sometimes just dreadful to read. I don't want my blog to turn into one of those, and I am equally sure that you don't want it to either!

Genealogy would be so easy if all we had to do is collect names and dates! Alas, to my own detriment, I'm not satisfied with that. I want to know what it was like for my ancestors back in one of those "dates". Who were these folks; what were they thinking when they moved from point A to point B; what did they do for a living and who were their friends...were they bad children or good parents? Sigh.... I will never know for sure, but I am convinced that they shared some of the same experiences that I have had, in one way or another.

As a result of pondering these and many other questions, and spending time reading and researching the places and histories of the time periods of my ancestors, I have accumulated a lot of random bits and pieces of information about quite a number of people - all related more or less.

I can't seem to keep it organized though.

When I started doing genealogy, I had two manilla folders; one for my mother's side of the family, and one for my father's side. Well, I still have the folders, each with random papers including family trees and genealogies that were handed down to me. They are a little thicker now, but not much. I have started to put family group information with copies of documents into a binder. It's my safety net in case I get a computer meltdown and it travels with me when I go somewhere to do research.

However my computer has most of the information now, and most - but not all - of it is safely stored online and on a dedicated backup hard drive. But it is still a mite randomly "organized". When we upgraded (that is the term Microsoft uses - I'm not sure it is an apt description though) Windows, we were given a new way of storing information called libraries. Simply put, it is like shoving everything into the closet and closing the door, having to trust that you can find it when you want to again.

At first I tried to keep things in folders, but it is just so much work fighting with Windows for control of where my documents would go. And time consuming. I'm still not ready to concede to Libraries on this one. Maybe if they offered a card catalog where I could easily search it, I would, but I guess I just don't have the knack for searching for my own documents. [A little a ha moment >*< maybe I need a better file naming system!]  It certainly takes the fun out of writing a piece when you can't put your finger on the exact item you are looking for when you want it.

So, I put all my file folders on my desktop where I could just click on them. It worked. Sort of. But it sure made for a really busy looking desktop:

It looks organized, but you can't see behind the opened libraries window... or inside the folders for that matter.

This worked for a while, but when I wanted to start sharing it between computers and my iPad, and wanted to share documents with other people, it started to get complicated. First came the flash drive. Darn thing kept getting lost. Now I have a Dropbox account and it does work reasonably well when I am on the road, or just switching computers. But I still have a problem organizing files, or perhaps just naming them appropriately. For some reason, my past experience managing a lot of data isn't helping right now. You would think I could remember some trick or handy tip right about now, wouldn't you?

So, how do you do it?

How do you keep all that information handy and retrievable when you need it? I'd really like to know!

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