Sunday, June 21, 2015

It All Began 20 Years Ago...

Today is the first day of summer, so I have a story to tell you. I do not have the exact date, but twenty years ago this summer I bought a new desktop computer. It came with a screaming fast 9600-baud modem and free America Online software already installed. I went online for the first time.

I was delighted to find that America Online had a genealogy forum. I started participating in the groups and chats there and exploring the file libraries. I recall being intrigued by this thing that existed outside of AOL. It was called the Internet. I bought a book that explained exactly what that was, how it worked, and about the history behind it. I like to know how things work and what makes them tick. This helps me to understand how to make the best use of them. I started exploring the Internet and figuring out how and where to find information that helped my genealogical research.

I have been a genealogist since doing a high school project in 1980. Mr. Esau's class, Contemporary World Problems, included a project to learn about our family history and demonstrate our ethnic diversity. I received an A on that and still have the posterboard with his comments. The year I was born my maternal grandmother, Ruth LaVern (Johnson) Nash, had purchased red vinyl family tree books for herself and her four children. She filled hers out so well that in 1980 I had a firm start on my Mom's side of the family. That same year my Aunt Daisy traveled back to Indiana and Virginia to gather family information for my Dad's side of the family. This was the foundation for my future research. I had been working with computers since the mid-1980s. My job at Puget Sound Bank included working with an IBM DOS-based computer and being responsible for an NCR system in our department. I taught others how to use it and wrote the procedures manuals too. My Dad got a new computer in about 1988. He purchased the first version of Family Tree Maker for DOS for me. I went to his house every day for several weeks in order to enter all my genealogy information into the database. So, several years of computers and genealogy were about to collide as I went online in the summer of 1995.

As I explored online I learned how to make "favorites" in AOL. Netscape Navigator called them "bookmarks." I started bookmarking everything I could for genealogy. I joined the popular ROOTS-L mailing list and starting talking with others around the world about my favorite thing, genealogy. I have often thought about how the Internet opened up my genealogical world. I live in Washington state. Prior to the Internet my research was done in a vacuum that existed in the northwest corner of the United States. I didn't have the money to travel and do research in the midwest and the east where my ancestors had lived. All of my research was done by mail, at the library, at the National Archives branch in Seattle, and with microfilm at the local Family History Center. I joined the local genealogical group, the Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society, and became an active member of the board. I attended my first national conference, the Federation of Genealogical Societies annual conference, in Seattle in late summer of 1995. My genealogical window was opened wide.

During the summer months the TPCGS group doesn't hold monthly meetings. In September we get back together and do a show-and-tell of what we did over the summer. I remember that meeting in 1995 very well. Nan came and brought a quilt she had made over the summer. The squares had old family portraits and photos that she had printed and ironed onto the fabric. Others told about genealogical vacations they had taken, visiting courthouses and cemeteries and all their discoveries. I had decided to share my list of bookmarks. I had printed it out on one whole page. I wasn't sure if anyone would care about this Internet thing. Computer owners were in the minority at the time and even they weren't all online. I made ten copies of my bookmark list in case anyone else was interested. They were. In fact, they were all so interested in it that I had to run upstairs to make more copies. That's when Cyndi's List was born.

It's all Nancy Peterson's fault. She was the editor of the TPCGS quarterly. She came right up to me at the meeting and asked if I could turn my one-page list into an article for the quarterly. Maybe five or six pages long. I said I could, but I would have to categorize the bookmarks. That's when that started. I scoured the Internet for all-things genealogy. I found topics and ethnic groups and locations that I knew nothing about, but I figured others would find them useful. The article was published in the late fall of 1995. I need to find a copy of that article for my archives. I didn't keep a copy that I can find. And I had no way of knowing what it would become.

In January of 1996 I decided to create my own personal web site. I taught myself HTML and created a very basic, very rudimentary site. I included articles that I had written. So, I figured the list of bookmarks from that article might be useful if I put it on the site and made them into clickable hyperlinks. It was one web page with 1,025 links. I titled the page, "Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet," which was long and cumbersome, but explained exactly what it was. I now think it was a silly name, but it worked then. I told other genealogists on ROOTS-L about my personal web site and the list of links that I had included. I was immediately swamped with emails from people asking if I would add a link to their genealogy site. I did. And that is how it grew and grew and grew.

In honor of the past twenty years of my life dedicated to this site, I have decided to blog here about Cyndi's List. About its history, its growth, its popularity, how to use the site, and what it takes to maintain the site.

It is hard to imagine that two decades have passed and Cyndi's List is still growing and evolving and is still incredibly useful to millions of people worldwide. And it is still free for everyone to use. There has been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that I've put into the site. And a lot of my own money too. It has been both a blessing and huge job for me alone. I upgraded the site in 2011 at a cost of $40,900.00. Over the past few years I have incurred another $20,000+ in administrative expenses. When I upgraded the site I added a PayPal Donation button. It was one of the hardest things for me to do. I do not like to ask for help. My friends and colleagues tell me that I need to do this. So, here it is. To date about 74% of the upgrade expense has been reimbursed through donations by all of you kind people. This means that there is still about $30,000 outstanding including the upgrade expense and the administrative expenses. I do appreciate all the thoughtfulness and help that I've received to date. Genealogists are a wonderful group of sharing and giving people. I am thankful.

Regardless, Cyndi's List will continue to grow and I will continue to maintain it. I hope you all find it a helpful research tool online.

See also:
Cyndi's List: How to Submit New Links
Cyndi's List on Facebook

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Evernote Notebooks = Your Filing System

[ATTN:  This article was originally published on 5 May 2014. It has now been moved here from the old blog host and it will require updating soon.]

Create Evernote notebooks that mimic your personal filing system. Assuming you already have a filing system or have an idea of what you would like your filing system to be. If you don't you might do what I do and file by surname. There are many ways you can file and the method you use should be whatever works best for you and how you think. For more ideas see: 

TIP:  Pick one system that works for you. Then duplicate that across all of your research areas: paper files, paper notebooks, computer files, cloud files, research notebooks, bookmarks for research, e-mail, etc. If you use the same filing system in each function you will have an easier time finding what you need. 

You can have up to 250 notebooks within Evernote. Notebooks can be stacked one level deep under a top level. So, my personal set-up has a stack for Genealogy Research and under that I have one notebook for each surname I work on and one notebook for some of those localities in which I am doing a lot of research on several families. 

I have stacks for my other genealogy activities: Genealogy Business, Genealogy Conferences & Travel, Genealogy Education - Me, Genealogy Lectures & Speaking, Genealogy Research - Others, Genealogy Volunteer Stuff. I also have stacks and notebooks for non-genealogy stuff (when do I have time?) including Cyndi, Evan (my son), Mom (mine), Household, Recipes, Receipts, etc.

The screenshots below show my stacks and notebooks. The screenshot on the right shows all of the notebooks currently under the Genealogy Research stack.


Evernote for Every Genealogist
Copyright © 2014 Cyndi Ingle. All Rights Reserved.

The Evernote Webclipper

[ATTN:  This article was originally published on 5 May 2014. It has now been moved here from the old blog host and it will require updating soon.]

The first thing you should do after installing Evernote on every one of your devices is to install the Evernote Webclipper in your web browser:
The webclipper appears as a small Evernote elephant button on your toolbar. Upon visiting a web site you can clip information from a site directly into your Evernote notes. The clipper launches a menu that gives you the option to clip an entire article which the clipper tries to identify as the main text on the site, a simplified article without ads and extraneous graphics, a full page that includes everything, a bookmark only, or a screenshot of what appears on your screen at that moment. Choose which option you like and save it. You also have an option to share a clip with a link, by Facebook, Twitter or e-mail. 

Prior to saving the clip you can also choose the notebook in which you want to file the note and you can add appropriate tags. The newest versions of the webclipper also include markup options that allow you to add notations. You can markup with a highlighter, a marker, stamps, text, arrows, a pixelated blurring tool, and a cropping tool to resize the clip.

Using the Webclipper for Genealogy

For genealogy the webclipper means clipping a source for your research. As you research online you will run across bits of text, entire articles, images of records, or web sites that you might want to bookmark and revisit. Clip these things into the appropriate notebook in Evernote and you can refer to them any time you need to, from any of your devices with Evernote installed. As you clip Evernote automatically tracks the date you made the clip, the last date you modified the clip, and the original URL from which you obtained the clip. 

Evernote for Every Genealogist
Copyright © 2014 Cyndi Ingle. All Rights Reserved.

Evernote for Things Other Than Genealogy

[ATTN:  This article was originally published on 30 May 2014. It has now been moved here from the old blog host and it will require updating soon.]

Yes, people. There is a life outside of genealogy. I think. Following are the ways I use Evernote outside of genealogy.

  • One for me and for each of my other family members - my mom, my son, and my pets. I use them for a lot of things. I keep health-related articles and lists, book series I'm reading, and other personal lists. I keep track of my mother's computer stuff like which inkjet cartridge to buy for her. I keep track of my son's school stuff including upcoming college and scholarship applications. I have a copy of the user's guide for his new electric razor so that I always know what replacement blade to buy him and when to remind him to change it.
  • One for Recipes. I clip recipes online into this notebook and tag them with recipe category names like Appetizers, Beef, Chicken, Pasta, Salads, etc. An added benefit is that this notebook is automatically integrated into the Evernote Food app on my iPhone. So, I always have a recipe and a shopping list with me at the grocery store. 
  • One for the Household. This one includes household maintenance to-do lists, reference material about household maintenance, a timeline of what household repairs I've done and how much they cost, holiday planning and lists, PDF copies of household product manuals (instead of keeping all those papers and books), and much more. Most useful recently: a chart I found online that told me which of the new light bulbs to buy that match an old 60w lamp.
  • One for Travel. Notes inside have packing lists, e-mails with flight information, itineraries, sight-seeing info, hotel confirmations, etc.
  • One for Computers. This one holds articles, tips and tricks I've run across, a list of my computers and hardware along with model numbers and serial numbers, ink jet cartridge numbers, etc. 
Things You Might Put in Evernote:
  • Grocery lists
  • Take-out menus
  • To Do lists for various areas of your life
  • A copy of your eyeglass prescription
  • A list of your pharmacy prescription numbers
  • A health note or notebook for each family member
  • A note with a list of all of your doctors with their contact information
  • A health notebook for yourself with a journal, lists of goals, and helpful articles
  • A spiritual/inspirational notebook with a journal, goals, quotations, articles, and ideas
  • Inventories of items in your household (i.e. tools, workbench, gardening, kitchen, books, movies, video games, jewelry, craft supplies, collections, etc.)
  • A notebook for your other hobby (who has time for another hobby outside of genealogy?)
  • A notebook for your garden to keep track of planting dates, fertilizing dates, seeds/plants used, etc.
  • A list of all of your magazine subscriptions, with expiration dates and prices
  • Receipts
  • Business cards
  • Membership/rewards cards
  • Clothing sizes
  • Pet vaccinations
  • Anything else that might unclutter your office, lighten your purse, and help you head more to a paperless life
Evernote Apps & Compatible Apps I Use:

Evernote for Every Genealogist

Copyright © 2014 Cyndi Ingle. All Rights Reserved.