Some people alphabetize their spices. I alphabetize my spices, the boxes of cereal, and the packages of pasta. My cans of beans are in order, and I’ve written the type of bean on the tops of the cans so I don’t have to bend over to find what I need. My recipes are digitized, photographed, and sorted, and cross-referenced by meal, season, occasion, and special qualities. Then there are the tags. I have tags for potlucks with or without refrigeration. I have tags for when there are too many garden tomatoes and you’re not sure what to do with them all. I have tags for when a kid loses a tooth and wants soft things. I have tags for when the Vikings are in the playoffs (purple food, lefse and gjetost cheese), when the Packers are in the playoffs (beer cheese soup) and when the Packers and Vikings are playing each other in the playoffs (can you tell I’m a Viking married to a Packer? #thestruggleisreal).
Seriously, I’m organized. That’s why I debated whether to buy Drew Smith’s new book, Organize Your Genealogy. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d get much out of it.
I was wrong. In fact, this book’s title is kind of misleading. It’s really about being a more awesome, more efficient genealogist. I expected a focus on organizing your actual genealogical files, and that’s in there. But Drew’s real focus was on streamlining every genealogy-related thought and activity you could possible have. It’s so comprehensive that if you can’t get some value out of it, you’re probably not a genealogist at all. What are you even doing here?
These are the elements I appreciated the most:
- This book takes a global approach to organizing. I’m a firm believer that being on top of things is more mental than physical. If your brain is in the right place, your stuff will be too. This book addresses both your brain and your stuff. It also recognizes that genealogy is supposed to be fun, and the suggestions throughout are designed to facilitate that. This isn’t like that popular organizing book where you have to fold your underwear like a paper airplane, or hug it goodbye before you trash it. This is real-life stuff that won’t make you want to poke your eye out with a fork.
- It isn’t snobby. If you’re an all-digital person (or, like me, aspire to be one), that’s covered. If you’re all paper, that’s fine too. You won’t feel judged or steered in a direction that doesn’t suit you.
- Drew has quite a bit of experience on both the Mac and Windows operating systems. He’s got advice on both sides, so no matter where you’re coming from, you’re covered. That’s not an easy thing to pull off, and it’s refreshing to see.
- There are a number of useful Evernote suggestions and tips. I love me some Evernote.
- The focus here is on solving problems and achieving results. When Drew suggests something, he tells you why it’s a good idea, and how it will improve your research outcomes. This isn’t about organizing for organizing’s sake.
- Every role you can have as a genealogist has a section in this book. If you’re a family historian, you’re a obviously a researcher, and there’s lots of advice for that. But you’re also a traveler who takes research trips, and there’s an excellent section on streamlining genealogical travel. You’re eventually going to be a student, because genealogy involves a lot of learning, and the Organizing Your Learning chapter is fantastic. You’re probably going to end up being a volunteer at some point, and the section on tools for organizing society volunteer efforts is worth the price of the book all by itself. This book covers the entire lifecycle of a genealogist.
- Drew has lots of specific examples for products, tools and apps. It took me a while to get through the book, in part because I kept stopping and looking up various things he recommends. As a result, I’m already digging Trello, I’m about to try LibraryThing, and I spent $92 yesterday at Target on white boards. (Full story: I went to buy white boards. I bought a bunch, because I want to cover a whole section of wall. But then I saw a cute t-shirt for my daughter, and a pair of slippers for my son, and I remembered that the teacher asked for more hand sanitizer, and then I got hungry and bought a crushingly expensive s’mores candy bar that turned out to be remarkably undelicious. You know how it is when you go to Target to buy one thing. It always ends up being $92.)
You can find Organize Your Genealogy at Amazon.com and ShopFamilyTree.com. It’s available as a paperback or an e-book. You really should buy it. If you’ve already bought it, you should leave a review on Amazon.com. Authors, especially genealogy authors, need your help to spread the work about their books. Reviews help a lot. Be a good citizen and leave a review.
Note: This book and my book were published by the same company, but I bought this one on Amazon.com with my own money. I am Facebook friends with Drew Smith, and I met him once for three seconds at a conference, although it was so long ago I don’t remember which one and I’ll bet he doesn’t either.
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