Saturday, November 23, 2013

I'm most thankful for....

As I reflect this week, I keep thinking about what I am most thankful with my genealogy. The biggest for me is Technology. In the past 30 years that I have been during my family research, I marvel at how much technology has changed.

Even though I became extremely interested in genealogy while I was a young teenager, I didn’t really start looking into the hobby until I graduated High School back in 1981. This happens to be the first year home computers started on the market. However, I did not know how to operate a computer and I definitely could not afford one.  But growing up watching Star Trek made me marvel about them.

Anyway, I started my research with paper, pencil and binders. I read a lot of books about doing genealogy and I was more confused than ever. I started with what I thought I knew. I try my best for the next 10 years but marriage and children did derail my journal a little. I even decided to go back to college in 1985 and I decided to get a degree in computers because it was the one thing that made me feel stupid.

I learned programming and I always had my genealogy love in the back of my mind. I wanted a computer program that would help me with my record keeping because having to write the same information down multiple times was hard for me. I have terrible handwriting, I transpose numbers all the time and thus my information was not always matching for the same person on two different forms.

I remember my first computer, a luggable. I didn’t have a dedicated spot for a computer but I needed something to do my homework on since I had three small children and lots of programming to do. I would write BASIC code to test my program logic and then write it in COBOL at school. My luggable could be packed up and put into the closet when I wasn’t using it. It had a thermal printer and cost about $1500.00. I never paid that much for another computer again. The computer had no hard drive and within months of buying it, hard drives come on the scene. I used that computer for several years.

I found my first genealogy package back then, not sure what it was called but it divided the screen into four parts. One part had the menu, another part had the father and mother screen, and another was used for their parents and another for inputting children. It was very cumbersome but I only had to type the information once. Or I thought it would only be once. The program had no way of exporting and being able to import it into a new software package. This was very frustrating.

In 1997, I finally discovered Family Tree Maker and decided at that time, of all the software packages out there, this one filled my wish list the best. But because my previous program could not export to a GEDCOM, I had to start all over and retype all my information in once again. Also, it was around this time, that the Internet started to become popular. Before that time, there were closed networks, like Prodigy or AOL that you would log into their servers and there was Genealogy groups within their networks. You could only communicate with others on the same network. I ended up using Prodigy because they had semi local number that I used. But because it was sort of long distance, I had to limit my time on the network to fit my budget.

I remember the day I got rid of my dial-up service for DSL. I could not believe how fast it was to be on the internet.  And they when I installed my wireless WiFi it was wonderful.  Now I have a desktop computer, a laptop computer and an iPAD. All of which I can use to surf the internet, read emails, access my family file and more. Plus I have a wonderful all-in-one printer that can scan, fax and print in color. I have come a long way from that luggable computer with built in thermal printer to all this technology at my fingertips.

My eldest brother once asked me several years ago, “Why I am finding so much about our family now that I didn’t find years ago.” It is because of technology. There is so much more available on the internet, and more people on the internet that I can connect with and share my research with.

So YES, I am very thankful for technology. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Emails are time consuming!

How much time do you spend on emails versus doing genealogy research?

Every day that I sit in front of my desktop computer to get ready to work on my genealogy, either new research, following up on information given to me, or inputting sources to clear the piles under my desk and to get them filed , seems to start with me looking at my emails. For example: yesterday I was volunteering at my local Genealogical Library and thus didn’t get to look at my email, I open my email and this is what I found: My family email has 36 unread messages, my email has 167 unread messages, my maiden name has 3, my son (who is in the Navy) has 2, my husbands has 24 (I need to check his because he only checks his mail about once a month), my daughter has 1, my junk has 65.

So I start with the junk and quickly browse the subjects and who they are from and rarely do I have to rescue one and move it to my main email. So I empty my junk email.
Next I go into my son’s email and most likely need to delete it. His emails consist of Staples ads and I like to look at those. Even though I also get the same Staples ads in my email, it is so much easier to find and read in my sons. Also I get some Tax software emails because I do his taxes. This takes me one to two minutes and I delete them.   

Next I do my daughter’s email. She receives emails from her Virgin Mobile account; this reminds me when her monthly bill is coming up. She is only in High School and I pay her bill. Also, when I register her computer and laptop through HP, I used this email and sometimes they send me ads.  This takes me one to two minutes and I delete them.

My husband’s emails are simple. We I look at them, they are still on the server and he can review them later. This is where I will see how I am sending links to fabulous websites and such. Of course this is not me and lesson learned here, delete them. Anyway, I scan through the emails and see if any are important, such as for keeping his waste water license up to date. This takes two to three minutes to delete them.

Next is my maiden name, this email is used for my two mentally disabled sisters that I care for. Here I receive notices that pertain to them.  I review those emails, might have to handle something for them but usually they are just notices. These I might print out as reminders. This takes one to two minutes to delete them.

Now it is a toss-up between my family email and my personal email. Sometimes the family account has more and sometimes my account has more. I usually start with the one that has the fewest. But I do the same thing for both accounts. I quickly delete the junk emails. I use to try to flag them as junk, but that started to take too long. It seems that even though the emails look the same, the messages come from different addresses and flagging them doesn’t get rid of them. I use to try to look for the unsubscribe link but even those don’t seem to work. So now I just delete them first.

All the emails that I am deleting are not necessarily junk emails. I have other hobbies outside of genealogy. I know this might seem strange or foreign. But to be honest, those hobbies take a real far back seat to genealogy and the rest of my life. But anyway, if I am in the mood for one of those hobbies I will read those emails, otherwise they are deleted too. I don’t want to unsubscribe to those, because I do read them once in a while, but they mainly give me a easily link back to their website where I can explore stuff I have been ignoring.

I also have emails that I earn points for looking at. This is usually the remainder of the emails that I must address before starting my genealogy. I have earned lots of points and have been able to earn valuable gift cards on stores such as Staples, Lowes, Home Depot, Wal-Mart or Kmart and thus I will still do it because this is like free money to me.

To keep a handle on all this madness, I have decided to limit the total time that I spend going through my emails. I now allow myself about 30 to 60 minutes to do my email. 30 minutes if I was on the computer yesterday and 60 minutes if I haven’t been on a few days.

I always seem to live the genealogy emails for last. I subscribe to some newsletters and I receive emails from my DAR chapter and some from family members. I try to reply to family or inquires first, I will open and review the DAR emails and file them into a DAR subfolder and finally I read the few newsletters that I receive because I like to share the information via my Society’s facebook page (that I administer).
If I don’t get through all the emails in my time limit, they stay there until the next day. I am hoping that some of my email problems will go to the wayside because I am changing my emails from my telephone provider to gmail. The main reason is I am getting rid of my telephone provider.

I need to rethink my email situation, I have created a new account for my family email, this is where my banking and bills notices get sent to, my email is for my genealogy, my husband’s email is for him and my maiden name is still for my sister’s information. I will not create an email for my children, I will use my family email but I do need to create one more email for my incentive accounts. I think this is where all the junk email is coming from. I plan on stopping most of them, but I will keep the main one I have been using for years because it is the best of the four I have been using. 

So my goal for the remainder of this year is to get all my accounts pointing to my new emails, inform my family, friends and associates of my new email and with fingers crossed, be able to handle my emails in a more timely manner.

One final thought, when I use to work, I always had my email open all day because I would receive important messages but at home I close down my email after the 30 or 60 minutes that I had allowed myself to review the messages. I don’t open it again until the next day, on rare occasions, I might open it again at the end of my research day, just to delete the junk, and the messages that I know are junk, to free up time for the next research day.