Review: How to Use Evernote for Genealogy

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews How to Use Evernote for Genealogy by Kerry Scott - “A complete guide to mastering Evernote and making it work for your genealogy research!”

[Editor’s note: SAVE! Pre-order your copy of How to Use Evernote for Genealogy today via Shop Family Tree and remember to enter promo code SFTTHOMAS15 for an exclusive 15% additional discount – you’ll save over 30% total on this great book! Click here for more information!]

Are you intimidated by technology, but feel like you are “missing out” when friends and family rave about a brand new app or program? Have you heard about Evernote and always wondered how others are using it for genealogy research? In the new book How to Use Evernote for Genealogy, author Kerry Scott employs an approachable and comfortable writing style to “demystify” the Evernote product, cut through all the hype, and show you how to get up and running with the most popular note taking product currently on the market.

Scott is a skilled writer who can cover all the “getting started” basics as well as advanced features and make the reader feel confident enough to start using Evernote. I loved the various “personal observations” Scott has included in each chapter; you can tell from all of these real-life experiences that the author is a serious Evernote user who has figured out a way to leverage the program for genealogy research success.

How to Use Evernote for Genealogy is not another technical book that you will review once and then never use. Most likely, you will be consulting various chapters and sections for days and weeks as you build your Evernote skills and find new ways to use the program for genealogy.

Evernote Templates that ROCK!

Lately there has been a dearth of free Evernote e-books on the Web, but they really don’t solve problems encountered by genealogists and family historians. How to Use Evernote for Genealogy has three different appendices at the end of the book, filled with useful Evernote templates.

Not only can your review each template, there is a convenient link to a text version so you can start creating your own Evernote forms for genealogy. These include Census Extraction Templates for the US Federal Census, Genealogy Conference Planner (to plan your classes when attending a genealogy conference), and Research Worksheets and Templates, including a family group sheet.

Structured to Get Things Done!

I’m a bit of a “techie,” and perhaps this is a “guy thing,” but I usually don’t read the directions or knowledgebase when I start using a new product. Instead, I like to “kick the tires” and “poke around.” Well if this is how you learned Evernote, I recommend using the Keys to Success segment at the end of each chapter of How to Use Evernote for Genealogy. Review each item and make sure that you are familiar with each concept before you move on to the next chapter.

Also, don’t forget that there are checklists, templates and “value added” features at the end of each chapter as well.

Conclusion: A Must Have Guide for Evernote Users

You name it, author Kerry Scott has covered it when it comes to using Evernote for genealogical research. This includes the use of audio and video files from interviews, synchronizing data between multiple devices, using photos with Evernote, creating tables and more.

With How to Use Evernote for Genealogy, you can be up and running with Evernote as your personal genealogy virtual assistant. In addition, after a few hours, you will wonder how you ever got by without Evernote all these years!

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Genealogy Do-Over – Week 2 Cycle 4: 9-15 October 2015

The Genealogy Do-Over - Week 2 Topics: 1) Setting Research Goals, 2) Conducting Self Interview, and 3) Conducting Family Interviews

Click here to download this article in PDF format.

Previous topics in the Genealogy Do-Over:

[Editor’s note: Much of the text below is unchanged from the original Week 2 posting on January 9, 2015 except for my personal updates.]

Topics: 1) Setting Research Goals, 2) Conducting Self Interview, and 3) Conducting Family Interviews

As we move into the second week of the Genealogy Do-Over, and since we’ve tackled the first week’s topics, I want you to take yourself back to when you first became interested in genealogy and family history. Were you a teenager like me who watched the mini-series Roots on television? Did you have a family history related assignment in high school or Sunday school? Or did you just hear others in your family discuss ancestors and you decided to do some research?

This week you are back at square one. Back where you started. But you have more knowledge and access to more tools than that first time. And you’re going to heed the same advice you would give any other newcomer to genealogy: start with yourself.

Sit down and record what you know about your own history (birth, marriage, children, religious rites and sacraments, etc.). Then move on to your relatives. I realize that this time you’re at a disadvantage: some or many of your relatives to whom you had access for information are now no longer here. Still, take time to do these interviews and you might be surprised at the results.

And once you’ve recorded information, you’ll set your initial research goals based on that information.

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Conducting Self-Interview

There are many different formats to use for your personal interview including a simple written narrative, a bullet point list of dates and places, or a family group sheet. Make sure you take your time and record the important data related to:

  • Birth
  • Marriage(s) and Divorce(s)
  • Religious events including bar/bat mitzvahs, baptisms, confirmations, etc.
  • Children

An additional option is to actually write out your own mini-biography in your own “voice.” You can then extract the data (next week) for your research log and you’ll have a nice memento to pass on to your family.

  • What I Plan to Do: I created both a personal interview and a family group sheet for myself and my parents. The interview is important – it is a “brain dump” of what I know in terms of dates, places etc.
  • “All-In” Participant Options: Select an interview format that works for you and enables you to extract the necessary information to launch your initial research next week.
  • Modified Participant Options: Review any copies of family group sheets in your files and check them for accuracy.

Conducting Family Interviews

Once your interview is done, create a list of aunts, uncles, cousins and other relations who would have information about your parents, grandparents and other extended family members. Again, the format and method of interviewing is up to you. Some options:

  • Family Group Sheet: If you have a fillable form (print or online) have your family members complete as much information as possible about their own immediate families.
  • Record an Interview: With today’s technology it is easier than ever to record an interview. Consider using Skype and one of the several Skype recording programs. Or download an app for your iPhone or Android device. Yes, you will have to transcribe or record the information, but what can compare to preserving the voice of a family member as they describe their family’s history?

Setting Research Goals

While I have listed this topic first in this week’s series of topics, you really need some initial data (from the interviews above) before you can set research goals. Very often people set goals such as “trace my family’s Irish roots” that are too broad or are based on family lore or assumptions.

Set goals based on information from initial interviews; don’t worry if you believe some information is incorrect. Next week we will create research goals to prove or disprove data points. Create a simple list such as “verify birth location for _________” or “determine parents of _________.” Next week these goals will form the start of your research plan.

  • What I Plan to Do: I actually did Family Group Sheets for myself (easy since I have no children) and both my parents. I also spent time on the phone with some of my aunts asking questions. I took notes because they weren’t comfortable being recorded on Skype – I ALWAYS ask permission when I interview a family members. It is important that they understand how the information will be used and how it will be recorded.
  • All-In Participant Options: Use paper, Evernote, OneNote, or any program to track your research goals.
  • Modified Participant Options: If you have existing lists of research goals, verify that they are in line with any family group sheet data. Create new goals based on new insights after reviewing the data.

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That’s all for this week. Well, except for one question that has been bugging me lately: what resource do you use for a family group sheet? Do you use an online version? Do you print one out? Share your resources on family group sheets over at the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook group.

Next Week: Week 3, Cycle 4 – 16-22 October 2015

  • Tracking Research
  • Conducting Research

Thanks for being a part of the Genealogy Do-Over and your feedback is always appreciated. You can leave a comment on the blog post at GeneaBloggers, email me at or post at the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Update: The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook

Genealogy author and educator announces The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook, in digital and print format, to be published November 2015.

Last month, over at The Genealogy Do-Over Group on Facebook, I mentioned that I’ve been working on a new book about The Genealogy Do-Over. My goal is to create a “workbook” – in both print and digital format – that can be used by both individuals and genealogical societies to take on the “do over” challenge.

My original goal was to have said book – The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook – ready by Cycle 4 which begins tomorrow, October 2nd, 2015. Before you get your hopes up, let me tell you that there won’t be any new book available on Amazon tomorrow. And here’s why . . .

The Genealogy Do-Over: Looking Ahead to 2016

I’ve been overwhelmed with the success of the entire Genealogy Do-Over concept, from the Facebook group with close to 10,000 members, to the weekly emails, etc. Many participants have taken the time to provide valuable feedback on the Genealogy Do-Over and as I’ve reviewed and processed the feedback, I’ve come to these decisions about both the workbook and the Genealogy Do-Over’s future:

  • Yes, the Genealogy Do-Over will continue in 2016 starting on January 1st.
  • The new format will be 12 months with one entire cycle for the year. In 2015, we’ve had four cycles of 13 weeks each and many participants felt that the pace was much too fast.
  • Several genealogical societies have set up Genealogy Do-Over special interest groups (SIGs) where they tackle one set of topics each month. Several other societies have also expressed an interest in sharing the Genealogy Do-Over with their members, but a 13-week program just isn’t workable.
  • The workbook will be based on a 12-month cycle which means I’ll need to tweak the current arrangement of topics.
  • My goal is to have The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook available by mid-November 2015 in both digital and print format.

I appreciate your patience with this project and I am committed to providing an excellent publication for Genealogy Do-Over participants. Feel free to send me your ideas and list of “must have” items to

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.