Evernote: Your Virtual Genealogy Assistant

by Thomas MacEntee | Apr 19, 2013

Thomas MacEntee

Evernote is a genealogy researcher's best friend and one of the best tools you can use to capture almost anything. This means not just items found online, but also images, documents and more!

The best way to understand Evernote features is to imagine having your own personal assistant, but one that is virtual (meaning they cost practically nothing and never call in sick or complain about the workload!). Your Evernote virtual assistant can:

  • Clip articles, posts, and webpages you find on the Internet and store them for later reading.
  • Create lists of contacts, things to do, ideas, projects and research strategies.
  • Store vast amounts of data that can be indexed and later located in a snap.
  • Remember dates, appointments, deadlines and more.
  • Synchronize data across several devices including your online account, your computer and your mobile devices.

All this is done in the form of Notes (single items) and Notebooks (collections of grouped Notes). Evernote is basically your library of three-ring binders, but a library created and maintained online.

Getting Started with Evernote

The best way to get started with Evernote is to use the Getting Started section at Evernote. Here is an overview:

  • Download and install Evernote to your computer.
  • Create an Evernote account (free).
  • Create notes and notebooks.
  • Consider adding access via a mobile device.

Evernote Application, Website, or Mobile: Which Is Best?

The truth is, you will probably want to use all the Evernote platforms available to you. Here is what Evernote offers:

Browser Extensions, Bookmarklets and Plugins!

Whether you use Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Google Chrome or another browser to surf the web, make sure you check out all available extensions, plugins and bookmarklets for Evernote. These "helpers" will make it easier to clip content, take notes and in general integrate Evernote with your Web experience. Be sure to check out the Resources at the end of this article.

How Genealogists Are Using Evernote

Evernote has been called a "researcher's best friend" and given the tasks and work performed by genealogists, it makes sense that Evernote would be friendly to genealogists as well.

      • Capture documents: Save document images found online to Evernote and add annotations and source citations within the note. Also, use the mobile device camera to send a document image directly to Evernote.
      • Create a call list: Before you head to a library or a repository, research their catalog and create a list of items to be pulled or microfilms to access. Having this information in Evernote on a mobile device makes it easier to find exactly what you need in the stacks or to fill out call slips.
      • Capture images: There are many instances when you need to scan a document, but you either aren't allowed to bring a mobile scanner with you or perhaps the repository's photocopiers are out of service! Capture an image and then add source citation information right in Evernote. In addition, if you use your smartphone's camera, you can email images directly to your Evernote account.
      • Create a to do list: Although some genealogy database programs do assist in creating "to do" lists for research, you can create your own on Evernote.
      • Collaborate with other researchers: Notebooks on Evernote can be shared with other Evernote users (they will need to have an Evernote premium account) so that you can collect common research elements.

Some Non-Genealogy Uses for Evernote

Like your favorite snack food, once you get started with Evernote, you may find yourself expanding its usage to other aspects of "life management." Here are some creative ideas from other Evernote users:

        • Prescriptions: If you travel, it is handy to have your prescriptions available in case you run out or lose your medications. Take a photo of each prescription bottle, with a close up of the important details, and then add more information such as the name of the pharmacy, the phone number etc. Also, don't forget to include your eyeglass prescription! Scan the document with all your vision needs and make sure it is handy on Evernote in case you lose your glasses on a trip or in case they get broken!
        • Receipts. Capture images of receipts when traveling and have a "backup" in case the paper version gets lost.
        • Clothing Sizes. Buying clothes for children and grandchildren is easy if you track their sizes and "likes" in Evernote. When you are out shopping, it is easy just to look up the information you need to make an informed purchasing decision!
        • Recipes and Favorite Dishes. Use the Evernote Food app to keep track of anything and everything food related including recipes, images of favorite dishes at restaurants and more.

Evernote Best Practices

Here are some guidelines, as well as tips and tricks for using Evernote:

      • Remember that everything is a note. Don't think "sticky note" or piece of paper. Think photos, documents and more. But everything you store in Evernote is basically a note.
      • Send to the Evernote email address. That's right, each Evernote account (even the free ones) get an email account such as [email protected] to which you can email photos and even email messages.
      • Make audio notes. You can record voice memos and save them in Evernote using the Evernote app on your smartphone.
      • Use your camera. With more and more mobile devices now available with cameras that keep getting better in terms of image resolution and functions, make sure you are sending images to Evernote. Rather than collect images in a photo stream and then adding them later, make sure your device can use Evernote to gather images and then add your notes to the images right away.
      • Remember to use tags. For some users, creating Notebooks is an extra step; they would much rather add a Tag (such as "1810 Census" or "AUSTIN Research") and then perform a global search of Evernote to find the content they need.
      • Use shortcuts when possible. When using the Desktop version of Evernote, take advantage of keyboard shortcuts for <href="#/article/23168552">Windows and <href="#/article/23168732">Mac OS, as well as features such as the Web Clipper and the ability to email items to your Evernote account.

Should You Go Premium?

Once you start using Evernote, you may run up against the limits of using the free version especially with limits on the amount of data you can add each month. With a Premium account ($45 per year), you get the following features:

        • 1GB per month upload limit (instead of 60MB per month)
        • Unlimited size on notes (instead of 25MB per note)
        • Offline notebooks available on mobile devices
        • View note history including versions.
        • Share notebooks with others.
        • Index and search PDF files.

Your Virtual Genealogy Helper

From organizing your notes to helping you keep track of books you want to research, Evernote is always at the ready. Whether you're using it on your computer, a tablet or a smartphone, Evernote can be your 24/7 virtual genealogy assistant.

Resources and Additional Reading

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