Weekly Planner: Clean Out Your Inbox

For most twenty-first century family historians, e-mail plays a vital role. Working with my mother, most of our finds are exchanged via e-mail. While folders can help organize genealogical correspondence, we can run into problems when our e-mail program gets overloaded. In addition, saving e-mails only in your e-mail program means that our family data may be split into too many places. Save e-mail messages with important information as plain text files in the electronic folders where you keep other family history information (e.g., word processing documents, spreadsheets, images, etc.). Just open the message, select “Save as” from the File menu, change the file type to Plain Text (.txt), modify the name if you like, and click “Save.” You may also want to keep print copies to protect them from computer failures.

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7 thoughts on “Weekly Planner: Clean Out Your Inbox

  1. YES! A few years ago my computer died a painful (for me)yet quick (for it) death! All my precious emails from genealogy contacts GONE! EXCEPT….for some reason, there were a few I had printed, THANK GOODNESS!
    Now I copy the text of the email into the notes section of my genealogy program along with the person’s name and email and date. It has helped so much! It takes a few minutes longer, but it is definitely worth it!

  2. Three rules of computer storage: Backup, backup, and backup.

    I use two flash drives and make two copies of my genealogy data base every week. I always take one with me when out and about, and one goes in the fire-proof safe. Takes a few minutes, but well-worth the time.

  3. A method I like is a combination of the storage methods, files & notes. Notes are great but lack any organization and end up forgotten about years later. Saving to text files and organized in folders by surname works as well but is also cumbersome to use as reference. Here’s a combination of the two with a couple of the extras I do, but you can modify this to suit your needs. The names I use are not required, choose what you want. FYI – the name format I use for most everything follows a pattern of class, object, property (familiar to programmers).

    Create a Word document (or other full function editor). Create a format called Iemail using an odd font and make it stand out from regular text (large & bold). Create another format called IemailDesc using another unique font but with normal size type. At the beginning of the document create an index or Table of Contents and set it to insert entries based on both the Iemail and IemailDesc formats. Set Iemail entries to level 1 & IemailDesc entries to level 2. When you get an email you wish to document, simply copy it to the clipboard then open the file of your emails, goto the the end and paste the new email. Above the top of the email, insert a new line and select the Iemail format and write a brief title. Go down another line and select the IemailDesc format and write a few lines or words to describe the email. Return to the top of the document and refresh the Index or TOC to include the name and description of the latest email and save the file.

    Next open your gen software. When you first create the email file, add it as a master source. Now when you get a new email you can reference just one instance of it from multiple people or entries in your gen software. You simply note the master source and the title of the entry. There are many advantages. First of all it keeps your gen data file much cleaner, smaller, and organized. Second, it allows you to search all your emails at once and much faster than a multifile text search. Third, if you ever print a gen software report and include all references, comments, notes, etc you wont get duplicate text everywhere you added the same note that is related to multiple people. It will print once at the end with a simple reference link inserted into the person data.

    But the greatest value is the usefulness of the data. Old forgotten data is as relevant and easy to use & find as a new email if you take the time to set a standard and stick to it. The result is an improved relationship of your data due to better search results and the frequent review of old data keeping it fresh in mind. We often copy only the relative portion of an email into a persons data sheet. But using a storage file and reference entries, we retain the entire contents of the original email for every individual record and every time we add an entry we’ll be forced to see the index at the top of the master file. Separately the data in each email deemed un-necessary has no meaning and if edited out, we’ll never see that data. But insignificant data in separate emails may combine to create a major find – ie put 2 and 2 together. By having all the data referenced from every involved invidual we have a greater chance of seeing that insignificant fact when adding new data. We’ll also see that index every time we save a new email and two things happen. One, we might also happen across an unforeseen link between data, and two, we scroll through the index of old emails and keep their memories fresh and increase the chance to put 2 & 2 together.

    This is getting too long already. But I want to add a few tips that help show how much potential there is by adding your own modifications. I listed just two formats as entries. You can create as many as you like and good ones might be a keyword list, surname list, dates/times, etc etc etc. All or none can be added to the index or just used for searches. You can also add fields and autotext. Examples are bookmarks so that references will open the email file and go directly to the email in the reference, autonumber fields to index email entries by number, macros that can automate the process of adding emails or doing searches etc., links to related entries within the email file, information fields that can be linked to spreadsheets or database files to maintain updates of data common to all. IE – if you change an email address in your contact database, it will make that change every place that is linked to it. For example if you found a 10 yr old email from an only occassional contact and now needed to query them on it, the email field linked to the database will contain their most recently used address whereas the address in the email is likely long ago discontinued.

    The list of possibilities is as long as your own imagination. I find using links to external storage files a much more powerful way of archiving data. You completely control the form and format of your archives that way and are still able to access it from within the gen software. If you improve your format you can easily update the old data to that format in one spot where as a gen software would require you to modify every entry manually.

    In summary, the only correct method is the one you will use so decide what effort you will use everyday and do not exceed that in whatever process you setup. If you don’t stick with a standard, the gen data is so plentiful and fast paced that you will create a mess you’ll never live to see cleaned up.

    PS – see my next entry about backups.

  4. This is a story I read once about the importance of data backups, but do not recall the author or the verbatim text so my apologies to the author.

    Satan boasted a superior skill at word processing to Jesus, but was rebuked as being inferior. After a short debate, Satan insisted on a competition to see who could type the fastest with fewest mistakes. Jesus agreed and God was designated the referee. Sitting at desks with identical computers, software, and copies of the same document to type, the contest began. Both worked at a feverish pace for over an hour. Just as each was completing their work, a bolt of lightning caused both pc’s to reboot. As Satan screamed in anguish over having lost all that work, Jesus simply printed out his completed document and was declared by God to be the winner. Satan screamed foul that Jesus cheated. He could not have repeated all that work again so “how did he win?” Satan asked God. God turned to Satan and said simply – “Jesus Saves.”

    Regardless of your spiritual religion if any, the story is the same pc religion for all – backup your data religiously or suffer the wrath of lost data.

  5. Rather than overload my computor and storing material in files,
    I print any material that has been sent to me or that I have
    found. I found some 3 fastner folders and then I added a label
    with the last name on the front. When I have more time, I will review the sheets when it is more convenient.

  6. Thanks for the stain tip Maureenhttp://www.frogmix.com/search/Maureen . I hate stains in my clothes especially grease spots. More of our shirts become work shirts because of grease spots. I’ll see if Kroger has it or order it online.

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