How I Use OneNote to Organize My Genealogy

OneNote is possibly one of my favorite computer programs ever.  It keeps my life organized.  It keeps my genealogy organized.  It keeps me sane.

OneNote is a note-taking program created by Microsoft.  If you have Microsoft Office, there is a pretty good chance this handy program is sitting on your hard drive.  If it wasn’t included in your Office purchase or you just don’t have Office, you can download it from Amazon for $49.99 or buy the PC Key Card for $65.00.

What makes this program so awesome, you ask?  Well, it’s simple really.  OneNote organizes everything from the random bits of information to full thought processes when working through a problem.  It can hold text, pictures, PDFs, video, audio, tables, and just about anything else you can think of.  And it’s all searchable and can be synced to your phone, tablet, and the web so you can take it all with you wherever you go.

Honestly, I’m not sure how I lived life without it.

OneNote Overview Photo

OneNote is set up just like a three ring binder – only digital.  On the right hand side, you’ll see all of my “notebooks”, which are essentially binders.  Along the top, you’ll see “Sections”, which are essentially tabbed dividers.  To the left are pages and subpages.

When it comes to my genealogy, I like to create tabbed dividers for the surnames I’m working on.  Then I can create pages and subpages with document images, research plans, lists of documents to order, etc.  Here is just a short list of how I use OneNote to organize my genealogy:

  • Transcribe records – I’ll often put the image of a document in a page and then transcribe.
  • Create research plans
  • Write out theories on difficult problems – this helps me document my thought process.
  • Create lists of microfilm or documents to order
  • Create timelines using tables
  • Create research logs
  • Store correspondence with cousins
  • Analyze documents before entering them into RootsMagic (my favorite genealogy program ever!
  • Write random helpful notes to myself
  • Keep information about my society members
  • Keep links to my favorite genealogy websites
  • ….and more!

OneNote has become the place where I put nearly everything and free up my brain.  It keeps it all in one searchable place and syncs to my devices so I can take it with me on the go.  OneNote is easy to use and has the familiar Microsoft OneNote feel to it.  If you are looking for an easy to use program to organize your genealogy, I highly recommend OneNote.


Confessions of a Geneablogging Perfectionist

Blogging has become a little difficult for me lately. Not because my blogging platform has been glitchy. Not because I don’t have things to write about or share. Not because life is crazy busy.

No, blogging has become very difficult for me because I’m a Geneablogging Perfectionist.

That’s right. I can’t seem to press the “Publish” button unless I feel the article is perfect. The picture is perfect. The flow is perfect. The time is perfect. Everything must be perfect.

Baking perfectionists?

But I’m breaking one of my cardinal rules of blogging right now: Blogging should be fun, enjoyable, and should be about sharing. My perfectionist ways have made blogging a chore and unpleasant. It has prevented me from sharing.

So, I’m here to tell you that my perfectionist ways are gone and if you are also plagued by Geneablogging Perfectionism, there is hope. You can be cured. You are not alone.

My name is Elyse Doerflinger and I am a recovering Geneablogging Perfectionist.

Photo: Historic Photograph Collection (San Jose Public Library California Room) on Flickr used via Creative Commons 2.0 License.


Surname Saturday: Asher

It’s Surname Saturday, and I’m going alphabetical order through my surnames each week.

Word cloud made with WordItOut

This week’s surname is Asher.  My earliest known Asher ancestor is John Ellet Asher (Abt 1808 – bef 1860).

My ancestral line back through John Asher is:

1.) Elyse Doerflinger (1989-living)

2.) Thomas Dugger (living)
3.) Sharon Doerflinger (1959-2010)

4.) Herbert Hoover Dugger (1927-2003)
5.) Nancy Jean Rogers (1924-2002)

6.) Monroe Dugger (1885-1951)
7.) Matilda E. Clawson (1886-1935)

8.) Benjamin Smith Dugger (1835-1885)
9.) Charlotte Asher (1843- )

10.) John Ellet Asher (1808-bef 1860).  John Asher was born in Tennessee and lived in Johnson County, Tennessee during his lifetime.
11.) Louisa Estep (1815- )

Are we cousins?  Contact me so we can share!


Share – The Getting Started Stories Contest

I am SO excited to announce this contest because Treelines is possibly my new favorite genealogy website.  Last weekend while at Jamboree, I was able to talk to Tammy Hepps, the founder of Treelines, and get some demos.  And let me tell you: not only do I love the concept of a site helps you tell your family stories, I love that Treelines makes it easy to do!

The rules for the contest are simple: Create the story of how you got interested in genealogy and publicly share it on Treelines by July 19.  Make sure your story is interesting and conveys how you got obsessed with this hobby.  The stories will be judged by Tammy Hepps and Maureen Taylor, the photo expert.

And 3 (count ’em, 3!) winners will each win personal consultations with Maureen!  Woo Hoo!

So get on over to Treelines and get your entry in!  And while your there, really explore the site and let me know what you think.  I’m super excited to start making stories there and see how the site takes off.


Jamboree: Thursday’s Review

All the fun of Southern California Genealogy Society’s Jamboree begins today – at least for me.

Today is actually Family History and DNA: Genetic Genealogy in 2013 which is a joint conference by the Southern California Genealogy Society (SCGS) and the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG).  I did not register for the “DNA Day” but I was able to go to the DNA Lunch with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. as the speaker.

And I have to say, it was a great lunch.  The food was okay and I was able to sit next to Richard Aurand Sherer and Brandt Gibson.  After the food, Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. took the stage and gave a great lecture.  He was funny and told some amazing stories that really captured the audience’s attention.

(If you don’t know who Dr. Gates is, he is an expert in genetic genealogy, the author of many books, and the host of PBS’s Faces of America.  And?  He revealed today that they will begin filming season 2 in the fall – and Ben Affleck has agreed to be on the show!  Yay!)

Honestly, I didn’t take many notes during the lecture – I was too busy listening.  However, here are the notes I took:

  • Y-DNA is only for males and traces the father’s father line.
  • Mitochondrial DNA is for males and females and traces the mother’s mother line.
  • While talking about common family myths in genealogy, Dr. Gates said: “Every family story is important to record because sometimes, where there is smoke, there is fire.”

The day is definitely not over and while I’ve seen many of my genealogy friends, I know many more will be coming in tonight and tomorrow morning.  And since I spent more time talking than eating at the lunch, I’m gonna go grab some food.

Thanks to Cyndi Howell (or Cyndi's List fame), I got a picture with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Paula Stuart Warren.

Thanks to Cyndi Howells (of Cyndi’s List fame), I got a picture with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Paula Stuart Warren.

Check back here: I’ll be blogging as much as I can (these things exhaust me and there is so much to fit into such a short amount of time!).  Also follow me on Twitter (@GenealogistElys), on Instagram, and Facebook.


Organizing Tip: Complete The Cycle

I have a confession: I’m an organizing junkie.  I read organizing blogs.  I watch organizing videos.  I read organizing books.  I’m seriously addicted to the idea of organizing.

Did you notice that?  I love the idea of organizing – but I don’t like the process and the work involved to get and stay organized.  In fact, getting organized is kinda fun.  Invigorating actually.  But the staying organized – well, that’s a whole other ball game.

But as I get prepared to start student teaching in the fall and plan a wedding and move in with my fiance, I have put organizing as a whole new priority.  I need to de-clutter, give everything a home, and put it all away so that I have more time to do fun things like research my ancestors!
And my favorite tip that I’ve picked up in all my obsessive organizing years is this:

Organizing Tip: Complete the Cycle

So, if you print a report out, file it.  If you are scanning pictures, name them and digitally file them away.  Complete the cycle.  Don’t stop half way.

And it’s so easy to stop half way – to sit that freshly printed report down on your desk with the best intentions of filing it later.  But then later never comes and pretty soon you have a hefty stack of paper on your desk to file.  And then you avoid that stack like the plague and hope it magically files itself.  But this ain’t a Harry Potter movie – those papers aren’t going to put themselves away.

You have to put them away.

Same goes with finding a new record – analyze it and then enter into whatever genealogy program you use.  Name the record.  Give it a home and file it away.

But what if you’re thinking, “But Elyse, I don’t *have* a cycle for _________“.

Well then, you, my dear reader, are in luck!  Stay tuned for the next post when I talk about how to create a cycle for a genealogy or family history task.


Quick Tip: Try Cluster Research (Video)

It’s summer time… so you know what that means?  I’m BACK!  My first semester of my teaching credential program has ended and this summer will be the summer of genealogy and blogging!  And I’m also back to making videos!

So today, I want to share with you a quick tip video all about cluster research.  (And if you like it, subscribe to my Youtube Channel!) Check out the video below:


My Genealogy Workflow

Genealogy workflow is how a genealogist does research, documents it, and records it.  In the next few blog posts, I’m going to be talking about my personal genealogy workflow in hopes of inspiring or helping others develop their own genealogy workflow.

Genealogy Workflow - Digital Images

Today’s Topic: Digital Records.

Step #1: Find a record on a website (like or FamilySearch), online database, or a microfilm record that I’ve saved via a flash drive, or other book/document/record that is captured with a digital camera or scan.

Step #2: Save the image to the appropriate surname folder in DropBox.  If the record has more than 2 pages (like a military file), create a folder for the record within the appropriate surname folder and then save each page as an image.

Step #3: If the picture needs annotating (like highlighting the particular parts of the image that are related to my ancestor or to add a source citation), I use the Chrome add-on, Awesome Screenshot: Capture & Annotate

Step #4: Transcribe and analyze the digital record in Microsoft OneNote (AKA: The program I can’t live without!).

Step #5: Enter fact(s) in RootsMagic with source.

Step #6: Add notes, transcription, and possibly theories to fact notes.  Add ideas of where to look next to person notes.

Step #7: Add the information to WikiTree.  This step is especially important to me when I am collaborating with another researcher.  [Note: I add the new information manually to my WikiTree profiles.  I uploaded a GEDCOM in September 2010 – the GEDCOM import made the biographies ugly and not easy to read.  So I’ve been slowly going back and editing each profile for readability – starting with my brick wall ancestors and the ancestors I’m currently working on.]

Some Notes & Comments:

In my pursuit to be an all digital genealogist, I almost never print anything out.  Paper takes up space and right now, I just don’t have the space.  Plus, I figure my future children will not want to inherit binders full of stuff and it will sadly, be tossed.  So for me, digital is the way to be.

OneNote is my favorite for tracking my thought process and writing down my hypothesis.  I use it because I can add images, screenshots, and text – which makes writing out my thought process much easier.  Plus, it’s all searchable.  Once my hypothesis is written out, I copy it into my RootsMagic database for either the person or the fact (sometimes both) note fields.


Wordless Wednesday: Nancy Jean’s Curls

My paternal grandmother, Nancy Jean Rogers – curly hair and all.

Nancy Jean Rogers studio portrait taken in 1925.

Nancy Jean Rogers studio portrait taken in 1926.

Nancy Jean Rogers studio portrait taken in 1925.

Nancy Jean Rogers studio portrait taken in 1925.

Nancy Jean Rogers was born December 13, 1924 in Washington to George Monroe Rogers and Julia Margaret Morris.


Young People Aren’t Interested in Genealogy?

There is a myth going around and I want to clear it up right now to avoid any further confusion.  So everyone gather in tight and listen here:

Yes, young people (however you may define that) are indeed interested in genealogy and family history.

You’re probably thinking I’m crazy right about now because every time you go to a library, archive, courthouse, society meeting, or conference you mostly see people that aren’t in the “young people” category.  Most people at these places are old enough to be retired.  That’s fine.  Nothing wrong with it.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in family history or genealogy.

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Photo taken by Elyse Doerflinger in 2012.

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo taken by Elyse Doerflinger in 2012.

Recently, James Tanner of the Genealogy’s Star blog wrote, “The Genealogy Age Gap  – How do we expand to include the youth?“.  I want to take this opportunity to politely disagree with James and lay out my argument that young people really are interested in genealogy and family history.

Family Isn’t a Priority to Young People.  Wrong.  Family and my fiance are my number one priority in life.  Actually, let me clarify: My living family and my fiance are my number one priority in life.  I want to spend time with them.  Don’t misunderstand me: I love me some dead people, but my first priority is the living.

But aside from that, at this stage in my life, my main priority is finishing my education, getting my career on a solid foot, planning my wedding, and then thinking about starting a family on my own.  The next ten years of my life are going to be pretty jam packed and I think people around my age (20-somethings) are in a similar boat.

Seeing as other things are higher up on my priority list than genealogy, it means that my money and time goes towards other things.  For example, my local genealogy society holds their monthly meetings on Wednesday evenings and while I would love to attend, I have teaching credential classes on Wednesday evenings.  I would love to go to RootsTech this year but I have classes that I can’t miss and the travel expenses are high.  NGS is only a 4 hour drive away from me this year, but it is right before my finals week.  Jamboree will be the one conference that I go to because it is close by and since I’ve become addicted to Jamboree about 4 years ago, I’m determined to go.  Like, I’ll eat ramen noodles for months if it means I get to go and see my friends and see my favorite speakers and have a great time!

But all of this doesn’t mean I am not interested in my family and their stories.  It just means I have less time and money to spend in the hobby.

We’re Not Educated Enough to Research.  I can’t speak for every person under 35, but I can say that most of the people I know have the reading, writing, and analyzing skills to do research.

As most of you know, I have a Bachelors of Arts in a Liberal Studies for Early Teaching and Learning and I am currently in a teaching credential program to teach elementary school.  My life is all about education these days and while I definitely feel like there are some issues with our education system, I certainly don’t feel that we are creating a generation that is too dumb to do research.

Even at the age of 12, I could conduct basic research skills like reading census documents and doing online searches.  I could do look ups in books.  I walked through and photographed cemeteries.

I’ve created family history units and I can tell you that *all ages* can do family history research in some form.  A 5 year old can ask their parents, grandparents, or another older adult about what life was like when they were little.  A 10 year old can analyze a map and research travel routes.  A 15 year old can analyze documents and pull information.  Seriously.  It’s *all* research but just different types of research.  You gotta have all of these skills and kids learn these skills as they get older.

As for computer skills, I think most people in the younger set are pretty good with technology.  I grew up with a computer in my house.  I went to high school with a cell phone.  I take my laptop to class every day.  Technology is something that almost always comes naturally to me.  I have no problem exploring a new tech tool without reading the instructions and I like to have things portable (ie: on my phone).

Most of the people my age that I interact with can do the basic computer stuff necessary for research.  They can search Google with ease.  Within a few minutes, they can figure out how to best use a search engine on a site like or  It might take a few minutes to get used to a genealogy program like RootsMagic or Legacy, but it wouldn’t be something crippling or difficult.

Those are just my experiences.

The End Goal May Be Different.  Each person does genealogy and family history research for a different reason.  Some people love the chase.  Some people want to gain membership into a lineage society.  Some people want to see how far back they can go.  Some people want to learn about the story.

And each person has a different thing they want to do with their genealogy and family history stuff.  Some people proudly display family artifacts around their home.  Some people publish blogs or books.  Some people create videos.  Some people pass it down to their descendants.

All of these different reasons and end goals are valid.  In general, most people from my generation want to discover a family story and tell it – whether that be in a blog, in a book, in a video, whatever.  Because most people feel the best connection to their past when the names and dates become more meaningful with story.

There Are Lots of Young Genealogists Out There.  I used to believe that I was a major rarity in the genealogy world.  But in the years that I’ve been running this blog, I’ve been contacted by so many young people that are interested in genealogy.  Like tons.  They exist.  And we chat via email or follow each other on social networks.  They are just busy with 1,000 other things (like me!) and don’t have time to do genealogy all the time.

So there you have it… Young people *are* interested in genealogy and I promise, the hobby isn’t going to disappear any time soon!