Sunday, December 30, 2007

Organize Your Correspondence

Do you find yourself in the middle of twenty different conversations with other family historians, and forget what you received from whom? It's hard to keep up with all the leads you get from others, especially when you are collaborating with more than one person. This is a simple tip to keep everything together.

If I am searching around on a message board and find that Joe Banks is a distant relative, I will create a new document in MS Word and title it "Correspondence with Joe Banks". On the footer of the first page I'll type a little description of Joe, such as "Joe is a descendent of Martha White from Oslo, Norway and lives in Fargo, North Dakota." This lets me remember how I'm connected with Joe. (Note: you can make the first page header/footer not appear on subsequent pages by selecting Page Setup --> Layout, and then selecting the "Different first page" button under "Headers and Footers".

Now I will look on that message board for any other posts by Joe Banks that have information I am interested in and paste them into the document (make sure you note when they were posted). Then I'll send Joe a note (include that in the document too) and we'll start corresponding. Each time I send him a note or receive one from him, I'll paste it into the file, and then I can always go back and find what Joe said.

Now about following up on leads from your correspondence: As you read emails, you will notice things you need to do. All you have to do is highlight the word or phrase that gave you the new lead and select Insert --> Comment. This will highlight the words in a red box and put a little dialogue bubble next to it. Just type what you need to do to follow up on the lead. Now, when you open the document, you can see all the new leads that have been generated. When you do one, you can delete the comment, and if you like, include your finds as a footnote. Just select Insert --> Reference --> Footnote and you can have annotated correspondence. This is great stuff for when you are writing a family history.

You can store these correspondence files in the "Reference" folder on your computer. (See my previous post for information on organizing your digital files)

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