07 May 2010

Research Notebooks

Back a month or so ago I mentioned the research notebooks that I assemble when going on a research trip. I do take my laptop, but often the laptop is in use by my DH who is busy entering data for me or I didn't decide to take it into the repository where I am working.

The black "combs" you see are the 2 inch size, I get them at my local office supply or if you can't bind it yourself the office supply can bind for you in a comb that fits properly. These have a locking feature so nothing accidently comes open. They also lay flat so its easy to work with & write in.

The research notebooks are great - being comb bound means that if you drop it everything stays intact, no messed up papers. I index the material in the notebook, divide it up by County or repository depending on the length of the trip and number of stops. If I have cemetery stops to make my cemetery search lists are also included in the notebook. Group sheets on the families I will be working on are included along with printouts on the repositories & libraries I will be visiting. The photo above shows some of the lists & print-outs ready to be put into my notebook for this trip.

The photo directly above this text shows a completed notebook, open to some family group sheets. Note the handwritten notes. Once the notes that I have written in the notebooks have been typed in I place a red strike (line) thru the information & I know I've put it in the computer. Many times I continue to use the notebook as a "workbook" long after the trip is done. They are a great way to see the "holes" in your research. I do love my laptop but many times "holes" get lost in the computer and its hard to see exactly where you really need to be working!
Recap of notebook contents:

  • Maps
  • Repository/library printouts
  • Cemetery search lists
  • to do lists for each county
  • Pedigree charts for lines in area
  • Family group sheets on lines of interest
  • Blank family group sheets & blank pages for notes
  • hotel reservations (w/o credit card info)
  • any other pertinent information I might need

I use maps alot when I do research trips so there are always quite a few of them in the research notebook. This one below shows the state of Pennsylvania, with the counties I am researching in outlined for clarity. At a glance I can see where other counties are that might affect my research any given county. This particular one came from William Dollarhide's book, Map Guide To the US Federal Censuses, 1790-1920. Very clear and easy to use! To finish off the book I add an index of where everything is in the notebook, and then close it off with a white cover so I can list the surnames & dates of the trip, a dark cover on the back helps the notebook look cleaner & hold together better. For durability I use cardstock on the covers rather than regular paper.

If you have any questions about the research notebooks feel free to drop me a line or leave me a comment on the blog & I'll get back to as soon as I can. Hopefully someone will get something from this little tutorial, I never really thought anyone else would be interested.

To all of my followers who may be moms - I hope you have a wonderful mother's day this Sunday. Spend some time with those who matter most, & most important be sure to make some time just for you! Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Researching!
Karen

11 comments:

GrannyPam said...

Very nice system, and explanation. To my way of thinking, this raises organization to a high level. I pulled Dollarhide's book out myself yesterday, so I could be sure I have a good visual of the areas I will be researching in in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts. Have a successful trip!

Russ said...

Karen,

What a great idea! One that I hadn't thought about, especially for a research trip. Guess I have dropped too many folders or loose leaf notebooks.

Going to visit my mother, today, on her Birthday. So, it's a birthday / Mothers Day combo visit.

Thank you for your Blog Post.

Russ

Linda McCauley said...

Karen,
This is a great idea and I may use it for an upcoming trip in June. One question I have - do you run into problems with repositories (especially libraries & archives) that won't let you bring it in with you?

Linda

Carol said...

Nicely presented and explained Karen. I have added lists of restaurants when I am going to be in a strange city and Man is with me. We all know how much he LOVES to eat.

How bout a lesson on how you organize your cemetery lists, I know you do that very well.

TennLady said...

I think the Cemetery list organization could be a Relatively speaking topic.

Karen said...

Linda, Never had anyone refuse me entry with my research notebook. I show it to them, explain what it contains and they've always been okay with it.

Thanks Carol for your suggestion I'll keep it in mind for sure. I just did Relatively speaking so it would be a few weeks but its possible. Especially since I am putting some lists together for this trip.

Thanks for all the comments!

Lisa Swanson Ellam said...

Karen:
I'm definitly interested! Thank you for showing the pictures. Since I'm a visual learner this really helps me. I leave in 4 hours for my research trip and really wish I would have gotten this organized. I know I could accomplish more if I had. Next time!
Lisa

Leah Kleylein said...

What a great idea! Thanks so much for sharing - it's always such a help and so interesting to see how others organize their research!

Nancy said...

This is a really helpful idea. I haven't gone very far for research trips - I live near the state archives and find lots there. When I go there I take a pocket folder and a printed table that lists exactly who I'm looking for, events, dates, and which microfilms to pull. When going further from home and for longer than a day, I can see the great advantage of your notebook idea. Thanks for sharing it.

Becky Higgins said...

Great idea, Karen. I have a "working binder" that I take along on research trips but I really like your idea. My binder often ends up with loose papers that can easily get lost or out-of-order.
Thanks for the tip!

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

This is a fine idea, Karen. Thanks for posting that.

I like Levenger's Circa system for my college notes, but the real horrible drawback to a Circa is that if you drop it, it comes totally apart! The comb binding is a great idea, and I'm very familiar with that system, having been a fanzine editor/publisher at one time!

This is something I'll seriously consider for my research trip to the State Archive later this year.