Thursday, May 15, 2014

Using OneNote in the Genealogical Process

Awhile ago, I blogged about my notetaking choice between Evernote and OneNote. Both are popular notetaking programs for genealogy, but I finally chose OneNote. It fits my organization style better than Evernote. Here's how I'm using it after reading Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones.

I chose to create a notebook for each ancestral surname and one for collateral surnames, including the additional maiden names from my ancestral lines. I also added specialized notebooks for my study groups and a general notebook for webinar notes, location studies, or foreign language tips, or anything else that strikes my fancy.


This notebook template isn't my own creation; I found it on the Internet sometime ago, but I can't remember where. If someone recognizes this, please let me know so I can give proper credit to the creator!



When a notebook is opened, there are tabs arranged across the top, called sections. These are like the dividers in a physical binder. They can be named however one desires and any number of notebooks can be created. The tab on the end with the elipses (...) indicates that there are several more sections hidden; clicking the triangle opens a dropdown menu with the names of the hidden sections.




Down the right side are the pages in the highlighted section. Pictured to the right are the pages in my research plan section. Each ancestor has a main page, on which I keep a research checklist, with several subpages beneath, each containing a research plan for a particular event in that ancestor's life. Any number of pages or subpages can be created can be created. Since Albert Herman has two marriages, a sub-subpage can be created for the former marriage, if desired.

Although I'd love to take credit for this research plan, this template is a modification of one that I found on the Internet some time ago. Again, I cannot remember where I found it or who to credit.

The research plan starts with a research question and then a list of all the facts--where it came from and who the informant was. A working hypothesis is crafted and a list of potential sources is created. From this source list, a research strategy is developed listing the order in which to search them. This order is likely to change as information is discovered and new sources are found.






Next is the research log in which the sources searched are recorded as they are used. If there are positive results to the search, any items scanned, copied or saved are recorded and then given a document name, which is also recorded here. If there is nothing found, this is also recorded since it might be used as negative evidence at some point.

This is also the time to record the citation while the source is still handy so there are no missing pieces to search for later.

Once all the citations are completed, a preliminary analysis of the source is done, recording the type of source and its provenance. This is information that can be cut and pasted to be used in other programs.


Each piece of information is briefly noted and analyzed, the informant recorded, and the evidence is labeled as direct, indirect or negative.

After the preliminary analysis is completed, any potential conflicts are recorded with ideas on how they might be resolved. This is where to note ideas about correlating the evidence and the best way to present it. Finally, a conclusion is drafted...


...and the cycle begins again as more questions emerge.


So far, I'm really liking this research plan template. It's been a great place to capture my thoughts and record my research all in one place. One thing I do want to point out is that this is only one section of my whole research notebook. When I add digital images of my records, which I can then hyperlink to webpages, notes in other sections, or to other computer files, I will never lose a piece of information again. But that's best left for a blog post for another time.



  1. Interesting. I use OneNote too, but am nowhere near as structured as you are.

    1. Thank you! I've found OneNote fits my organization style. My research plans and reports have changed somewhat, but I still use OneNote for all my notes.

  2. What version of OneNote are you using. Mine doesn't look like yours--I mean the style, fonts, etc. I have 2013.

    1. Thanks for checking out my blog. I am using the version of OneNote in Microsoft Office 365. It automatically stores my notebooks in OneDrive. My font is simply Times New Roman.

  3. Hello! What are you different Sub Types? I got image copy and original from what you wrote, but you have several other types listed by initials.

  4. Thanks for reading my blog. The subtypes I use are: Duplicate Original (DO), Image Copy (IC), Record Copy (RC)—also known as a Clerk's Copy—Transcription (T), Extract (E), and Abstract (A). I hope this helps. How are you using OneNote for genealogy?

    1. Just getting started really, so I don't have an answer. I'm piecing together ideas from you and this lady: