Musing About Life Lessons Learned That Apply to Genealogy


It’s been a slow week genealogywise for me as I’ve been consumed with the house renovations and an increased workload at my educator job. I thought I’d have difficulty coming up with a blog but instead I’m bursting with lessons learned from those situations that apply to genealogy.

With renovations, there is a lot of moving of “stuff” around as we empty one area of the house with the goal of making it an improved place. It’s a total pain to have to physically move items. I also realized I have a lot of things that I no longer use so I’m donating or pitching as I go (or pawning off on my children). This got me thinking about genealogy practices…

I used to have alot of stuff I took with me when I researched; I carried my clunky laptop, notebook, charts, lots of pencils, a camera, phone, stickees, and thumbdrives. It was a workout just getting into an archive. I’ve streamlined considerably and find I can simply take my Kindle, phone, a mechanical pencil and stickees. Instead of many thumbdrives that contained my surname info and individual thumbdrives for my clients, I now just take one for microfilms in case I can’t email it to myself and use the ap on my phone, Office Lens, to take a picture and immediately send it to One Note, for everything else I used to save to a thumbdrive. I can view that from my phone and Kindle to make sure it looked the way I want before I leave so I never get home and realize I needed to get a better view. Also on the Kindle is Evernote, which has my research log template. I still carry the stickees to flag book pages I’m interested in. These changes have made my research life much saner and safer. I don’t have to worry about someone walking off with the laptop if I have to go back to the stacks for another look. I have more flexibility in where I park myself down to research and I lost weight without having to diet. Very cool! Have no idea why it took me so long to figure out I needed to do this room by room in my house.

After a room is finished I find that I might be better off moving items around for increased efficiency. For example, my drinking glasses used to be in a cabinet closest to the sink. I realized it’s a better idea to move them in the cabinet next to the refrigerator as that’s where we go to get cold, purified water, ice and lemon. This practice definitely applies to genealogy. Just because you used to do something doesn’t mean you should continue to do so. Back in the day, I organized my genealogy files by lines. As the data grew I found that it was too complex so I took the time to reorganize by surname. A binder system works well for me today but may not in the future and that’s ok! Change is good although I must admit, as a creature of habit, I do tend to go back to the old cabinet to seek out a glass when I’m exhausted. Habits may be difficult to break but can be done. Investing time to make a task better is time well spent. You may be in for a happy surprise, which gets me to my next lesson learned.

Ironically, last Wednesday I blogged about my recent Dropbox experience. At my educator job, a decision was made right after I wrote the article that our team was going to only use One Note. I spent all day Thursday and part of Friday dropping and dragging files from Dropbox to One Note. Although I wasn’t thrilled to have to readjust my work priorities during a busy time, the situation did give me a big Ahaa! In Dropbox, I saved by event but in One Note, the decision was to save by date. Same situation as moving my drinking glasses and reorganizing my genealogy files! The data is the same but where and how it’s stored is different. So here’s where I learned another lesson – looking at the older files was quite enlightening. I was able to identify some holes in our program which we’ll be discussing this week. Try this with your brickwalls. If your found records are in timeline order, shuffle them up and place them by type of record or location where they were made. You might identify where your gap is and be off and running to locate overlooked events or places where they occurred. It sure is the same stuff but my looking through a different lens you might make a new discovery.

In other words, you’ve got to change your practices up to move forward, even if it’s painful. Happy Hunting!

Dropbox Shoutout!

I’ve blogged before about the importance of saving your work in numerous places and trying to practice what I preach, but I goofed big time!

There are several cloud based companies that you can use as another place to store your genealogical research, or anything else, for that matter. I’ve used the free versions of Microsoft One Drive, Google Drive and Dropbox. Earlier this month I received an email notice from Dropbox that my “free” account was going to come with a price tag at the end of the month. Why? When I purchased a new desktop system last March, it came with additional Dropbox storage space for one year. The year was up so I had to pay if I wanted to continue service. Dropbox offered a special price of $79.00 for 1 terabyte of storage with the understanding that the following year, the price would be $99.00.

The email notice came the week we were having the tile removed from our home so I saved it with the intention that I would look at it later when I had time. Here’s where the situation gets messy – I actually have 2 Dropbox accounts; one is for my primary job as an educator with a large public school district and the other is for my genealogy and personal information. I try very hard to keep my educator business only at the workplace and my genealogy only outside of that worksite but good intentions aren’t enough. Sometime between the initial email from Dropbox and the time I decided to act on the special offer, I logged into Dropbox from my home computer with my educator account. In hindsight, I remember doing this as I needed to print an itinerary for a field trip the night before so that a last minute added chaperone would have the information. In my haste, I didn’t log out of that account. My bad!

So, when I decided it was time to purchase a year subscription with the special offer pricing, I didn’t catch that I was purchasing a year’s rate for the wrong email account. Unfortunately, as soon as the confirmation came through and I clicked to open my account, I realized the mistake.

I searched high and low on the Dropbox site for how to switch the accounts but it wouldn’t allow me to as the popup stated there already was an account for the email address I was trying to switch to. Yep, that would be me! Couldn’t find instructions online on what to do or who to contact to fix the problem so I cancelled the transaction, or so I thought, logged out of the academic account, logged on to my personal account, went back to the email offer and followed the link again with the intention of repurchasing a year’s subscription for the correct account. Well, that didn’t work either as a popup told me the offer was “expired.”

I then looked again for a way to contact Dropbox and discovered they have NO LISTED PHONE NUMBER anywhere on their site. When you click “Contact,” your options are departments and none was billing. I selected “Customer Support” which turned out to be technical and not financial. I online chatted with an associate who told me he would transfer the chat to the correct department. I was transferred but I only got a form filler, no chat option available. I filled out the form and figured I’d hear in a few days.

A week went by and I never received a response so I decided to again try the link from the original email. Hey, maybe they reactivated the offer! They hadn’t. I panicked and removed everything from my personal Dropbox account to my home desktop. I resigned myself to checking out other cloud storage companies.

Here’s where the situation gets even more complicated! The following week I noticed I had a message on the Dropbox ap on my phone. It was giving me a special offer. I know that the phone ap is for my personal account so I was thrilled that I could continue service. I processed the transaction through the phone, went home and moved all the files back into Dropbox and thought life was good.

Imagine my surprise when I got my credit card statement and realized that Dropbox had charged me twice with no credit for the first mistaken transaction and that the accounts were still confused. I tried to put the transactions in dispute online but the situation didn’t meet the drop down menu options. My bank’s customer service person patiently listened to my sob story; she didn’t have a phone number for the organization either which I guess confirmed part of my tale. Two disputes were placed and I am happy to report that in just a few hours, Dropbox issued me a credit for the educator account transaction AND credited the transaction for the personal account to reflect the special offer. I am very happy with the resolution.

Lesson Learned – next year, I will definitely make sure I’m logged into the correct account before I pay!