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Your Answers: How Do You Use Genealogy Handouts?

Your Answers: How Do You Use Genealogy Handouts?

Last week I asked a question. As genealogists, we collect handouts from society meetings, seminars, webinars, and conferences. What do you do with those handouts? How can we best utilize this massive amount of information that we collect?

Legacy readers answered with their ideas. I want to spotlight some of these answers to give other readers ideas for the best use of the information they collect.

Technology to the Rescue

In some cases, readers use technology to annotate, organize, and store their handouts. Reader Joyce Ann Luallen-Black uses an E-Ink writing tablet called Remarkable which is similar to other tablets but is not for internet searching:

"I have a Remarkable and load the handout to my Remarkable. So I can then make notes on the handout, underline, use asterisks and even add note pages. I make my handouts a document that I can use. I can also save the file when I am done to my computer in my designated directory. Before getting my Remarkable, I always printed and made notes, highlighted, take notes during the presentation. Of course, when I am done, I can make a digital copy. When I get a really good syllabus and notes that I know I can use regularly, I keep it in the paper version for quick access. Now that I have my Remarkable, I can keep it stored there also for quick access."

Some readers utilize cloud storage programs like Dropbox to organize handouts. Geraldine Knatz writes:

"I have a separate folder in my Dropbox for handouts, and I categorize them by topic. If it is something that I just learned about that I want to act on quickly, I will print it out and keep it on my desk until I follow up."

The great thing about using cloud storage is that you have access to those materials anywhere you have the Internet. Some handouts can be great tools to use when researching at a repository because they provide instructions.

More than One Way to Use a Handout

Some readers have multiple ways of dealing with handouts depending on what the handout is for. One example is provided by Howland Davis:

"How I use handouts and syllabi: I have two situations. If it is a talk of interest, I keep notes on a separate page, which I then neatly add to the handout/syllabus (since my writing of notes is terrible and I have trouble deciphering them 24 hours later. On the other hand, I have kept a file of all handouts by presenters to the Summit County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society since 1994 with indexes by date and by keyword. These are available to our members (I should scan them all so they can be easily sent)."

Jerry Kocis downloads webinar handouts before the event so he can make notes and then scans the handout so it includes his annotations:

"I like to download and print the handout before the webinar starts. During the presentation, I try to follow along and take notes on the handout. Later, I scan the handout, which by this point contains my handwritten notes, and store the image as a .pdf file, sorted by topic, on an external hard drive that I use to maintain reference materials. Sometimes a presentation will touch upon more than one of the topics that I've established for reference notes. In that case, the .pdf file is stored under each of the topic categories to which it relates. And, yes, that external drive is backed up to OneDrive."

How Do You Use Handouts?

The benefit of a handout or syllabus is evident: it provides the participant with resources and information that they can use once the presentation is over. How you decide to take advantage of that resource is up to you. As our readers explain, there are several ways to utilize those pieces of information to enhance our genealogical research. What’s important is for you to decide now how to best use handouts and start utilizing that plan to make the most of what you learn.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.



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Before the presentation, I like to download the PDF of notes and annotate using Preview (Mac's built-in program for viewing and marking up images) to be sure that I have the name of the presenter, date, "place" where it will happen, like "FamilyTreeWebinars" or "Allen County Public Library." That makes it easier for me to find a video of the presentation next year if it exists.

During the presentation, I annotate it with any advice, how-to, clarification, or warning that might be spoken or shown but not appear in the original PDF.

After the presentation, I usually rename the PDF from the "cute" name of the presentation to make it easier for me to find, frequently adding the speaker's name to the title. For example, a PDF called "Ticked Off" would get renamed to something like "Census pre-1850 methods Lauritzen." I save it in my Gen Lessons folder.

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