Organizing With Evernote

Sometimes when you're drowning in family history research, it pays to get organized. As I looked for ways to be more organized with my research, I knew I needed something more than RootsMagic to organize the correspondence, thoughts, and whatnot that I've saved in my email 'boxes' for a decade.

Organizing Genealogy Emails
Organizing Genealogy Emails:
One folder has years of correspondence on one family line

I confess. I didn't realize how many emails were in the 'Genealogy' folders in my various email accounts that have been unanswered or not followed-up on. Is it because I'm still in the mix of raising small children and home schooling too boot? Is it because I'm not as techy as the "Gen Y" crowd or career focused as the "Gen X"? Perhaps yes or partly yes to these questions. It can also be that with time and experience comes the understanding for the need to be more organized.

Realizing I have a problem, I've put a lot of projects on hold, some of which deal with this blog. Instead, I have gone through the Genealogy folders of two email accounts that I use regularly and I've converted these emails into notes in Evernote.

I have found Evernote, very useful thus far. And, gasp, I've deleted emails once I copy and paste the content of various emails into one 'note' on Evernote. Some people will freak. But, just like I don't like clutter in my home, I don't like clutter on my computer (or my emails).

Additionally, once each email is copied into a note that pertains to the topic, I can then look at everything about a topic in one location rather than opening a bazillion emails. For those of you who are 'with it', this is not new. For me, I'm just discovering Evernote and glad I heard about it through a geneablogging pal.

I'm even using Evernote to keep all those 'scraps' of paper pertaining to my Home School and the Cub Scout programs. Sweet! Now, I have everything in one place and not scattered or buried on my desk. I'm not perfect in putting everything there yet. It will come with time and conscious effort. Yet, there are so many wonderful advantages.

Alright, alright.. .So that's a great 'testimonial'. When I was trying to visualize how people actually used Evernote, it was too vague (like the information above). So, I'm going to give a few more specifics, and hope that I can share my organizational process. It'll evolve over time, but here's where I'm at. Feel free to mention your tips or cautions below. I'd love to hear it.

Organizing Genealogy Emails
Organizing Emails using Evernote


For every genealogy email I have, I read through it and determine what the topic is. Let's say the topic is "Churches the Geiszlers attended in Columbus, OH"  and the specific email gives me a link to information online about the churches.

A Genealogy Note in Evernote
A Genealogy Note in Evernote
I create a new note in Evernote (CTRL+N).

I make sure the Genealogy topic is selected in the upper right hand drop down. 

Then I add tags, such as: Church Records, Geiszler, Research (as in research further).

Then I paste the note from the email.

Though it's not shown here, I include the date the email was received, and who it was from (including email address)

If the email talks about a different topic, I'll create a new note. Once I've created notes in Evernote for each topic of an email. I delete the email

Next I go to a new 'old' email. I create new notes, whenever necessary. If the 'old' email is about something I already have a note for, I copy and paste this new information onto the note that is already in Evernote. I'll include the date, sender, etc. for each new piece of information.

And so on and so forth.

NOW... some of my topics pertain to type of record/information, specific persons or families. But I also have tags such as "Blogs to Write"; "Research Tips"; "Research Further;" etc. These tags are 'action' tags that remind me that I want to do something with the information I've created.

Now that a multitude of emails pertaining to one topic are in one place (one note), I can easily read through the 'thread' if you will. I can see what new information has been gathered. What new actions need to be taken. Then I can write a full research report (or blog post, be on the look out) for each topic. If the topic is finished, I can then delete the note. If the topic needs to be placed in RootsMagic, at least I know where the information is from.

I full believe my 'work in progress' research needs to be fluid. My conclusions should be recorded in a more permanent place. There might be some red flags I'm missing, and I'm working through those issues. However, I really, really feel like Evernote is allowing me to process all the correspondence that I've encountered over the years. And now, I might actually refer to them again. Or, at least write the research conclusions that have been sitting in the 'in box' for far to long.


  1. Thanks for your tips on how you are using Evernote. I just clipped your post! I've gotten really good at using Evernote for recipes, but haven't got it down for genealogy yet. I have forwarded my genealogy emails to Evernote and given them tags (that I'm not sure I'm pleased with), but I like the way you have organized your emails. I couldn't believe how many old emails I had that needed some attention!

    1. Glad to be of assistance. I'm not ready to tackle recipes (then again, my hubby and daughter are the better cooks!). So, I'm glad I inspired you.

  2. Thanks Devon, you always have such great ideas for organizing! I HAVE Evernote, just haven't actually gotten around to figuring out how to use it yet, ha. So this was greatly appreciated.

    1. Thanks Karen. Glad to know I help someone.

  3. Great idea, I use Evernote for genealogy but never though to use it for my emails. I will have to do that.

    1. I'd love to know how you use Evernote for genealogy. I've searched for people's tips who say, "I use Evernote for genealogy" but no one ever says what they do. I'm glad I was able to share my way, but I know I could use more suggestions. Good luck with all of those old emails!


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