If you are a regular visitor here (or follow me on Twitter), then you know that I love Evernote. However, sometimes I prefer to use OneNote. Evernote is the clear leader when it comes to saving and retrieving notes, but sometimes I want to take notes in a way that Evernote doesn’t support. That’s when I turn to OneNote.
Here’s an example from a research problem I was working on recently:
Research Question: Who was the wife of Thomas Lytle, son of George Lytle & Ann Clark?
Her name was Mary and she was born 1 Mar 1819 and died 1 Apr 1856, per the inscription on her tombstone. But was she a Lytle or Burgin by birth?
I have Burgin in RM, based on something I found in the Lawrence Wood collection (which I can’t find now).
Ray Lytle says she is a Lytle, the daughter of Millington Lytle and Mary Polly Potillo.
I looked back through my copies of McDowell County marriage bonds and found one for a Thomas Lytle and Polly M. Lytle. This could be the correct couple, but I want to make sure there are no other viable Thomas Lytle’s in the right time frame.
My research plan was to go through two indices of North Carolina marriage records (one at Ancestry.com and one at FamilySearch) to see how many people named Lytle got married in the right place at the right time and if more than one bride was named Mary (Polly). I wanted to keep a copy of the search results and why I eliminated each possibility.
I could have created a spreadsheet or a table, but OneNote makes tracking this kind of thing so easy, and the process is very much like a paper-based approach, but electronic.
First I did my search in Ancestry and clipped the results page into OneNote. I have a “Lytle” research notebook, so I added a section called “Thomas Lytle” and put the webclip into the section as a page. Then I typed in my research question in the top right corner of the page (the quote above is copied directly from OneNote). One of the things I like about OneNote is that I can add my own notes in the margins of webclips and make it very clear which part is my comments. So, I added a purple border around my research question. Then I made a note of the search parameters that I used to arrive at these results – also enclosed in a purple border (having colors is not important – the important part is that I can distinguish my comments from the web clip – but as long as there are colors, I’m going to use them).
Now, this is where OneNote really works well for this kind of process. Not only can I add my margin notes, but also I can draw lines to connect my notes to the various sections of the web clip. I can also highlight things things that are especially important (such as my conclusion).
After I finished going through the Ancestry.com results, I went through the same process with FamilySearch, clipping the search results into OneNote and making notes on all the possibilities.
The bottom line here is that I was able to eliminate all the other possibilities and conclude that Thomas Lytle married Mary M. Lytle (not Mary Burgin). And I have a record of how I reached that conclusion. If I wanted to (and I may), I could even save this note as a pdf and add it to Evernote for future reference.