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Friday, January 28, 2011

Approaching your Genealogy problems Creatively

I know it's now the end of January, but I tend to be a little slow to get going in the morning too, so why would a new year be any different? My goal this year has been to try to collect all of the information that I have, and determine what information might yet to be collected, in my search to prove that Burpee Prouty was the father of “my” Mary Prouty.

I’ve collected so many tidbits of information over the past few years regarding this question, and have yet to piece them together - kind of like saving up pieces of fabric for a scrap quilt. I was having a hard time deciding where to start, so I turned to a creative writing technique that always works for me, and that is a process called ‘mind-mapping’.

In the past, mind-mapping meant grabbing a clean pad of paper, and a good sharp pencil and scribbling notes and ideas in bubbles with connecting lines and such. Well guess what! There are now several programs available for free, online, that will do this for you.

My absolute favorite is called BubblUs (https://bubbl.us). As with many web programs, you need to sign up for a free account with the usual basic information. With a free account from BubblUs, you can have only three saved sheets. But personally, I don’t work on many more than that at one time.
When you’re creating your account, one of the options is to “allow others to find/add me to contacts”. Definitely check this box if you plan to share your sheets with someone else, and work together.

The “Help” button has a quick tutorial on how to get started, an explanation of Features by Topic, and Keyboard Shortcuts. Honestly, though, of all the mind-mapping programs available online, one of the reasons I like BubblUs the best is that you almost don’t even need to read the instructions - you can just jump right in and start brainstorming.

You can easily change font sizes, bubble colors, and move things around.

Once you’ve drained your brain of thoughts on the topic and save it, it saves it to your online account. You also have the option of exporting your mindmap as a .jpg or .png image, or as an html outline.

If you need more than the 3 free saved sheets that come with the free account, their “Basic” count is $3/month for up to 10 sheets, and “Premium” account is $6/month or $59/year for unlimited access.

The site mentions that there is a discount available to students and teachers, and that either your email address must end in .edu, or you need to email them a copy of your student or teacher ID that is current within a year. I couldn’t find what the discount was, however, but it might be worth looking into if you fall into that category.

Another one of the other mindmapping sites available is Mind42 (http://www.mind42.com) - named not only after the fact that 42 is the answer to Life the Universe and Everything (ok, at least it is for Douglas Adams fans)... but also means Mind FOR TWO, indicating the ability to collaborate on your mindmaps. Mind42 also offers a minimal account for free, but the visual is a bit different - everything lays out very horizontally, although you do have the ability to add pictures and web links directly.


If you’re more concerned with how cool or fancy your mindmap looks, you might want to try out Spicy Nodes (http://www.spicynodes.org). It definitely has the coolest visuals, and several options and colors to choose from. Like the other sites, there is a free basic account, but one of the big differences here is that your saved mindmaps become publicly searchable. As a genealogist, this can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing - Good if you are hoping to find someone who has that last missing piece to your puzzle, or Bad if you are stingy with your research and don’t want anyone else to know who your 10th great grandfather was because he is all yours... yeah, right.

MindMeister (http://www.mindmeister.com) is similar to the Mind42 in its horizontal layout format, but offers a mobile ap so that you can work from your handheld device, thus their slogan “be productive anywhere, anytime”. Finished maps can be published to blogs and websites, but I’m not sure that MindMeister has much in the way of free components. Personally I found it a bit confusing to use, and since I’d already found other mindmapping sites that didnt require me reading the instructions, I didn’t pursue it much further.

Whatever you go with, let the creative side of your brain have a chance to work on your genealogy puzzles. You might be surprised with yourself.

6 comments:

Debbie said...

WOW didn't know these tools were out there...and can be used for anything as well as genealogy.

Becky Jamison said...

This is a very informative post, Tami! It's all news to me and I already have ideas of how I can apply it to my current research. You are a gold mine of info! Thanks so much! By the way, I LOVE your toolbar!

N. LaRue said...

Holy cow!! These are awesome! Thanks so much for posting these resources! Wow!!

Kay Strickland said...

What wonderful visual tools! I see yet another Sunday glued to the computer! :)
Kay

Joan Miller (Luxegen) said...

Great article! Another good mindmapping program is freemind. I use it to brainstorm and also to collect information about a topic I am researching.

Sharon Brennan said...

I use mind maps like these with students at school all the time but I have never thought to use them for my genealogy. Thanks.