Saturday, November 1, 2014

Using a Dry-Erase Board to Organize Your Family-Tree Thoughts

By William Durant
  • Sifted through stacks of census sheets and death certificates?
  •  Drawn countless timelines? Sketched family-tree lines for days?
  •  Used genealogical software - and still can’t figure out who’s who in your ancestral line?

Try noodling it out on a Dry-Erase Board, that ubiquitous visual aid used in meetings and presentations. You use a special marker that writes “wet” on a magnetic white surface, but wipes off “dryly” with a tissue, cloth or finger. Costs range from a dollar (at a dollar store) on up, in various sizes.

The idea came to me while running a branch of my family tree through my head. I thought about taking pencil to paper again, but didn't feel like erasing or scratching out errors. Then I thought about the ability to look at a diagram . . . larger, without much effort. Dry-Erase came to mind (my “V8” moment)!

I tried it with my mother’s family, where successive generations named children after the same original brothers and sisters. Some siblings had many children, while others had few or no children. The Dry-Erase Board made it easy to raise multiple-offspring siblings higher above the horizontal line than their other siblings and make changes as needed, with no messy erasures or scratch-outs. (One drawback: you can also inadvertently wipe off something if you’re not careful.)

Using a Dry-Erase Board is similar to those problem-solving boards on TV shows like TNT’s “Major Crimes.” The starkness of the black ink against the white background can let you see data more objectively in a new light, and perhaps help solve a mystery

Dry-Erase Board next to computer shows convenience of sketching family-tree diagrams while consulting digitized documents. When not in use, the board is propped on the floor facing a wall to protect the scribbling.

In this closeup, an arrow is drawn from Isaac (second from left) to his 10 children. This took several tries to figure out while leaving Isaac’s siblings intact. The board made it easy to draw and adjust.

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