Every year, when I’m asked to start making a Christmas list, I always Google “Christmas gifts for genealogists” and every year, it gets harder to find items that I don’t already have. Over the years, I’ve accumulated plenty of flash drives, external drives, photography equipment, scanners, genealogy books and shirts. Maybe you’re in the same boat and you’re looking for something that would be useful even though it doesn’t scream “GENEALOGY”! Here are some simple things that I like to use in my research that are a little more “out of the box”.
- Pencil case or zippered glasses case – I used to be a high school teacher and occasionally, I’d get a Christmas gift from a student and it would quite often be a small zippered case of some type. You might think this sounds funny, but I know that they are a popular gift here because Ft. Wayne is the home of Vera Bradley and every spring, there is an outlet sale where women go CRAZY getting the patterns and sizes that they want. The zippered cases are some of the smaller ticket price items, so it’s easy to grab several to put away for Christmas. I use these as my “genealogy go-bags”. I have one in my backpack, one by my recliner and one in the glove compartment of my car. I keep a flash drive, chap stick, mechanical pencil, extra lead, a highlighter, paper clips, eraser and small post-it notes in each. (The Genealogy mug is a previous Christmas gift and I included it in the picture to give an idea of size for the zippered case.)
- Supply organizer – sometimes, if I travel for a longer period of time of research, I’ll take my “office in a box”. I believe this one was actually a fishing tackle thing, but you can also get something similar at a craft store in the embroidery floss area. In addition to paper clips, pencils, pens and highlighters, I keep a mini stapler, staple remover, flash drive, lighted magnifying glass, post-its in various sizes, a ruler and hand lotion.
- Calculator paper rolls (receipt paper rolls) – these can be easily found in the office supply area of Walmart or Target for under $5. I use them for quick timelines, to do lists and for making lists of page numbers to look up. They are so cheap, I don’t feel like I have to worry about scribbling on a sheet and re-creating it over and over if I need to. A nice stocking stuffer idea!
- Calculator paper roll holder – Honestly, I keep my rolls in my desk drawer and I pull them out when I need them. But this year, I just might ask for holder to help clear some space in my drawer. If you Google “Calculator paper roll holder” and look at the images, you can see all kinds of “make it yourself” ideas from Pinterest. If you or a family member is a DIY kinda person, here are instructions for a simple one I like. If you’re looking for something a little more modern, you can always find something like this on Amazon.
- Rolls of blank newsprint – Pretty much a jumbo version of the above. I use this paper to do mind-mapping or to draw out potential family relationships before I commit anything to my software. And while you can buy these rolls online or at an office supply store, my mother went to her local newspaper and told them she was moving and asked if they had any roll ends that she could have and they gave her quite a hefty roll for free! (Better get ’em while we still have printed newspapers!)
- Can’t get your hands on rolls of newsprint? Look for a jumbo drawing pad made for a kid’s easel. Something like this from Walmart. 50 sheets of 20 x 17 paper for only $7. You can also find pads of drawing paper at art supply stores, but if the paper isn’t made for kids, it’s probably a bit more money. For example, a pad of 25 sheets of 18 x 24 Strathmore paper is $17 at Hobby Lobby.
- Self-sealing lamination pouches – these come in various sizes and thicknesses, but I like the ones that will fit an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. I use them for reference type documents that I use a lot. For example, I have my 5 generation group sheets for my grandmother and my grandfather on both sides of the family. I refer to them all the time when working with my DNA matches. I also have a laminated “Shared cM Project” chart and a list of my most often used citation format templates. I can also write on these with my dry erase markers which is nice when I’m tracking DNA matches! Get these at any office supply store, Amazon or store like Walmart or Target.
- Extra large mouse pad – my office setup has 3 monitors: my laptop in the center, a widescreen Smart tv/monitor to my right (so I can also watch Netflix while researching!) and an older monitor on my left that has a stand that allows me to keep it rotated to be taller rather than wider so that I can display documents on that screen while transcribing on my laptop. But having 3 monitors means that my mouse sometimes has to take several “trips” across my traditional mouse pad to get from one side monitor to the other. My current, traditional mouse pad is about 8.5 x 7.5. But my sons enjoy online gaming and they have extra large mouse pads, like this 18.5 x 17.5 one from Amazon. There are gaming mouse pads in all different sizes, so Google it and see what might work best for your set up. These are also available at most electronics stores.
- (and 10 and 11!) Decorative file folders – I try to keep my office organized, but it’s not unusual to come in a realize that it looks like a tornado has come through and dumped papers, post-its, photos and negatives all over my desk! Because I work my “real job” from home, it’s often a mix of work and genealogy stuff. I have a bamboo tablet stand from Ikea that I keep file folders on as well as a “Fintorp” hanging system with 2 utensil holders and 1 condiment stand. I use the utensil holders for digital accessory cables, highlighters and dry erase markers and the condiment stand for headphones, cables and file folders. I like to have a different pattern of file folder for each project that I’m working on, so I head to the local office supply store and take photos of the folders that I like and send the photos to my husband.
I hope everyone has a Blessed Christmas Season and a few minutes here and there for family history research!