I know, this sounds ridiculous doesn’t it.
How long have you had email? I had email before most people because of my technology-related profession, but I’d wager you’ve had email for at least 20 years.
Have you ever forgotten about anything?
Of course not, right?
Let’s do a little experiment.
Go to your email and find the oldest email message you have. (Sort by date, oldest first.)
Before you read the email, do you remember receiving it? Do you know what’s in it?
It may be nothing at all and simply needs to be deleted – but it also might be important. If not then, now.
When I did this experiment myself, just now, I discovered that my husband had sent me a few really cute photos of my granddaughters – MANY years ago. I had forgotten all about them (the pictures, not the granddaughters,) but now I’ve filed them where they are supposed to go.
In the case of photos, I file the photo in the proper photo folder on my system itself, NOT in email, and then I delete the email. But other emails get treated differently.
For years, I’ve filed most emails in a series of logical folders. For example, if I’m working on my Estes line, I have an Estes folder and inside that folder, correspondence by either topic or person – or maybe more subfolders.
I try to file emails after I process them when they arrive – but notice the word “try” and the other word, “process.”
Unfortunately, I never get around to processing some emails. I have the best of intentions, but it seems like I’m just chronically pressed for time. I used to think this would stop and I’d catch up, but now I know it’s a permanent condition.
Things fall between the cracks.
Every email provider works differently, and I can’t begin to advise you HOW to search on your email platform.
I use a combination of synced platforms, meaning one iteration is online, plus I download my emails to my computer system through Microsoft Outlook. That’s where I have folders set up and move messages to the appropriate folders.
I also have, (ahem,) many emails in my inbox that I’ve never done anything with. When I have a few minutes and I can choose between processing old emails or working on genealogy or writing an article – you can see what wins out.
I discovered by accident recently that I had more information about an ancestor than I realized – including emails from people no longer living with details about their lineage.
This has happened in part because I had forgotten about 20+-year-old conversations and partly because some emails weren’t filed in the appropriate folders. It’s also possible that some emails are filed, but have two surnames, a location, or information relevant to your current research that you didn’t realize at the time.
That’s why you need to think in terms of using your email provider’s search functionality to cast a broad net and search your own archives.
Using Outlook, I have several options, including:
- Just searching the inbox or current folder that’s open
- Searching all folders and subfolders
- Searching all mailboxes or all Outlook items
- Filtering by specific fields
- Including or excluding attachments
- And more
If you’re uncertain how to search on your platform, Google and possibly YouTube are your friends.
What I typically do using OutLook, unless I know I’m going to get a huge number of hits, which often crashes Outlook, is to search for the surname in question.
Searching for Estes would return way too many, including every message I’ve sent or received. I’d need to find something more specific. Like maybe Halifax for Halifax County, or Moses for Moses Estes. Sterling for my father’s middle name. The most unique word I can think of relevant to my search.
I might be searching for anything having to do with the village of Beutelsbach in Germany, so I’d enter that word.
If I select a specific folder and open it in Outlook, that makes things easier because I can search for Moses within the Estes folder and receive only relevant hits inside that folder. Of course, that’s assuming I filed everything like I was supposed to. In my case, that’s not a valid assumption.
Beutelsbach won’t be as easy, because I have several ancestral lines from that village so emails pertaining to Beutelsbach will be filed in numerous places.
So, What Happened?
You might be wondering how or why this came up. And you might have guessed that I found something quite important that I have forgotten entirely about.
You’d be right.
How did that happen?
I simply forgot.
However, when I saw the email, I remembered immediately. Turns out, it was an email with photos of one of the villages where many ancestors lived in Germany. The best pictures anyplace on the internet were right on my own system, with permission to use them, all along.
What have you forgotten about? What’s buried in your old emails that might be valuable?
Let me know what you find.
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