Growing up I can remember my grandparents spending hours sitting in front of the microfilm or microfiche readers at the Family History Center in Independence. I would watch them scroll from page to page. Occasionally they would even write something down. For the longest time I wondered what they were doing sitting in front of those machines and I even ended up interested enough to ask one day. That’s when I got the explanation of genealogy. I think I was around eight years old at the time. Eventually, I joined in on the game of genealogy cat and mouse.
Genealogists today are much more fortunate than the genealogists of yesterday. While my grandparents had to hunt for the names they were looking for page by page in the microfilms of the census records, I have the option of running to the library and using Ancestry.com. And it’s not just computers and digitizing that have made things easier but with the advent of iGadgets and Android devices genealogists now have oodles of accessibility and tools designed to make our lives better and data easier to save, access and share. I appreciate being able to access my genealogy over my lunch hour at work without lugging around a big, heavy binder full of paper. But even electronic files can end up being a mess if you don’t organize your electronic items. I’m not talking just your family data, but also downloaded files, saved emails and other pertinent items. I’m not an expert in organization (just ask D1, he’d love to give you a witty or humorous reference about my hoarding tendencies) but I wanted to share a few items I use regularly in my genealogy research:
1. Computer database: Right now I’m looking at potentially switching databases. I’m currently using Family Tree Maker. I loved FTM when I first started doing computerized genealogy and I still like it (for the most part) but I’m also checking out RootsMagic to see if I like that program any better. There are TONS of genealogy computer databases out there, each person has to decide what works best for their own genealogy. The best advice I ever heard was that whatever software you choose, make sure you learn about it and commit to it fully before deciding whether or not you’re happy with it.
2. Websites: There are waaaaayyyyy too many to name but the sites I frequent are Find a Grave, Cyndi’s List, Ancestry, HeritageQuest, NARA and FamilySearch. There are so many more good sites out there that I just can’t name them all in one blog post but those are just a few I use.
3. iGadets: I’m by no means a power user on any of these items but I cannot live without my iPhone and iPad. I use both for genealogy, those I mostly refer to my iPad when I can, simply because the screen is larger and I like that option better. In a pinch the iPhone does the same thing and I typically have internet connection on that no matter where I am, which is convenient. Some of the iGadget apps I use for my genealogy are:
- GedView: I did a review of GedView here. GedView is my workhorse, go-to iPhone app. I keep it up to date by either inputting new data right away manually or periodically replacing the GEDCOM file I’ve imported into it.
- MobileFamilyTree: I also did a review of MobileFamilyTree here. MFT is my fancy-pants go-to iPad app. I keep it up to date by either inputting my new data right away manually or periodically replacing the GEDCOM file I’ve imported into it.
- Evernote: Oh I absolutely LOVE me some Evernote! I can’t imagine how i got by without this app. I don’t use it just for genealogy (although that’s why I started using it). I also use it for saving emails, software registration information, class notes for courses I’m taking (genealogy and non-genealogy courses), recipes and many other items. In Evernote I can combine multiple emails on one subject if I want, then save it to the appropriate notebook, tag it and search for it later! I’m still learning the best way to use this program/app but I can’t help but love it more everyday.
- KustomNote: I haven’t used this a great deal yet but it definitely looks promising. This allows you build templates and forms or use templates and forms others have built and submitted for note taking. I’ve already downloaded a research log form and a couple of other forms I’m looking forward to using. You don’t use this so much as a stand-alone app, you use it in conjunction with Evernote.
- Quickoffice: This is a paid iGadget app. It’s not cheap but it functions almost exactly like the Microsoft Office suite. Since purchasing this CloudOn has entered the picture (I have that app as well) which allows the user to access their Microsoft files via cloud storage and edit and create just like if you were actually in the Microsoft programs. Both are fantastic apps.
- Cloud storage: I love my cloud storage as well. I have an account with several different storage entities. Dropbox, Google Drive and Box are the entities I’m currently signed up with. I use each one for different purposes. Dropbox is pretty much my primary go-to for sharing documents with family and also my general items that I access all the time. BrotherDear prefers Google Drive so I typically will share all my pictures there. Box is used for my business life. Keeping business and work separate is very important for me so having separate cloud storage was very important in my mind.
- Feedly: I love following interesting blogs. And I love the fact that there is an app to deliver the new posts of those feeds to my phone everyday. To keep that information centralized and easily readable I use Feedly. I used Google Reader combined with Byline but both these items were clunky in my opinion. Feedly has been the best discovery I’ve ever made. Feedly also interacts with IFTTT and Evernote!
- Pocket: Another fantastic discovery. I regularly add blogs to my Feedly list. I don’t always have time to read every single post but I don’t want to just skip over them since they may contain interesting or useful information. That’s where Pocket comes in. Pocket lets me save the articles I want to read until a time that I have time to sit and read them in their entirety.
Just because all of these items are electronic in nature doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned paper. I have, by no means, gotten rid of my paper. I still use binders, pedigree and family charts, printouts of record copies and sheet protectors. I wouldn’t recommend anyone ever go completely digital. Yes, paper takes up more space but should you ever have a problem with your computer, jump drive, cloud storage, etc. the paper files will be there. And on the other end of that coin, if your paper files ever get destroyed you will still have electronic copies (and, if you do things correctly, backups of your electronic files). I also don’t only rely on my iGadget for photography. I still use my DSLR camera as often as possible to take pictures of items like tombstones. Though, in a pinch, the iGadget will do almost as well.
I’m sure as I begin to get into mobile genealogy a little bit more I’ll discover new and interesting tools and uses for older tools that I didn’t know about but for now those are some of the things I use regularly.
I can only imagine what my grandparents would think if they saw how we were doing genealogy today. The ease with which we can obtain information is astounding! This definitely ain’t your grandparents’ genealogy, that’s for sure!