I am all for the digital age. The amount of records being scanned, indexed, and made available to the public grows everyday. Resources for learning about genealogical records and method are available at our fingertips. The challenge with the digital age is keeping up with it. I may not be a fast learner, but I’m tenacious and I don’t want to be left behind. And I bet you feel the same way.
Genealogical applications for tablets and smart phones. Where there is technology, genealogy will follow. It makes sense that genealogists, people who spend a lot of time sorting out the microhistory of their ancestor’s lives, would want tools to organize or improve that search. Here’s just a sample of some I have been playing with and others I look forward to using.
Apps I have. I am just getting into this as a new tablet user, but I am already having a lot of fun with the following apps:
- Ancestry.com’s app. I like being able to take my tree with me. I’ve found that when I open Hints (those now iconic shaky leaves) and follow the links to the original documents, such as a census, the images are clear and easy to manage. The format has taken some getting used to, but I find that in all cases, it just takes a bit of persistence to get acclimated to it.
- War of 1812 Sites. Sponsored by PBS and others, this app gives short histories of different battlefields, maps their location, and allows you to plan a travel route to visit these War of 1812 historic sites. The app is well put together and easy to use. This app, and others like it for learning or experiencing history, are just so much fun.
- FindAGrave app. Like the FindAGrave website, this app allows for searching by name or cemetery. I liked the idea that when I allowed it to use my location, it showed me the photo requests in my area. Being one that fully believes in the principle of “Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness,” I plan to go take some photos today.
- BillionGraves app. I like the concept of this app a lot, and it seems well organized. Like FindAGrave, the point is to photograph cemetery monuments in your area and upload them to the website for all to enjoy. My problems were this: 1) I couldn’t use the app to search for people who had already been photographed, and 2) I think that because my tablet is not 4g enabled, somehow the part of the app for taking photos was not working, there was no icon for the camera feature.
- Voice Recorder apps. There’s a lot of them out there. The one I got was free, so the downside to that, as with many free apps is that I have to put up with advertisements. The value of having a voice recorder is great. Often I want to interview a relative about their life or who they remember. Having one of these is so much more convenient than bringing another hand-held device. Check out your app store for one that will fit your needs.
- Google. Whether it’s a Google app or Ask.com or any other search feature, it comes in handy when looking for something quickly. Even when research is going well, I always “Google” the person I am researching just in case there’s a family-based website or other website or even Google book that mentions the ancestor.
- Dropbox. Dropbox is the most-used cloud-storage site, and is critical for genealogists. I use it to share powerpoint presentations or large numbers of photos or anything that is too big to email a client or fellow researcher.
- FamilyMap. I wasn’t too impressed with this app. It is pretty, but it doesn’t do much. It connects with your tree on FamilySearch (but wasn’t made by them) and puts virtual pushpins into a map indicating where each ancestor was born. But that’s it. It has a nice display, and may be useful to some, but I was hoping for a map that would allow me to track one or more ancestors’ migrations.
Apps I want.
- Evernote. I keep hearing from my genealogy friends what a powerful tool this is for organizing research. I am told there is a little bit of a learning curve to it, but its worth it. Jordan Jones does a great blog about how he uses it on the Evernote website.
- Metes and Bounds Basic. I just may have to get this one soon. It is designed to map out land descriptions that follow the old metes and bounds descriptions, you know… “Start at a white oak…”
Apps I wish would come.
- FamilySearch Indexing. FamilySearch rolled out a beta version of their indexing program as an app a while back, but has since pulled it. I can’t wait until it comes back, I want to have this on the go with me while I wait at the doctor’s office or kid’s soccer practices.
- Timeline mapping. I’d like to see an app that takes a timeline created for the ancestor and maps out the locations and indicates the time the ancestor was there. I’d like to also have it compare other ancestors’ timelines on the same map.
- Genealogy Blog notifications. I’d like to put in a search term I’m interested in, like mapping for example, and have the app alert me when genealogy blogs or podcasts are posted on that subject.
Continuing Technological Education. There’s so much I still need to learn. I thought I was tech-savvy, but every day I feel less and less savvy. We’ve got to keep up with genealogy technology tools and practice using them. The future of our history is in our hands!