Digital Toolbox

iPad Genealogy

Lately I’ve found I’m spending more and more research time on my iPad. There are two reasons for this – Evernote and MobileFamilyTree [iOS – $14.99]. MobileFamilyTree has a companion app for the desktop called MacFamilyTree [Mac – $49.99] but although both can use the same database when it’s stored on iCloud, the mobile app is entirely independent of the desktop version. I believe at the moment, it’s the only mobile iOS app that is. Another advantage is that both versions can synch family tree data with FamilySearch.org.

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MobileFamilyTree’s person page

One thing I love about both the Mac and Mobile editions is that I can view and edit all of a person’s detail information on one screen without constantly opening and closing data boxes. That is so irritating.

MacFamilyTree.jpg
The same person page in MacFamilyTree.

Even with MobileFamilyTree’s synching capability, I still prefer to do most of my FamilySearching via web browser. Why? so I can capture source information and download record image files into Evernote. I’ve found the Dolphin Browser [iPad – free] has a much better Evernote capture interface than the Safari browser on the iPad. It works much like the Web Clipper installed on my desktop Safari.

Granted, the iPad is not the best platform for bouncing around between web sites and apps – something I tend to do a lot. My solution is to take written notes. Sure that slows me down, but I’m finding that’s actually a good thing. Writing those notes instead of copy/pasting or clipping them makes me think about them more – more time to consider what this record adds to my research. At the end of a session, I’ll use Evernote on my iPad to photograph those notes so they can easily be found again when I need them. So far, I’ve had very good luck with Evernote’s search engine “reading” my handwriting.

What’s the down side? Trying to read original documents – especially census records – on my iPad mini’s small screen. Sure I can zoom into a document so I can see the content, but when I do it’s displaying such a small bit of screen area that I’m scrolling all over the place trying to see all the information. That gets real tedious real fast.

Am I ready to give up my desktop? Not even. I do find that developing mobile research skills and workflows at home has significantly improved my efforts when researching at the library. Since I’m planning a couple of research trips, these skills can become even more useful when I have a limited amount of time in a distant archive.

That being said, I do see where the iPad could become a primary research tool – especially for seniors who never used a computer but have found the iPad quite useful. Platforms like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org seem to be making it easy to get them started and I expect that’s a trend that will continue to grow.

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