Research Notes

Genealogy in My Pocket

Have you seen the new update to Ancestry.com’s iOS app? It’s very nice! Randy Seaver has a full review of the update at Genea-Musings if you want to learn more. There are a growing number of genealogy-related apps available for iOS, Android and even Windows devices. Some of them are simple, yet smart – like the BillionGraves Camera App that captures the location of the grave using the device’s builtin GPS services along with the photo of the headstone. And, you can add details about the grave and marker while you are standing in front of it. 

 Others, like Mobile Family Tree, are quite impressive. I’ve found I’m spending as much time in Mobile Family Tree [iOS – $14.99] as I am in its companion Mac Family Tree [Mac – $49.99]. Why? Because my iPad is always nearby when a thought or idea inspires me. The really interesting aspect of these companion apps is that both are fully-funtional alone and they keep their databases synched via iCloud. The synching is done automatically in the background. If I’m not mistaken, Mobile Family Tree is currently the only fully-functional genealogy app for mobile. I expect we’ll see more apps like this soon. 

By combining Mobile Family Tree and Evernote, I have a very functional mobile research platform. At this point I use it mostly for “spur of the moment” ideas or searches. And since my iPad is my reading platform of choice, I find I’m doing more and more record reviews and analysis here too. My big screen desktop still is my primary research platform because I can have multiple sites and programs open at the same time and easily move between them all. I don’t see that changing soon.

What I do love about my iThings is that one or both of them is always nearby when an idea strikes. The key to using them effectively is developing workflows. What is a workflow? Basically, it’s the steps involved in completing a task. The research workflows I learned in school were all paper-based. Yes, I can adapt those procedures to digital content, but it doesn’t save me any time or effort. The challenge is to develop a workflow to make my life easier. In my case it involved trading in notebooks, tabs and copied files for tags and smart searching. 

I don’t see my desktop computer going away anytime soon, but as my research transitions to a digital world I find that my mobile devices are taking on an even bigger role. 

Life is good.

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