Family history in your pocket

Family history in your pocket

My Kindle Touch continues to amaze me. I’m constantly finding new ways to put this little reader to use as a research tool. And, while it doesn’t support genealogy database software, that doesn’t mean it can’t be used to keep your family history with you wherever you go. Here’s how I do it. I’m using Reunion for the Mac which has several nice reporting features. I use it to create a Family…

View On WordPress

Creating Kindle Docs

My fascination with the Kindle is two-fold. Yes, I love the reader itself because it’s just the right size and so easy to use, but it’s also the reader of choice for a growing number of people in my family. We have our own little community of Kindle users which continues to grow as older members upgrade and pass their old readers on to the younger crowd. Not only do we share books, but thanks to the Kindle Personal Document Service, I can create and share family stories quite easily.

No, you don’t need any special software to create a document to send to a Kindle device. All you need is an app that can save documents in Word format (.doc or .docx). Once your document is created and saved, send it on to the Kindle (or Kindles) of your choice and Amazon will convert your Word document into Kindle format before delivering it to the device(s). Here are some formatting tips to give you the best results possible:

  • Stick to one font throughout the document and use a standard font rather than a decorative one.
  • Take advantage of your word processor’s styles feature to format headings and paragraphs. Use the Normal style to define things like paragraph indention and space between paragraphs. Not familiar with styles? See the All About Styles fact sheet below.
  • To force a new page to begin at a specific point in the text, use the Insert > Page Break command.
  • Don’t use the Return key to add space within the document.
  • Using bold and italicized text is fine, but headers and footers, bullet points and fancy fonts won’t convert so leave them out.
  • You can include tables, if needed. Just remember that screen size is quite limiting and large tables will be difficult to read. Use the Insert > Table command to add you table to the document.
  • Take advantage of Word’s table of contents generator if your document is large enough to need one.
  • Images should be inserted using the Insert > Picture command to insert an image file. Don’t use copy/paste . Only use JPEG format for your images and insert them on a blank line using center alignment.
  • For e-Ink readers, generally an image sized at 600 x 800 pixels will fill the screen. Size limit for each image is 127KB.
  • It’s okay to use color images (not every Kindle is black and white) but e-Ink devices will display them in 16 shades of gray. My experience is that images with less contrast (like screen shots with lots of white background) look quite washed out on those screens.

You can distribute your document to your family using their Kindle’s email address. You will need to get that address from them and have them add your sending address as an authorized source for personal documents in their account. You can also send them the Word document and they can use the Send to Kindle app [Win & Mac – free] to send it to their device themselves.

What about those people who don’t have their own Kindle devices? There are free Kindle reading apps for desktops, iOS and Android devices, Windows Phone and Blackberries. If none of those works, there’s the Kindle Cloud Reader for browsers.

Creating content to read on a Kindle device is easy enough that it’s not only a great way to share your family history stories with your family, it’s also a convenient way to build your own research reference library on your own Kindle. Try it yourself and see!

Build your own family history distribution system

If your family is like mine, there’s a growing number of Kindle owners among your relations. Have you considered what a fabulous family history opportunity those devices provide? Take advantage of Amazon’s Personal Document Service and its related Send to Kindle feature to build your own family history distribution system. The first step in building your system is getting the email address of each relative’s Kindle device and having them include your email address as an authorized distributor. Then you need to create your family stories in a format that’s easily read on their devices.

Attached is a Word document formatted to fit the small Kindle e-ink screen with custom styles set to appropriate fonts for easy reading on those devices. Follow the simple instructions included in the document to create and deliver your stories to your family Kindles.

KindleDoc01.jpg
Personal document template for Kindle.

While this document is designed for the e-ink Kindle devices, it will also work quite well on the NOOK e-ink readers along with Kindle, NOOK and iPad tablets. On the tablets, you should be able to read it in landscape view as a two-page spread. Go ahead and include color images in your projects. The tablets will display them beautifully and the e-ink devices will automatically convert them to grayscale.

This template file is a Word document, but can be opened in Apple’s Pages word processing app as well. Either way, the final document should be sent to the Kindle as a PDF file for best results.

>> eReader Template Download

Family history in your pocket

My Kindle Touch continues to amaze me. I’m constantly finding new ways to put this little reader to use as a research tool. And, while it doesn’t support genealogy database software, that doesn’t mean it can’t be used to keep your family history with you wherever you go. Here’s how I do it.

I’m using Reunion for the Mac which has several nice reporting features. I use it to create a Family History Report for the families I’m actively researching and choose the number of generations I want to include. I set the report’s format to rich text (RTF) and save the file. Next, I open the exported report in my word processing app (iWork’s Pages) and reformat it to fit my Kindle Touch’s screen. I’ve created a custom page setup that is 6″ x 8″ with ¼” margins all around and no header or footer. This has been saved so now all I do is select it and the text is re-arranged to fit. [I’m pretty sure you can save custom setups with Word too.] The last formatting step is to select all the text and set the font to Times New Roman at 12pt to insure readability. Finally, save and export the file to PDF format.

Getting the document to the Kindle is easy. All I have to do is email it. Each Kindle device – and the Kindle apps now too – has its own email address. If your Kindle is connected (either by wifi or 3G), you’ll see it appear on the device almost immediately. If it doesn’t, tap the Menu button and choose the Sync and Check for Items option.

Repeat these steps for each of the family groups you want to keep with you.

NOTE: Kindle’s personal document service accepts RTF files, but will convert them to Kindle format before sending them to your device. This will strip a lot of the formatting – especially the indenting – used to make these reports more readable. That’s why I take the time to resize, format and export them to PDF myself.

Notepad-Plus
Notepad Plus

You have the same annotation capabilities with these personal documents that Kindle offers for its books. You can highlight text, add notes and share right on the Kindle. The resulting annotations are synched back to your Kindle library at Amazon. Yes, it’s a manual process to get these notes back into your genealogy database, but the advantage of having that little Kindle with you wherever you go means you can capture those serendipitious tidbits of family history whenever they happen.

But that’s not all . . . For 99¢ you can add Notepad Plus to your Kindle Touch and take long notes, keep a todo list or even a shopping list on your Touch. Amazon doesn’t call them apps, but rather “active content”. They’re a far cry from similar apps on any tablet, but they can still be quite handy when all you have with you is your Kindle.