April 25, 2014

7 Great Ways to Use Your iPad for Genealogy and Family History

use your ipad for genealogyYour iPad can be one of your best genealogy buddies. Its light weight design makes it a dream to tote (no more sore shoulders hauling a laptop bag around the library!) And it offers a gorgeous, vivid display, making it a true pleasure to review and share your findings.

If your tablet time has been limited to playing Angry Birds and checking your email, then it’s time to check out these 7 great family history uses for your iPad or other mobile device:

Family Trees

1. Access your online family tree (and even make changes) with apps like those from Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com.

Images

2. Take pictures of old family documents, photos, memorabilia and artifacts. From the iPad, you can upload and share them via Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, email, or access them from your other computing devices via cloud based storage such as Dropbox or iCloud.

Share

3. Put old family pictures on your iPad to share with your relatives. Click here to see how.

Capture

4. When you research your genealogy in libraries, use your iPad to take digital images instead of wasting time and money on photocopies. Image pages from a county or local history or take a snapshot (and a closeup) of a historical map. You can even take digital shots of microfilmed materials! Learn more here, and always get permission at each library before you start taking pictures.

Organize

5. Keep track of all your genealogy sources with Evernote–and keep all your sources at your fingertips by using the Evernote app. My new Evernote for Genealogists Quick Research Guides, available both for Windows and Mac users, are cheat sheets that will help you start using Evernote immediately across multiple platforms.

Read

6. Save genealogy and history e-books and pdfs to your iPad so you can read them anytime, anywhere. Click here to learn more.

Magazines & Podcasts

7. Use convenient apps to access great family history magazines and podcasts like these:

Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy PowerhosueAngry-Birds-is-a-perfect-videogameYou see, an iPad–or a tablet PC–isn’t just for Angry Birds and other games! You can use it for many of the same purposes, but iPads/tablets work differently and in very specific ways. You can learn more about using your tablet or iPad for genealogy from my book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse:

  • an in-depth look at over 65 apps;
  • 32 fabulous tricks and tips to make you a power user (and not just for genealogy!);
  • “see it for yourself” demos in recommended online videos.

Keep up to date with iPad/tablet developments other tech topics for genealogists by subscribing to my FREE e-newsletter.

Up next, read:

MyHeritage: A Genealogy App That Can Build and Edit Your Family Tree

5 Reasons You Need the New YouTube App for Family History

The 5th Generation iPad is on the Way and Will Possibly Include…

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Research with a Partner

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Dropbox for Genealogists

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Evernote for Genealogists

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Sharing Genealogy Files Online for Free

 

 

Best Genealogy Software: Which Should You Choose and Why

custom_software_box_12041Just about every major genealogy website these days lets you build your family tree from scratch right on their website. But you may wonder what will happen to millions of carefully-constructed trees if the company goes out of business or the site goes down.

Before the days of internet genealogy, researchers organized family history findings on their home computers in specially-designed software. These programs generated .GED files (called GEDCOMs), a universal file type that allowed researchers using different software to share their findings. Software like this still exists. These days it can communicate your research to any genealogy sites you care to share with–by using those same GEDCOM files.

If you do choose to build your family tree online, make sure you can download your tree anytime as a GED file. Keep this file as a backup both on your computer and in a second location (like cloud storage). But my recommendation is to build your tree at home, in your own software. Then you can upload or synch your data to your favorite genealogy websites whenever you want–and you never lose control of your research.

Choosing the Right Software

There are lots of family history programs out there, and all of them will serve your basic needs. But you only need ONE. What’s the best genealogy software? It depends on how much you want to spend and how sophisticated you want your database to be. In many cases, you can order the product or purchase a digital download. I really don’t think you need the physical boxed product. All the help you need is online. All of these products offer a free demo that you can download to try it out before you buy.

FREE AND EASY: Family Tree Builder by MyHeritage helps you stay organized with streamlined screens to work in and doesn’t require a lot of startup time. Family Tree Builder offers lots of family history charts; custom reports; helps you share your data and pictures on a CD or DVD; allows you to back up your files to CD or DVD; and includes genealogy apps for mobile devices. Download the software FREE at the above link.

TOP SELLER-PC: Family Tree Maker is from the folks at Ancestry.com, so you should always be able to easily synch your results online at that site.

PC OPTION WITH GREAT REPORTS: If you’re looking for great printed reports that you can share, and loads of free online help videos, then RootsMagic is a great choice. (and we are honored to have RootsMagic as a sponsor of The Genealogy Gems Podcast.) And they now have an iOS app.

Some of the differences you’ll find between these products is the types of reports and charts they produce. So if that’s important to you, you can try the demos and see which you like. But again, I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of these products. They are all well established and supported.

AFFORDABLE MAC OPTION: iFamily for Leopard is the most affordable at $29.95.  There’s a free demo you can try before you buy.

TOP-SHELF MAC OPTION: Reunion 10 is fairly pricey at $99.00. If you’re interested in Reunion, I highly recommend that you listen to Episode 51 of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. In that episode you can listen to a review of Reunion 9 by Ben Sayer, the MacGenealogist. And if you want to compare iFamily against Reunion to see what you’re getting for your money, you can also listen to Ben’s review of iFamily in Genealogy Gems Episode 53.

NGS 2014 App Available for Conference Attendees

NGS 2014 logoAre you attending the National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference in May in Virginia, USA? You’ll want the new 2014 conference app, now available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, and web-enabled devices. (Need a 5-minute video tutorial on using the app? Click the link above, then click on the App Video Tutorial.)

With the NGS 2014 app you’ll be able to receive breaking news, synch your schedule across multiple devices, connect with other attendees, plan which vendors to visit and more. Speaking of the vendor hall, stop by my booth (#618) early, say hello, and pick up my exclusive schedule of quick classes I’ll be offering free at the booth!

I’ll  also be teaching these classes:

  • Google Search Strategies for Common Surnames
  • Tech Tools that Catapult the Newspaper Research Process into the 20th Century
  • Find Living Relatives Like a Private Eye

Looking for more info? Here are some helpful URLS:

Conference blog

Guide for 1st-time NGS attendees  

Up-to-date hotel info

Genealogy Gift Ideas: Family History On-the-Go

Lisa Santa Hat 2These days, genealogists can take all their research “to-go” on their iPad or tablet. Here are some of my favorite genealogy gift ideas that harness the power of portable computing and a Black Friday / Cyber Monday Special you won’t want to miss!

If you aren’t already using an iPad or tablet for genealogy, consider what it can do for you:

  • keep your family tree and all your sources at your fingertips with tools like the Ancestry and RootsMagic apps;
  • all kinds of imaging: document and photo scanning, microfilm imaging (right from the reader!) and a built-in regular and video camera for shots of relatives, tombstones, family artifacts and heritage sites;
  • share cool finds on the spot–when great-grandpa comes up in conversation you can pull up his picture on the gorgeous tablet display;
  • collaborate with other researchers with great free tools like online file sharing services such as Dropbox.com, and free video calls with Skype; etc.
  • keep track of travel details, to-do lists and other needs (genealogy or not!) and MORE.

Now here are my gift picks, starting with the obvious: the iPad itself. To shop these items, please click on the links below so your purchases will help support the Genealogy Gems podcast. Thank you!

iPad

iPad 4 (with retina display, MD510LL/A, 16GB with Wifi, black). 5 MP forward- and rear-facing camera, a just-right-sized screen with gorgeous resolution, an HD video camera, plenty of storage for a portable device (with cloud storage, too, of course) and more. All this weighs in at less than 1.5 pounds, so it tucks easily in your messenger bag, backpack, purse, briefcase or even your laptop case. Click to get:Apple iPad with Retina Display MD510LL/A (16GB, Wi-Fi,) at a special discounted price.

 

Sound benderThe speaker on the iPad is fairly small and sometimes you just need to pump up the volume. Here’s the perfect, simple solution:
SoundBender 2.0 Easy-Fit Magnetic Sound Enhancer (for iPad 2, 3 and 4). This wireless sound amplifier is really cool and works great! I originally saw it on the TV show Shark Tank and bought one immediately. It magnetically secures to the side of your iPad and bends sound toward you for your music, videos, games, Facetime and of course your Genealogy Gems podcast episodes! Click to get: SoundBender 2.0 Easy-Fit Magnetic Sound Enhancer for iPad 2 & iPad 3 & iPad 4

 

iPad car headrest

iPad Car Headrest/Mount/Holder (for iPad 1, 2, 3 and 4). My Grandsons LOVE this!  Extra-long cable included. Turns your iPad into a backseat entertainment system. Perfect for watching movies, looking at pictures, playing games and more. Makes it more fun for non-researchers (adults and children!)  to be along for the ride on those genealogy road trips and solves the problem of “who gets to play with the iPad.” Straps onto the headrest of the seat in front; extra-long cable extends 6.5 feet. Doesn’t require tools. Click to get: Ipad Car Headrest Mount Holder for Apple Ipads 1-4 Including Extra Long Cable
mount

iPad Dashboard Car Mount.  Use the vacuum base to safely secure your tablet onto the windshield. No messy adhesives! Makes it easier to consult online maps, recipes, weather apps and of course all those genealogy apps when you need to be hands-free. Use it to listen to the Genealogy Gems podcast while you work out, clean, sort files, cook and more! (Just don’t watch it while you’re driving!) Rotatable stand moves 180-degrees for comfortable positioning, Rotating ball joint ensures a perfectly angled display Click to get: SQdeal Universal Dashboard Car Mount Holder Cradle For Apple iPads 1 – 4 /iPad Mini

Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhosue
Learn how to get the most out of your iPad with my book, Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse. Learn how to think like an iPad/tablet user (it’s different than desktop computing). Discover everyday apps to help you with household, travel, business and other tasks. And of course, learn the myriad of ways you can harness the power of mobile computing for your genealogy. (Like all those ways mentioned above – imaging and document scanning and MORE.)

Between Black Friday (11/29/2013) and Cyber Monday (12/2/2013), you can purchase this book along with ALL my other books in special 40% 0ff bundles:

$29.95 for the e-book bundle
$49.95 for the print bundle

How to Find U.S. Digital Libraries and Archives

download_books_online_library_400_clr_9076 (1)Ever wish there was a really easy directory for U.S. digital libraries and archives, organized by state with great commentary about the content? There is. But it’s not in a place most genealogists would look.

Open Education Database.org has a blog post called “250+ Killer Digital Libraries and Archives.”  The post is a LONG annotated list of digital libraries and archives that don’t require library memberships, subscriptions, etc. to access. (In other words, open access.) It’s organized by U.S. state, so you can scroll down to the states of most interest to your research.

Digital archives and libraries give us remote, fingertip access to original and published materials we might never otherwise know about or be able to access. Look here for books, government documents, photographs, manuscript items, memorabilia, audio recordings and more. This is a great resource for genealogists. Click the link above to get all the info.

Family History Episode 7 – Best Genealogy Websites, Part 1

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastOriginally published Fall 2008

Republished November 19, 2013

by Lisa Louise Cooke

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 7: Best Subscription Websites for Genealogy Research, Part 1

In our first segment, my guest is Lisa Alzo, popular genealogy lecturer and writer (now the author of nine books and online genealogy instructor at Family Tree University and the National Institute for Genealogical Studies). We talk about her reasons for researching her family history and what she’s learned in her genealogical journeys (which include international travel in Eastern Europe).

In the second half of the show, we tackle an essential topic: the best subscription sites for family history records. This is a two-part topic: in this episode I talk about the best genealogy websites that require payment to access their core content. In Episode 8, we’ll talk about the fantastic free websites that are out there.

Keep in mind that this episode was recorded a few years ago. As I mention in the show, the online records landscape is constantly changing. Here are a few updates:

  • The biggest powerhouse paid subscription website is still Ancestry: it’s just bigger and better than what I originally described. As of fall 2013, they host 11 billion historical records. Member-contributed items include over 50 million family trees and 160 million uploads of photographs, stories and scanned documents. They still have a free 14-day trial membership and multiple subscription options: check out current ones here.
  • WorldVitalRecords is still a great website, though it’s grown more slowly. At our republishing date, it boasts over 158 million digitized images, (including US and UK censuses); 300 million names from vital records; 75 million names from military records, over 100 million pages of newspapers dating from 1739; 1.5 million historical maps; 8000 yearbooks and over 30 million tombstone photos. WorldVitalRecords is now part of the MyHeritage.com family of websites. Click here for a free 3-day trial membership.
  • Findmypast now has two web storefronts: findmypast.com (recommended for folks in the U.S.) and FindMyPast.co.uk (which specializes in British and Irish roots and records). At last glance in fall 2013, findmypast hosts over 1.5 million family history records. It offers great search options and a budget-friendly pay-per-view model or a more traditional subscription.
  • RootsIreland is now home now to over 20 million Irish records.
  • Genline.com for Swedish research is still online, though it’s part of Ancestry.com now. It’s home to over 20 million church record images and more.
  • Scotland’s People is still your official home for online Scottish records, including an enormous collection of parish records with births and baptisms, banns and marriages and deaths and burials.
  • Many other sites support specific topics in genealogy research. An example on my side of the pond is Fold3 (formerly Footnote) for American military records. This site is home to over 400 million total records from the Revolutionary War era forward. Check with others who research families from the same location or ethnic background as your family to see what sites would be perfect for you.

Links

Ancestry

Findmypast.com

Findmypast.uk.com

Fold3

WorldVitalRecords

My website mentioned in the podcast, GenealogyGems.tv, is now better known as www.genealogygems.com. The Genealogy Gems newsletter mentioned in the episode is now my blog, which you can find on my website.

RootsTech 2014: Use your iPad for Genealogy Research at the Family History Library

flipboard_rootstechRT-Blogger-badge-150sqThinking about attending RootsTech in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2014? Then I’m guessing a trip to the Family History Library (FHL) is part of your plan. Here’s a great tip: bring your iPad or tablet computer and don’t make a single photocopy while you’re there!

Last year, I spent two days researching at the FHL before RootsTech got going. I was up and down a lot between floors, looking at all kinds of books, microfilmed and microfiched materials and even big old maps. On a previous trip, I would have spent a LOT of money on photocopying, even though the copy services there are very low priced. I would have wanted color copies of the maps, so that would have cost more. I would have wasted a lot of time in line to use the copiers–time I would have wanted to spend researching.

But I didn’t waste any time or money. I used my iPad. I have a generation 4 with the rear-facing, 5 megapixel camera, and I used it practically nonstop…

1. Copying material from books. Whenever I found a book page (or a few pages) I wanted to copy, I first imaged the cover pages with the source citation info. Then I imaged the inside pages, making sure the image captured the page number. When I needed to record that a book didn’t have anything on my ancestors, I put a sticky note on the inside front cover saying “checked for Johnsons, didn’t find” (or whatever), then imaged the page with the sticky note on it. This was easy and fast. I sometimes imaged books while standing right in the library stacks! I didn’t have a scanning app on my iPad at the time, but remember you can also use an app like Scanner Pro to scan multipage documents, convert them to PDFs and straighten out and enhance the images.

2012-2013 453

2. Copying material from microfilm. Okay, it’s not perfect quality, but you can take decent digital images of microfilmed material right from the microfilm reader. First, image the microfilmed page at the beginning saying what the source is (or a note with the source description or even the box with the microfilm number on it). Then stand just in front of the microfilm reader with the iPad. Point the camera down to the displayed image, taking care not to block the projection of the image from the reader above. Here’s an example of what it looks like. Like I said, it’s not perfect because of the angle and lighting. Glare can be a problem so you may want to take a few shots. But you can read these images and most of the time, you don’t need keepsake quality out of microfilm. You just need to capture data. I followed up with some cropping and enhancement editing right on my iPad.

 

Historic Map3. Copying material from a map or other folio items. The same general idea applies to imaging maps and other oversized materials. First, image the source citation information, often found on a label at the bottom of the page or on the back. Image the map key, including which way is north, scale, and other details. Then image as much of the map as possible to get an “establishing shot.” Finally, zoom in to the areas of greatest importance to you. Again, it’s not perfect. Laminated items may have glare issues as you can see by the shot shown here. But you may get what you need out of your digital image, especially if you move around so the glare isn’t covering the important areas on the map.

 

Remember to organize all your images when you get back to your hotel room or home while your memory of the visit is still fresh. Keep source citation shots together with the images you took. Load them into Evernote, if you use it. Organize them as you would other computerized research materials: in surname files, etc.

Finally, remember that fair use and copyright laws still apply to all images you take, whether on a photocopier or your personal digitizing equipment. The Family History Library does allow people to take their own digital images, but not all libraries and archives do. Some repositories rely on the income from copying to fund their facilities. ASK before using your iPad at other libraries! But as you can see, you can save yourself time and money–and have all your research notes and copies already digitized and ready for use on-the-go.

Sunny_Morton

This post was written by Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton. (Just so you know, I’m not a longtime iPad pro. I learned everything I know about using an iPad for genealogy from reading Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse. Then I adapted what Lisa taught me for the way I research.)

 

 

 

 

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Dropbox for Genealogists

Collaborative Cloud ComputingTo celebrate my article in the new issue of Family Tree Magazine (co-authored with Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton), I’m running a series of posts on teamwork tips and technology tools for collaborative research. This post covers one of my favorite free sharing tools: Dropbox.

A cloud storage service like Dropbox or iCloud is a dream come true for genealogy researchers who want to collaborate from across the living room or across the world. It’s also great for accessing your own research from multiple devices without ever having to copy it over: your home computer, laptop, tablet/iPad, smart phone.

Basically, Dropbox looks like any other file folder you keep on your computer. Open the folder, retrieve and save files to it like any other folder. But this folder lives online as well, so more than one person or computer (with approved access) can access it. You can save documents, images and other files in real-time. And it’s free!

What can you share on Dropbox?

  • Research sources. Photographs, documents, audio files of interviews, materials from books, etc. Basically any source material you can think of that can be preserved digitally!
  • Your to-do lists. Whether working alone or as a team, it’s important to have–and use!–a to-do list. The list should track specific tasks, like ordering an ancestor”s death certificate or searching for an obituary. For the article in Family Tree Magazine, the editors created a brand new Research Planner and Log: a comment-enabled PDF that lets you keep track of tasks, including when they’re done. This is a great document to use in Dropbox!
  • Research notes and writing. Think timelines, biographical sketches, drafts of writing projects, GEDCOM files (the universal file type for family tree data) and any other files related to getting the research done.
  • Links. Keep a file with your favorite links embedded in it, including links to digital books, vital records and other resources. You can simply copy and paste links into a word-processing file called “Links.” Include notes before or after each link, like “great local history blog for Marietta, Ohio.”

Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy PowerhosueFor more on using Dropbox and other collaborative tools on your tablet, check out my book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse, available as an e-book or in print.

I also hope you’ll check out our article “Teaming Up” in the December 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine. You’ll find more technology and teamwork tips, including more on Dropbox for genealogists.

Check out the other blog posts in this series:

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Research with a Partner

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Evernote for Genealogists

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Sharing Genealogy Files Online for Free

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Research with a Partner

two_figures_sharing_thoughts_400_clr_9157Recently Katharine, a Premium podcast member, asked for my advice on collaborating with a research partner. She wrote, “While I am primarily a digital researcher, and have divested myself of duplicate papers, my research buddy uses a lot of binders and has many unconnected families in various computer genealogy programs.  We need a good way to collect and focus our research.

As it happens, Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton and I just co-wrote an article on this topic. “Teaming Up” appears in the December 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine. In honor of this article, we’ve prepared a companion series of blog posts on collaborating and are hosting a FREE giveaway for a digital subscription to Family Tree Magazine.

First, check out these strategies for deciding how to work with someone.

First, don’t judge or try to change each other too much. If one of you really wants to learn new tech tools or organizational methods, that’s great. But your strategy for staying organized and connected should be as easy as possible for both of you so you can focus on the research itself. Requiring an old-school genealogist to suddenly master Skype, Evernote and Dropbox to work together might be as unfair as asking a newbie researcher to locate unindexed court records and transcribe them in German!

Next, play to your strengths. Is one of you super organized, or a fast typist, or great at merging GEDCOMS or another skill that would move your project forward? Does only one of you have direct access to certain research materials (databases, manuscript sources, etc)? Talk about your individual strengths and interests and then divide the workload accordingly.

Mix it up. Often in any collaboration, one person is more tech-savvy than the other. Sometimes a combination of traditional and up-to-the-minute technologies will work best. For example, maybe you’ll decide to keep your shared files in Dropbox but communicate by old-fashioned telephone instead of Skype. Maybe one of you will organize everything online (or at least on the computer) and then mail printouts to a non-computer-user for review.

1213FT TEAMWORK FEATUREWatch this blog for more on technology tools for collaborating, and check out our article (which has lots of great exclusive stuff!) in the December 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine , available by digital and print subscription.

Check out the other posts in this series:

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Dropbox for Genealogists

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Evernote for Genealogists

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Sharing Genealogy Files Online for Free

The Fifth Generation iPad is on the Way and will possibly include…

copyright Lisa Louise Cooke

copyright Lisa Louise Cooke

The website All Things D is reporting that Apple has announced it will hold a Fall iPad Event on October 22, 2014. The newest generation of iPad will possibly include:

  • a thinner and lighter design much like the iPad Mini
  • an improved camera
  • running Apple’s new 64-bit A7 chip
  • the Touch ID fingerprint sensor that recently debuted on the iPhone 5s
    (a big maybe??)

The second-generation iPad mini is also set for an upgrade with a retina display and possibly incorporating the A7.

Check out the article here.

Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhosue

 

And to learn how to use your iPad for your family history research, check out my book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse.