Techy Stuff for Genealogy

We’re talking about computers & technology in US-REC Study Group.  We have chapters to read in Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy and in The Source, but honestly, I learn more tech tips from my genea-friends than books could ever cover.  So, in the spirit of sharing, here are some of the tech tools I use and how I leverage them for genealogy, if that is not their primary purpose.

Online storage:    I have a free Dropbox account that I keep filled up with genealogy photos and docs – particularly those that I might want to access on my phone.  Then, of course, there is Tonia’s Roots, which could be considered another form of storage as it has a copy of my genealogy database and most photos and images.  I’m also moving more and more of my research notes and plans to Evernote, so that I can access them across various devices.

Backup:  I’m a little obsessive about backups, because I have lost stuff before and I have worked too hard rebuilding my files to let it happen again.  I use Mozy for automatic backs of my entire hard drive.  I also make a manual backup from time to time and store it at my office.  Oh, and I keep a copy of my RootsMagic file on a flash drive that is almost always with me.

Phone:  iPhone

Phone apps: Evernote and Dropbox (see Online storage above); Gedview, which is just a great tool; Scanner Pro (although honestly, I find myself using this more for work than genealogy); and Ancestry.  I also have Tonia’s Roots pinned to the screen, so I can access it with one tap.

eBook Reader:  Kindle.  In addition to traditional genealogy books, I also convert genealogy journals that I receive electronically to Kindle format, so that I can read them on the go.

Tablet computer: Not yet, but there is an iPad in my very near future.

Text editor/word processor:  I use Microsoft Word for traditional word-processing and Notepad++ if I’m doing anything code-related.

Spreadsheet:  I use Excel – a lot.  Spreadsheets are my go-to resource for anything that needs to be presented in tabular form and especially for information that would be more easily analyzed if it were sorted or filtered.

Downloadable forms:  CensusTools – I use a modified version the CensusMate spreadsheets and have used the Census Tracker.  Most other downloadable forms I have found are in pdf format, so I usually download forms for ideas and then create my own version in Word, Excel, or OneNote, depending on how I plan to use it.

Note taking:  Evernote and OneNote.  I’m looking forward to trying out Note Taker HD when I get the iPad, and I also want to try out Awesome Note for both phone and tablet (it syncs with Evernote).

Graphics/Image editing program:  Photoshop Elements, Picasa, Irfanview.

Screen capture:  Windows snipping tool.

Social bookmarking:  Diigo is currently my favorite social bookmarking site.  I love that I can highlight text when bookmarking.

PDF generator:  Bullzip

Genealogy database:  Rootsmagic is my main genealogy program, but I also use Legacy (affiliate link) from time to time.  And TNG.

Podcasts:  I love genealogy podcasts!  I commute a couple of days a week, so by listening to podcasts, I feel like I haven’t lost those four hours.  I listen to the Family Tree Magazine podcast, Genealogy Gems (both free and premium), Genealogy Guys, and have recently added Geneabloggers Radio.

Mailing lists/message boards/online groups:  I subscribe to the TNG user group, Rootsmagic user group and Transitional Genealogists mailing lists.  I have RSS feeds for the Rootsweb message boards for many of my surnames and ancestral locations.  And, of course, the US-REC study group on Facebook.

Online classes/webinars:  I have watched several Legacy and FamilySearch webinars and I’ve done some of the online classes available through NGS.  I want to watch some of the SCGS webinars, but haven’t worked them into my schedule yet (there is one coming up on February 4 that I really want to see).

Online publishing:  WordPress and TNG

This is not an exhaustive list, but I think it covers the main tech tools that I use on a regular basis.

Any suggestions on other things I should try out?



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  1. says

    Great article.

    I automatically back up my Rootmagic 5 database to my Dropbox account. Works great.

    I also use ScreenHunter 5.1 to capture both partial and full screen images. Great screen capture program.

    • Tonia Kendrick says

      Thanks Greta. Just what I need – more distractions. : ) Seriously, though, I’m looking forward to having a new gadget to play with.

    • Tonia Kendrick says

      Thanks for the advice, Mark. I’ve researched the different tablets pretty extensively – that’s one reason I don’t have one yet – I couldn’t decide which one I wanted. I seriously considered an android, but for a variety of reasons settled on the iPad.

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