Last year at the FGS conference, I visited a vendor booth for a new web-based service to keep research logs, called Research Ties. The program had not been released at that time, so I signed up for the mailing list. When I was planning the sessions I wanted to attend at RootsTech and spotted one called “Research Ties: An Online Research Log.” I thought it was probably the same program, but since I hadn’t received any email about a launch, I checked their website and recognized the logo. I immediately added this session to my calendar.
I was intrigued with what I saw while attending the session, so I signed up for a two-week free trial. My two weeks is almost up, so here’s my experience.
The program is pitched as an advancement on paper logs, word processor logs, and spreadsheet logs. I use a spreadsheet, so I was curious to see if it really was faster and more efficient.
What I Liked About Research Ties:
- I like the idea of having my log accessible via the web. While I almost always have access to my spreadsheet, if I’m at a repository with only my iPad, using the spreadsheet is difficult.
- I really like the templates for creating research objectives. They are well thought out, thorough, and specific. Here’s a screen shot of the “Add Objective” screen (click to enlarge):
And a sample objective that I wrote using the template: ”Search the probate records of Murray County, Georgia for the surname Baxter.”
- I also like the template for formulating a search statement.
Here’s a screen shot of the objective above with a search and search result attached:
What I Didn’t Like About Research Ties:
- While the idea of online access to my research log was attractive, the reality didn’t measure up. I first tried using the program over 3G at the Family History Library and it was so slow as to be unusable. I tried again when I got home, using my own wifi, but it’s still so slow that I can’t stand the wait.
- It requires too much duplicate data entry. Surnames, families, repositories, sources, places – they all have to be entered into this program in order for it to work. Yes, you can upload a small gedcom (no more than 100 names recommended), but I just didn’t see that as a viable alternative. I could pick a few names that I’m working on right now to create a gedcom, but then I’d have to do it again when I move on to a different set of names. I especially didn’t like entering all the source information into separate fields, when I’ve already done that in RootsMagic source templates.
- It’s not always clear what information should go in the fields. Some fields give a clue, but some don’t.
- I also found that the drop-down lists for fields didn’t always work. In fact, sometimes the same field would produce a drop-down list if I was using my iPad, but not my laptop or it would produce a drop-down list one day but not the next on the laptop.
- The reports don’t make sense to me. I can run a report of objectives, or a report of searches, or a report of results. . .but not all three at the same time. The results report includes the related “search,” but not the objective.
The Bottom Line:
It’s too slow for me. When I was at the Family History Library, I felt like I was wasting valuable, and limited, research time by waiting on the screens to load, so I finally gave up.
At home, I could have put up with the duplicate data entry if it went faster, but it’s still too slow. I can enter the information (or copy and paste) in my spreadsheet much, much faster. And I can sort and filter to my heart’s content to get just the information I want to look at and create reports that make sense to me.
If you would like to try out Research Ties, click here. I would advise you to read the slides and posts in the learning center and blog first.
As for me, I’m sticking with my spreadsheet.