Geneablogger: Week #14 Prompt – Genealogy 2.0

Geneabloggers was founded by Thomas MacEntee to unite people globally through their love of genealogy and blogging.  Members are spread all across the world and united with these common bonds and a fantastic FaceBook group!

MacEntee cites:

The purpose of Geneabloggers? Well we have lots of people new to blogging and genealogy. Geneabloggers offers them a community of helpful people who were once at a starting point too – we offer advice, tech tips, and organize group events such as Tombstone Tuesday, etc. This helps people post on certain topics especially when they don’t know what to post about. The level of involvement from bloggers is varied and there are really no requirements for membership – free and easy I guess.

Week #14 topic: Talk about the different types of technology you use in your genealogy research. Whether it’s a new search engine, a special application, or anything else “2.0,” let readers know what you’re working with, and how it’s working for you.

Special thanks to We Tree for these fantastic blog prompts!

Genealogy On-The-Go

When I go off into the world of paper and archives I like to have my whole family tree with me.  Yes, folks, I realize how absurd that sounds, but it’s helpful.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve run across an ancestor that I wasn’t researching and knew that we were related but just couldn’t put my finger on how, or his birth date, or his first wife… or whether or not he was excommunicated from the church (long story).  I’ve found that having all the info at my fingertips lets me do a quick query and know for certain if “John Doe” is really my John Doe or someone else’s.

I like to have a good mobile solution that’s quick, easy to use, and provides me just the right amount of data.  Being so picky, I’ve tried out several before I finally settled on one.  I rate them on their ability to integrate with my computer genealogy software and ease / speed of use.  You all might know that I’m the Co-Editor of iPhonespaz.com, so that leads me to also want a  solution that fits in the palm of my hand.  Geneabloggers, I’m going to be breaking all the rules today and review two iPhone apps in this blog post rather than posting them on iPhonespaz first; you guys are going to get a sneak peak at my take on these two apps!

MyNeChimKi created web-app

In a time before there were native apps for genealogy on the iPhone I used a template created by one of the users of LeisterPro Reunion to make an iPhone version of my online family tree.

This worked rather well, except there was no built in search function.  Scrolling through the all the surnames in my tree was cumbersome and, frankly, annoying.  The quickest way to find anything in the online iPhone version was to go through from the home person (me) through the relationships.  I’m sure that I could have coded some kind of search function, but since LeisterPro’s website was promising an iPhone app, I didn’t bother to take the time.

MobileFamilyTree

In the process of waiting for LeisterPro to release their iPhone app, I stumbled up on MobileFamilyTree [iTunes link].  MobileFamilyTree retails for $4.99 (which is on the high end for what I like to spend on apps), but it has these amazing graphics.  It also happens to sync with a native Mac genealogy software app: MacFamilyTree.

Now, at this point I was pretty attached to my LeisterPro Reunion 9 software, but I was willing to change if I was going to get the benefit of a iPhone app (LeisterPro didn’t seem to be giving any timeline on production for their native iPhone app).  And to be perfectly honest, I’m an absolute sucker for good graphics.  Both the desktop app and the iPhone app deliver on that front (though the desktop app is much more impressive; another topic entirely, though).

The major problem that I have with MobileFamilyTree is that it isn’t based on a “home” person.  I’m used to having myself as a starting point.  In MobileFamilyTree everything is generated off of a search.  Also, the app runs slow if you have a large database that you’re working with (mine currently has over 7,000 individuals).  I find myself doing the age old “double tap home” button to get rid of the frozen app more often than I’d like with this.

To get family information, that’s yet another click.  You don’t immediately see family group sheets displayed.  To me this is annoying because I want to know who someone was married to and what the names of their kids are right off the bat.  I rarely ever need only the individual’s info.  This, is something I don’t think they’re likely to fix in future app updates since this goes along with the way that the desktop app is structured.

LeisterPro Reunion for iPhone

Clearly it pays to be patient.  LeisterPro finally released their iPhone version that works with Reunion 9.09 and later.  LeisterPro Reunion for iPhone [iTunes link] retails for a whopping $14.99.  And yes, that’s an exorbitant amount for an app.  If I wasn’t so attached to my Reunion software I wouldn’t even consider it, but sadly the moment I received my email from LeisterPro I ran out and purchased it.

And was I disappointed?  Not in the least!  The Reunion iPhone interface looks quite a bit like the desktop application, a pseudo-family group sheet view that begins with your home person.  On the outside it looks like a watered-down version of the desktop app, but click the wrench in the top right corner and you’ll find that Reunion iPhone isn’t at all watered down. 

From that little “wrench” menu you have the ability to sync with your desktop program, search for family members, access your family tree bookmarks (people within your family), see your treetops, view sources, and more.

Both LeisterPro Reunion and MacFamilyTree sync both ways with their iPhone counterparts.  Which means, if you’re out doing genealogy on the fly you can enter some basic info into your iPhone tree and the come home later and sync with your desktop.  Both programs use wifi syncing, so you have to be connected to the same wifi network as your desktop application before you can transfer the data.

Websites I consistently utilize in searching for family members

Like everyone else out there, there are a few staples that I don’t think any genealogist can live without any more:

And while I love being able to find genealogical gems on the internet, I have to admit I still rely heavily on paper, microfilm, and your “go-find-it” research.  With that in mind, one of my favorite resources has become My[insert your state here]Genealogy.com.  It’s a quick and handy reference for all the counties and states in America to find what courthouse carries what, what courthouse had burns, and some basic geographical information (like what counties were formed from what counties at what time in history).  Before I write courthouses for information I usually do a quick Google search to see if I can find the exact page and reference that I need.  I usually do this by searching with the terms “[insert county], [insert state] genealogy” and I’m usually routed to the GENWEB site or some of the other volunteer maintained sites that are out there.  I’ll search their online databases and records to see if I can find my ancestor and the reference of the original document before I call or write the courthouse blind.  This has helped me immensely increase my results when I do request records, and I think that the clerks at the courthouses probably appreciate that type of organization.

Surprisingly, I’ve found quite a bit of good genealogical records by doing Google Book Searches for my ancestors names.  The exciting thing about this particular resource is that often, these obscure books that we genealogists are looking for are found with the full text available online!  Additionally, many of them you are able to download to your own computer, allowing you to save important source information.

Finally, I’m very lucky that my local library allows researchers who have applied for a library card to have full access HeritageQuest by inputting their library card number into the log-in screen through the library’s homepage.  HeritageQuest is an excellent resource, but is often too cost prohibitive for individual researchers who aren’t part of a larger organization that pays for an institutional license.

Genealogy 2.0

Certainly the web is making genealogy a much more accessible research field.  I’ve enjoyed helping friends on Twitter do some research on occasion.  So these social networks make, well, networking easier for us.  However, I still think that a good genealogist is going to want to go back and look at the original documents.  I know that I, for one, hardly ever trust transcriptions to not make at least one error.  I wouldn’t be offended if anyone reading a transcription that I did wanted to go back and make sure I didn’t make a mistake, and so I hope that people understand the reasons that I reverify other’s work.  

I think the web is a good starting place now, but it’s not yet the be-all-to-end all.  I think as more document sets get scanned and become widely available then we’ll really be talking about some good stay-at-home genealogy.  I’ll be interested to find out what happens with the Preserving the American Historical Record bill, as I think it just might have the potential to change how we’re storing our historical records.  It could open doors for genealogy that were previously unavailable.

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