Interesting Looking Tech Things for Genealogy

There are all kinds of BSOs (bright, shiny objects) out there with genealogical applications to tempt and draw in new users.  Today, I am sharing a few items of which I am aware, but haven’t ever jumped in and started using. I would love reader comments and feedback if you regularly use any of these products.

  1. Evernote – Yes, I know Evernote (and variations like One Note) have been around for quite a while and I do have some basic skills using Evernote. However, I can’t seem to seriously adopt it for widespread use in my life. I use it almost exclusively at genealogical meetings and conferences to take notes on my iPad.

There are people who use Evernote for all kinds of lists, from genealogy to grocery shopping. I don’t, mainly because if I don’t have internet access, my lists will be of no use to me. I live in the Tucson area and 3G and cell phone internet can be spotty in places. I’ve had trouble using my cellphone in the local supermarket. Thoughts, anyone?

2. Scrivener – is a program to organize your thoughts for writing using a virtual storyboard. There is a one time cost of $40, but it often can be found on sale. There is a free 30 day trial – actual days of use, not calendar days – and I have dabbled in this program. I also attended Thomas MacEntee’s and Lisa Alzo’s mini boot camps on Scrivener.

Like Evernote, I think Scrivener is a terrific product for those who need it. Mr. Ruffing, one of my high school English teachers, assigned a report and decided for that particular assignment, it would help everyone to organize their thoughts by creating note cards with one thought per card. That was the low-tech version of Scrivener.

To me, that just created a lot of extra work because I didn’t feel I needed note cards to create a quality report. Plus, the note cards were due long before the report so I had twice as much work to do to meet the first deadline. I had to complete all my research, write the report and then create the redundant note cards, all by the time the cards were due. I met the deadline, turned in my cards and earned an “A” on them and then sat back until the actual report was due. I also received an “A” on that part of the project.

I realize that many people don’t feel as comfortable putting their thoughts down on paper and, for them, Scrivener is a wonderful tool. Check it out and see if it works for you.

3. Research Ties – is a program I first learned about at RootsTech a couple of years ago. It is a subscription site – $30 per year. There is also a free trial version. What does it do?

Research Ties has a lot to offer, including the ability to search your research log or notes, so the suggestion is made to create only one log for all genealogical research.

There is a robust Learning Center, explaining how to use all these features:

Besides being an electronic research log, Research Ties provides a method to set objectives, research and record the outcome. T

There are a handful of other programs out there now that are similar to Research Ties, but this one looks intriguing to me.

Have you had any experience with Research Ties?

4. PicMonkey – is a free photo editing program.

I have used PicMonkey a couple of times, but would like to become more familiar with it and use more of its features. I like it because, with my limited knowledge and use, it has been very user friendly.

Photos can be edited by highlights, contrast, crops, etc., but collages can also be created. That is a tempting idea for someone with a lot of family photos.

Royale is apparently the upgraded, pay version of PicMonkey. The monthly cost is $4.99 or $33 per year. For anyone who edits lots of pictures, this is a pretty inexpensive way to do it. Photoshop is a lot more robust, but costs more and has a much steeper learning curve. I need to spend some time becoming more proficient with PicMonkey!

5. Custodian 4 for Family Historians – is a program out of the U.K. designed to help you to store, index and organise the information you have gathered from all kinds of family history records. Use specialised forms for many record types, build family trees, compile mini-biographies, maintain a library list and keep track of your correspondents and research notes.

Use Custodian for general family history research, one-name studies, indexing projects, local history and one-place studies. Keep a computer-based version of all your paper records, documents and lists in one place and minimise endless searching for paperwork.” as described on the website.

The software costs £24.95 or about $35.25 U.S and is only available for PCs. There are many data entry forms and features in Custodian 4 and I am not sure how they are all used. Many are geared to U.K. records, but the Census category includes U.S. censuses. Family trees can be built and exported. I can’t tell from the Features list if trees can also be imported.

This is another program that looks very intriguing. At $35, it is a bit expensive for wanting to try it out and I don’t see an option for a free trial.

Have you used Custodian 4 for Family Historians? I suspect that it is much more widely used in the U.K., but I do want to know more about it.

6. Trello is the last of the interesting looking tech tools to be discussed in this post. In some ways, it reminds me of Scrivener because it uses cards to organize ideas. However, while Scrivener is a tool to organize writing, Trello is used to organize projects, lists and miscellaneous information. Non-genealogical uses might include organizing electronic documents and messages for an up-coming trip or creating cards with Christmas gift suggestions for friends and family and then accessing them on your phone or iPad as you shop.

As noted, Trello is free when you sign up. There is also an upgraded, pay version for those who need to manage multiple projects.

In terms of genealogy, I would use Trello for, say, collecting all my notes and images in one place for my Astle family, which is small enough to be considered more like a one-name study. I don’t think Trello actually collects the images, but I could create notes describing those images.

I would also use it in the same way when I was doing research with an even more specific focus, like on my husband’s black sheep ancestor, Isaac Sturgell, who managed to leave a paper trail from Ohio to Missouri to Arkansas in many counties.

As with Scrivener, Thomas MacEntee and Lisa Also also recently held a Trello boot camp, which I also attended. Now I need to go back and review all that was presented.

Readers don’t often leave comments on blog posts, but if you have experience with any of these techie toys for genealogy, I would greatly appreciate any thoughts, comments, recommendations or suggestions you have about them. I also hope that, with the exception of Evernote, which I think is fairly well known nowadays, I’ve given you some new products to check out on your own.


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