My Favorite Tech Things for Genealogy

A while back, I read a blog post about the writer’s top techie things used for genealogy research. That idea caught my fancy so here are my favorite techie toys that I use for my family history research.

Technology encompasses a wide array of items, depending on how it is viewed, so my list has been created around computer usage.

  1. FamilySearch – If I could only have access to ONE genealogical website, I would have to choose FamilySearch, and although it is free, that is not why I would choose it.

FamilySearch has a wide variety of records that, on the whole, are more accurately indexed than some other sites and is more user friendly in terms of wild card searches. Its databases are being expanded almost daily and FamilySearch holdings encompass and overlap many of those found on other sites.

2. Flash Drive – The prices of flash drives with huge storage capabilities have come way down. With photocopy machines now being able to scan and save digital images, a flash drive is indispensible, both on the road when new documents are found and at home as one (but not sole) back up method for images.

The brand doesn’t matter to me – I look for good prices and huge storage. I’ve only ever had one flash drive work inconsistently for me, but, I repeat, a flash drive should never be a one-and-only backup system.

3. Snagit – I have used Irfanview and Screen Hunter for web clipping and both do a good job. Snagit had a sale around the first of the year after a webinar I attended so I decided to buy it.

The regular price is only $39.95, (UPDATE: Price has been increased to 49.95) so the cost isn’t prohibitive even full priced and there is a free trial version available.

Snagit is like a combination of web clipper and a mini-Photoshop and is really easy to use. It handles both images and video, although I haven’t used the video portion.

A little tab peeks down from the top of my screen. When I need to clip something, I just move the cursor to the tab and the Snagit menu drops down, ready to use. There are multiple tools to add arrows, text in color, etc. to an image. I love it!

4. WordPress – Yes, I use WordPress to write Empty Branches, but WordPress has enable me to put my genealogical research thoughts into words and then motivated me to delve further into a genealogical mystery or brick wall.

Although Empty Branches is self hosted, there is a free option to use WordPress not only to create a blog, but also to host it.

Without WordPress, I wouldn’t have made all my new blogging friends and, even more importantly, I wouldn’t have connected with a number of not-so-distant (2nd and 3rd) cousins, who found me because I blogged about our common ancestors.

If you have ever considered starting a blog, but haven’t gotten around to it, I urge you to try the free WordPress options. You can keep the blog private until you feel comfortable.

It is a great tool for guiding future research.

5. Dropbox – I love Dropbox! I followed all their suggestions to earn extra free storage and it has been more than enough for my needs.

I do use Dropbox as another backup system (along with two other professional companies who back up my computer on a regular basis), but Dropbox is terrific for sharing multiple images and old photos with cousins. A handful of images are easy to email, but recently, for example, I shared 200 images with a cousin. Email isn’t practical for that many items, but I created a shared folder on Dropbox, he downloaded the images on his own computer (not just syncing, as then the images would be gone when I deleted the folder) and I could then delete the folder.

6. Genealogical Software – The jury is still out on this one. I am using Family Tree Maker to enter new information and attach new images, but I have not synced it to Ancestry for about a year. I am also in the midst of leaving FTM, in spite of the fact that it has been given new life with Software MacKiev.

I have pared my five possible replacements down to three:

Family Historian 6

Legacy 8

RootsMagic 7

I have done the most work with RootsMagic, but am finally making some headway with Family Historian and am ready to jump into Legacy. I doubt that I will have made my final choice until much later this year. All three programs are still in the running to become my primary software program.

Those are a few of my favorite things. What are yours?

 

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