Friday, February 7, 2014

Smartphone - The Ultimate Genealogy Tool

Camera, Audio Recorder, Video Recorder, Apps and More

Used to be the that the best genealogy tool was a pencil and paper.  But the pencil and paper are being replaced by a tool many people already have: their phone, a smartphone to be exact.  The smartphone has changed many everyday activities and genealogy is one of them.  Having a smartphone as a great tool to your genealogy utility belt and I want to go though some features(many standard) that can help you with tracing your family tree.

Camera- Used to be that you had to take picture then get the film developed then put in an album or scan into the computer.  Then came digital cameras that where you could take pictures then upload the pictures to a computer.  The smartphone improves on all of this.  You can take a picture of anything (a document, a person or a tombstone)  then email it to yourself or share it on a social network.  This photo can be inserted directly from your email into a genealogy program.  This takes out the middleman and puts the picture in two locations(the phone and email) so that even if one is lost, it can still be retrieved.  This is great for family reunions, cemetery hopping or trips to the archives(policy dependent).  What used to take many steps to get from camera to record is now only one step and much easier.

Video camera - Similar to the camera video is also good to to record moments of for prosperity.  Imagine being able to not only see great-grandma but see everyone singing to her at her 85th birthday, even though you may never have met her.  Or better yet see yourself as a baby being held by a grandparent who had since passed on.  The video can be done on the phone and attached to the record of both people in it in the software.  Not as functional if you plan to print out a book like copy for relatives but still has use for family private website and other activities.

Audio recorder - Get the story straight from those who lived it.  I have been proponent of this since cassette tapes.  But they had the problem of getting that onto the computer(computer geeks could do that but not the rest of us).  Then came the .WAV file, you could record into a microphone and it would save as a file on the computer. This was great but you had to bring the story teller to your computer to be able to get this accomplished.  But the smartphone also allow you to record audio notes and store them on the phone or send them to email.  The files can then be easily transferred into your genealogy software.

Notepad/calendar - Smartphones also help us to remember to do things and what to do with them.  Question used to be “Does anyone have a pen so I can get Uncle Larry’s address and send him a family group sheet in the mail?”  Now you have a calendar you can put in a reminder when you know you will be home on a certain date and time with Uncle Larry’s address in the reminder and you can send it to him.  Even better if Uncle Larry has email you can email him your auto fillable pdf family group form and he can fill it out at the computer and email it right back to you.  

Apps, apps and more apps - The greatest feature of the smartphone may not be the hardware which we have just gone through but more importantly the software.  There are millions of apps available hundreds of them could be used in genealogy.  Some are good, some are junk.  The only real way to find out is to try them or read reviews about them.  I am going to put them into two categories: genealogy specific and the rest.

Genealogy specific: There are hundreds of “genealogy apps” with varying degrees to functions and   purpose.  Some are free, some are not.  Some will be useful to one person and the next person finds the app worthless.  Read the description and reviews and see if you think it will help you.  If the price point it good (cheaper the better) try it out then put your own review as a genealogist if you thought it was worth it.  

The rest:  there are many other types of apps that can be used in your research.  Maps are a good example especially when looking for something (a cemetery) you can find it on the map.  It may help you find it to go there or it may show you the place where someone is buried in another country.  

Internet in the field:  Having a smartphone in a cemetery has tremendous benefits if you have internet access.  You could verify dates and look for additional information or just Google the place of birth so see where in the world that place is.  

The smartphone is an invaluable tool for the genealogist and many of us already have one in our possession already that we use everyday. But this tool can be used in a genealogy setting and make data more accurate and get us deeper into our family story.

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