New Presentation Idea: Tech Tools for Technologically-Challenged Genealogists

While I was working on a project last night, it suddenly struck me: I use a lot of different technology tools to do various tasks involved in genealogical research. I had been banished from my desktop computer because my wife needed to feed her Solitare and Mahjong addictions. I shuffled off to the family room, hopped on the laptop, opened up my Dropbox folder, and continued working right where I left off.

*Ding!* It occurred to me that probably only a handful of people in the local, “offline” genealogy societies had probably ever even heard of Dropbox, let alone how it could be useful in their research. Most of these sorts of tools, while technology-based, really aren’t all that scary, and don’t take a great deal of effort to learn to use effectively. It’s time to take these tools to the masses.

I think I will call this presentation: “Ten Hi-Tech Tools for Low-Tech Genealogists, ” One benefit of the format is that it allows a different selection of ten tools each time out of the gate. They can be adjusted according to anticipated audience proficiency, but also added and dropped as new things come along.

Here are the ten I started with (in no particular order), and I will be adding more as they come to me.

  1. Dropbox – here, there, and everywhere
  2. Transcription (transcription software with built-in image viewer)
  3. Digital camera – the wand scanner before there was a wand scanner
  4. Picassa – free and easy
  5. Google (focus on reader and alerts)
  6. Evernote – I just started playing around with this one
  7. SnagIt – sure SHIFT+PrtScn works, but this works better
  8. FamilySearch (highlighting catalog and wiki, rather than collections)
  9. Social Media – it need not frighten you
  10. Blogs – it’s a funny word, isn’t it? What you can find in other folk’s blogs, and why you might want to start one

Of course, at about five minutes per tool, this is not a study in excruciating detail – just a way to share some things people might want to check out a little further for themselves. What tools do you use that you think should be added to the list?

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11 Responses to New Presentation Idea: Tech Tools for Technologically-Challenged Genealogists

  1. Chris: I like your list! I also posted a blog today about using Dropbox! You may check it out at http://www.susansgenealogyblog.com

  2. avatar Patti Hobbs says:

    Chris, I lead a “workshop” monthly for our genealogical society, and I’ve often mentioned DropBox and EverNote. But I think using EverNote in genealogy would be a good presentation all on its own. I personally have never seen the advantage to using transcription software since you can just open two windows in a screen.

    I just used EverNote in the last couple of days to plan my research in Salt Lake City next month. I set up a notebook called “Salt Lake City January 2012″ and have created a note with each county of research. I copied and pasted the information from the old catalog. Since the text is in tables in the old catalog, it’s editable and I can insert notes to remind myself what I’m looking for or to take notes as I look at the microfilm.

    • avatar Chris Staats says:

      Patti,
      I’ve not used the transcription software that much recently, although some swear by it. Since Win 7 makes it easy to use things side by side, that’s generally how I’ve done things lately.

      I can create all kinds of notes – I just wish I could create a trip to SLC :)

  3. Chris, I like your list. I would add Box.com (when I sign up on a mobile device, I got a bonus — 50 GB instead of just 5) and BackUpMyTree.com (automatically backs up GEDCOM files and database files from RootsMagic, Legacy, TMG, et al).

  4. avatar Jean says:

    Chris, this is an interesting concept. I think it just might be a winner. Most of these are topics on which whole presentations are/can be given, but that can be a little intense for many at the low-tech level but might be good follow ups to this idea.

  5. Dropbox Would be a good addition to the list and easy to cover in a short time.

  6. avatar Debbe Hagner says:

    What about ONENOTE… I have been playing with that one…

  7. avatar Nancy says:

    Thanks for this list, Chris. I need to investigate.

  8. Chris,

    I’ve been thinking about something similar. The one tool I use all the time that I don’t see listed is a multi-clipboard. I use M8′s FreeClip, but I’m sure there are others. Absolutely indispensable for writing source citations, even if you use source citation templates in genealogy databases.