Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tech Tools for Research

I think most of the tech tools that I use for genealogical research are pretty much the same as what I use when I do research for work. They both involve online and offline (libraries, archives) research. I’ve been trying out different ways to make gathering information easier on myself (arthritis is making it harder to handwrite notes) and more expedient. I don’t like wasting time! (Well, that’s not exactly true. I do like to veg once in a while.)

Here’s a list of what I use and what I use it for.

1. Camera—I don’t have a fancy camera. At this point, I don’t feel like I need one. I have a Cannon Powershot SD 1200IS digital camera that I use to take photographs of pages in books that have information I need, maps, and other graphics. I’ve used it to take photographs of microfilm with mixed results (it depends on the lighting and the quality of the microfilm). I use it to take photos of family graves.

2. Flip-Pal Scanner—I’ve used this mobile scanner for many of the same reasons that I’ve used my camera, except that I haven’t tied it out on microfilm. I’ve used the Flip-Pal quite a bit lately to scan my non-digital photographs. I brought it with me to Georgia this month and have been scanning old photos at my mom’s house. You can also use the Flip-Pal to scan large objects by taking the cover off and, well, flipping it over. You have to scan the object in overlapping sections, and then use the stitching software that comes with it or Photoshop to stitch them together into one file.

3. Dropbox—I upload files from my hard drive to Dropbox so I can either share them or have them available when I’m away from my computer. Also, as I mentioned in my post on the apps I use on my Andoid smartphone, I can also access those files on Dropbox from my smart phone. I use Dropbox in addition to Evernote (see below). See this post on The Elephant Channel about the reasons to use both.

4. Evernote. I really like Evernote. At first I only used it to collect recipes (see proof below), but I have since learned how really useful it is for collecting all sorts of information. One of the best parts is that, as I wrote about earlier, I have Evernote on my smart phone and my computer so I can look at files from either one. One of the things I use it for is to keep a running list in Evernote of books and other things I’d like to read or need for research, so that when I’m in the library or bookstore, I can just check my list on Evernote.


5. Smart Phone—I wrote in my previous post that I bought an Android smart phone. It’s a HTC Merge. I’ve used the camera to take photographs of pages in books needed for research at the library. It worked well with microfilm, too.

6. Pinterest—Pinterest is for “pinning your interests.” It’s very useful for folks like me who are very visual. Rather than making a bookmark, you “pin” an image to your board that links back to the particular website. I haven’t really used Pinterest for research yet, but I got the idea from Caroline Pointer of For Your Family Story to “pin” family photos from my blog and photos and maps of places my ancestors have lived (see below). As you can see, it’s very useful for “pinning” other things you are interested in. You can “follow” other people and they can “follow” you. Pinterest is free but you need an invitation to join. You can either sign up for one on Pinterest or you can email me your email address and I’ll send you an invite. Warning—as other people have found, Pinterest is very addicting.


What tech tools do you use for research? I’m always looking for new ways to make doing research easier!



  1. Stephanie Pitcher FishmanMarch 9, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    I love it! I haven't started using Pinterest much for family research though I intend to when I have time. I love Evernote and Dropbox. I need to set up Evernote a bit more though. I mainly use it for lookup notes and such when I'm researching onsite. You?

  2. I always carry a small digital voice recorder. Not very expensive, and it allows me to make notes to myself in cemeteries, libraries, while driving, doing interviews... whatever. Fits in my pocket or in my purse if I'm not out doing active research - maybe I just walk by an interesting museum or something and don't want to forget what it was. It's pretty much always with me. I like Sony, but know there are other good models out there. Plus, you can download the recordings to your pc, so if you do an interview, you have it right there in your files.

  3. Catherine PendletonMarch 9, 2012 at 9:37 PM

    I finally set up a notebook for genealogy so I can clip and save info that I find (and don't want to forget) on genealogy and history blogs and websites. It's so much easier using Evernote for this than setting up a Word document like I used to do.

  4. Catherine PendletonMarch 9, 2012 at 9:40 PM

    This is a great idea! I'll have to look into digital voice recorders. I wish I had thought to get one before my trip home to visit family, especially for when I was asking my mom questions about her childhood. This would be so much easier than taking notes.