Top Six Digital Genealogy Tools

There are many ways to use digital tools for gathering genealogy information. Here are the ones I've found most useful.

  1. Your Computer. Particularly a laptop or netbook for the portability. Take your computer with you, and type the family group form while you interview your family. Or, bring both your computer and your scanner, and scan the important items they might have on hand. Take your computer with you on your next library visit, and use it to take notes. If you do this, I recommend getting a laptop lock to prevent theft while you go look for a book or record.

    Of course, the computer can also be used for doing research online, creating your family tree and genealogy reports, and organizing all of your files and research.

  2. Scanner. A scanner can transform birth certificates, marriage licenses, hand-written notes, baptismal records, aged family photos, negatives, keepsakes, and obituaries into a permanent digital archive.
  3. Electronic family group forms. Download this electronic Family Group Form.(to save the file on your computer, place your mouse cursor over the link, right click, and select "Save Target As.") It is editable, so, you just type in the fields, save the file with a new name, and store it on your computer.

    If your relatives live far away, just e-mail them a copy of the form and have them return it to you.

  4. An External Harddrive. You will want one to backup your files. You don't want your hours of scanning, recording, archiving and organizing to go to waste. Save often to both the external drive, and make CD or DVD backups.

  5. Digital audio recorder. A digital audio recorder is smaller than many microcassette recorders, and can hold hundreds of hours of audio. These are perfect for interviews with family members. Make a list of your clan elders, and arrange to talk with them soon.

    You might also want to transcribe the audio. This can help you easily locate a particular fact more efficiently than having to listen to the recording again.

    If the people you'd like to interview are far away, try a service like Audio Acrobat. You can use a regular telephone, and record your conversation, then download it right to your computer.

  6. Digital Camera. I keep my digital camera in the car, just in case I end up in a cemetery or visiting a family member. Take pictures of family headstones, or markers that have related family surnames, as new lines of research.

    More about cemetery visits can be found here.

Remember to keep good records and track your digital files. Documenting your sources is also key for any researcher that comes after you, and will help you find things later.

Documentation also keeps you honest. After all, the family story about great-grandmother Alice being the first woman graduate of a famous medical school might well turn out to be, well, less than true.

Remember, a genealogy is more than a collection of names and dates. It's a living history of your family. It should include the stories, personalities and accomplishments of your family members.

Other Articles of interest:

Tips for Organizing Your Research
How to Catalog Photos, Albums and Negatives
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