Do yourself a favor and set up a proper office for your work. In this day and age, you will need some technology for family tree work. But it doesn’t have to be the most expensive hardware or software on the market. We’ll briefly discuss the basics necessary for the work in this guide.
When working from a home office, it is really nice to have a large monitor and room to spread out. However, these days we find ourselves on the go much more often. Therefore we think a laptop is absolutely essential for research. It can go anywhere and that portability makes a huge difference.
The other piece of equipment that is absolutely necessary is a smartphone. These are needed for GPS and maps for the road, photography in the cemetery, and mobile applications where quick notes and references can be keyed in on the fly. While a little cumbersome for serious and lengthy research, it’s great to be able to grab a few essential pieces of data on the smartphone and then work on them later either from the laptop or desktop.
Other equipment that is necessary is external storage drives (mostly for photos). We keep equipment bags in our backpack for such things as extra cords, headphones, flash drives, and even a portable speaker that works for music or conference calls.
We try very hard to not produce paper in our office. However, a printer is necessary for those times you may need a duplicate copy of something. Our printer is a multifunction unit, meaning it prints, copies, scans, and faxes all in one.
You may like to have other equipment with you. Perhaps a digital camera, recorder, or an iPad. We find that we use the Kindle more and more for genealogical reference materials, and also for storing some documents.
There is software available for many genealogical tasks. We will have reviews on the site of the better ones. Some types of software and their functions are:
- Databases for family trees
- Reports and charts
- Templates for research calendars, research plans, and research notes
- Autobiographies and family histories
- Transcriptions of records.
In another post we will go into detail about what to look for when choosing a software program for your need.
Different companies have different abilities for their databases. A database isn’t of much use without advanced search capabilities. Having an understanding of how to build an efficient search is crucial to good research and fact finding.
Also, the quality of transcriptions in the database is key. Are the scanned images in the database readable? Some databases have more records than others, and they may have different focuses for their records.
The top 5 databases reviewed on our site are:
- U.S. GenWeb
- Genealogy Bank
Thanks to the Internet, we now have the ability to communicate and collaborate with other genealogists around the world. More and more people are telling their stories and sharing their family trees on the Internet. This website, for instance, was built with the idea of providing more information about sources for the Upper South and sharing it on the Internet to make it easier for others to do their research.
With all this collaborative goodness comes a warning: be diligent about the source you find on the Internet. Just because it is published there doesn’t mean it is accurate or true. Also, even with all of they information that is available on the Internet, there is still quite a lot that is not there. There will be plenty of cases where you still have to do your research the old fashioned way.
A special mention goes out to social media. It is now possible to attend conferences by live stream, all the while commenting on Twitter realtime. And once you make friends through social media, it is super easy to follow each other’s work and connect. This is a tremendous help to genealogists as we are a helpful lot.