My Technology Toolbox

A decade ago, most genealogists could not have imagined how far genealogical technology would advance in ten years. New hardware, software, and websites have allowed genealogists to research their family histories more efficiently than ever before.

Jasia of Creative Gene has challenged genealogy bloggers to describe the technological tools that they find indispensible. Here are mine.

Hardware

Last year, I received an iPod shuffle as a birthday present. I was thrilled to have an iPod, especially because I had been thinking about buying one for quite some time. I immediately exchanged the iPod shuffle for an 80 GB video iPod. My friends laughed at me, insisting that I would never need 80 GB of storage. Nine months later, I’ve stored over 22 GB of files on my iPod, including many of my music CDs.

Even I did not anticipate that I would soon become dependent on podcasts. I regularly download the Genealogy Guys Podcast, Dear Myrtle’s Family History Hour, the Genealogy Gems Podcast, and the Irish Roots Cafe Podcast. I also download the Classic Tales Podcast, the Irish and Celtic Music Podcast, Thistlepod, and This American Life. In addition to all this, I found that I could download lectures from the 2006 FGS Conference in Boston through Lulu.com and have easy and inexpensive access to genealogical training whenever I wish.

I found that, with a simple accessory, I could listen to the content on my iPod through my car stereo, enabling me to listen to my iPod while commuting. Even better, Susan Kitchens showed me an accessory that converts my iPod to a digital voice recorder, allowing me to use my iPod for recording oral family histories.

I use my iPod almost every day.

Software

Over the years, I’ve struggled with ways to store, edit, and organize digital images. I tried many different applications, none of which really satisfied me. A friend suggested Adobe Photoshop, but I balked at the price, whereupon he suggested Adobe Photoshop Elements, a much less expensive alternative that includes most of the most commonly used tools. I was hooked, so much so that I later purchased Adobe Photoshop CS2 and, more recently, Adobe Photoshop CS3.

I am still amazed at all I can do with Photoshop CS3, and I can perform many tasks with greater ease than I could with any of the software packages I initially tried.

Now, I straighten, edit, and crop all my photos and document images in Photoshop CS3. At some point, I should publish some before and after images to show the incredible results I’m able to obtain. I’ve been able to restore old, faded, and damaged photos, and I’ve been able to enhance digital images of documents and thereby convert an unreadable document to one that I can decipher quite well (although some insist that reading these documents would best be achieved by attending a seminar in translating unreadable handwriting).

The only problem with Photoshop CS3 is that I barely know how to use the software.

Website

My difficulties with Photoshop CS3 were solved, to a large degree, through online software training offered by Lynda.com. This website provides audio-video instruction in a large number of software applications including Acrobat, Photoshop, Illustrator, Word, WordPerfect, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, FileMaker Pro, Blogger, Picasa, Search Engines, Garage Band, and many more.

A subscription to Lynda.com is $25 per month (less if an annual subscription is purchased, more if training files are included), and allows for unlimited access to an unlimited number of training files for the duration of the subscription. I’m currently working through the Acrobat and Photoshop training, and plan to continue with a few of the others once I’m finished with the first two titles. It may be a while before I’m finished with Photoshop CS3 training, though. There are over 135 hours of Photoshop CS3 training videos available.

The training videos at Lynda.com are professionally produced, entertaining, informative, and easily accessed (you do need the latest version of QuickTime installed on your computer but, fortunately, QuickTime is a free download).

So, these are my top three technology tools. I use all three on almost a daily basis. No wonder I never seem to have any free time!

Copyright © 2008 by Stephen J. Danko

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5 Responses to My Technology Toolbox

  1. Steve,

    This is an excellent exercise about technology tools bloggers find indispensible. The information and links were also great. I have not acquired an ipod yet, but have been thinking about it. I would say that the technology tools that I find are indispensible are as follows: a computer period (I work on it all day at work and in the evening at home), family websites on ancestry.com including our Family Tree Maker User group and Afrigeneas chat (I love the daily communication in all of the sites), and online videos (I use for entertainment and learning.)

  2. Janice Brown says:

    Steve,

    I too love my iPod. Thank you for the great article on the technology available to genealogy researchers (and everyone, for that matter).

    Janice

  3. Ken Spangler says:

    Steve,

    Interesting choices. I’m not rich so I can’t afford using Photoshop but I find I get by pretty well with my Paint Shop Pro! I am especially intrigued by your choice of the iPod. I’ve never even thought of one because I only think of it as a music player. Perhaps I should give it another look!

    Ken

  4. Bronwyn Klimach says:

    Shame on me for feeling superior to those folk whose iPods seem to be a permanent fixture. Now I really want to be able to do all the things you describe, but I’m not sure if I could acquire all the technology whether my skill would be up to the task!
    Steve, I wondered how you fitted everything into your day BEFORE reading about all these other things you manage…
    I keep hoping a return to your wonderful Polish records and translations is imminent,
    Bronwyn.

  5. Professor Dru, Congratulations on starting your PowerPoint blog! I look forward to reading more!

    Janice, I can’t believe how dependant I am on my iPod. A couple of years ago, I couldn’t imagine why I would want one.

    Ken, Initially, I had ruled Photoshop out completely because of the price. Less expensive applications will fit the bill for most people, but I’m kind of getting into enhancing and repairing photos and images, so I finally convinced myself to bit the bullet and purchase Photoshop.

    Bronwyn, I apologize for spending so much time researching my Godmother’s French Canadian ancestry, but French Canadian genealogy is so much easier, especially now that so many baptismal, marriage, and burial records are online! I promise to get back to the Polish records!

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