Monday, July 29, 2013

Talking Tech: Family tree apps for the iPad

Since getting back into working on my family history I've been searching for ways to be mobile and stay organized while being mobile.  I migrated from a desktop to a laptop several years ago and, while I love my Family TreeMaker program on my laptop, I just felt the laptop was still a little too much to take on a trip to the library or on a research trip.  Plus I didn't care so much for the integration with Ancestry.  Don't get me wrong, I get the why of the partnership and I see the benefits BUT...I'm also a clean-data-hound.  I work in databases everyday at my job so I see what dirty data can do and I've spent, literally, hours cleaning up dirty data.  So consequently, I'm pretty strict about what data I bring into my tree.  

Enter scene: the iPad.

Oh yes, I went hard-core iThing.  I didn't believe D1 when he told me they were addictive items.  Actually, this really started with the gift of an iPhone, courtesy of D1.  Yes, the same person who gave me the warning about the iAddiction started me down the iRoad.

Okay, I hear you, I'm rambling.  Back to the point: the iPad.  When I got my iPad I decided to see what I could do with it with genealogy.  I'm still learning about new apps genealogists are using (I recently discovered Evernote) but my first order of business was to find a family tree app because I really wanted to replace taking my laptop with me to the library (sorry Acer, I still love you, I just don't love lugging you around).  So I set out searching and decided to do a series of blog posts about my app discoveries in hopes of helping others who are looking for good apps for their iPads.

I knew many of the computer family tree programs had accessory apps for their programs: Ancestry, Legacy, etc. but this isn't what I wanted.  This clean-data freak wanted a stand-alone iPad app that was more than just a GEDCOM viewer.  I wanted to be able to add data, pictures and possibly even attach documents.

So what are the apps you ask?  I'll be reviewing GedView by David Knight, MobileFamilyTree 7 by Synium Software, Heredis by BSD Concept and a fairly new app called LiveHistory Genealogy by AlgoCoil.  So let's get started!  Oh, and here's my transparency disclosure: MobileFamilyTree, Heredis and LiveHistory provided copies of their apps free of charge for me to review.  I appreciate their willingness to do so but want to assure my readers that it in no way influences my opinion of these apps.


I stumbled on GedView right after getting my first iPhone and I did pay for the app.  I absolutely don't regret having paid for it either.  At $3.99 it was worth every penny.  The current version is 3.4.1 and there are several good reviews on GedView in the app store.

There are several good things about GedView.  The interface is clean, basic and fairly user friendly.  If you're looking for a pretty interface, however, this app is not for you.  The interface is functional, not beautiful.  The developer spent his time working on the functionality of this app, which matters to me more than how the app looks.

Individual Detail View

The GEDCOM download/import features are extremely easy to use and getting my GEDCOM file imported was no problem at all.  I love that for larger GEDCOM files you're able to start the download and leave the app and the download will continue.  A notification will pop up when when the file has finished importing.

When it comes to entering data, the good functionality continues.  There is a great list of events you can add to each individual record.  From birth to probate and everything in between there were things I hadn't even considered adding to my database.  There are fields for LDS information and a field for organization codes (which I love due to the filing system I use for my paperwork).

Images and media can be added and you can add notes and details to any photos you add.  Individuals can be bookmarked for quick access.  You can add GPS coordinates to the record, however, GedView cannot locate the coordinates on its own.  Once the coordinates are added, however, GedView can map the location.

Some really cool options: you can make a phone call from within the app if phone numbers have been entered, emails can be composed by simply clicking on an email address on file in the app.  There are several customizable settings and the users manual is absolutely positively FANTASTIC!!!!  It contains clickable links to take you directly to the item you want to learn about and the descriptions are very good.  The other really awesome item is that there is an area for citations.  It contains a field for text from the source which is useful for including the quote where the information came from.

With the good there always comes some bad.  The biggest downfall with this app for me was that there are no fields for middle name, suffix or nickname so, in my database, those items are included with other fields.  I was also disappointed to discover that you're unable to indicate if a child is adopted, biological or a step-child.  These two items bother me quite a bit because I feel those fields are pretty standard these days.

Other items I feel could be updated or streamlined: 
  • Being able to indicate whether a significant other is a spouse or life partner would be ideal
  • Adding marriages is a clunky process.  You have to add an entirely new family and you can't add the marriage in the individual's record...understandable but not ideal
  • Reports are basic, you get a pedigree chart and family group record only
  • The search function is very simple but is not a "one-stop shop".  There is a search area for name, forename and file number.  You can also search by going to the Index or Family screen and tapping the letter of the surname you want to go to.
GedView is a somewhat limited app.  HOWEVER, it is a work horse app that is dependable and I would definitely recommend it for someone who wanted a basic app with few bells and whistles.  People are are just starting out using the iPhone or iPad will find this app good to use.  Anyone who wants an app with few bells and whistles but lots of functionality will be very happy with this app.  And at $3.99 this app is worth every penny.  Bonus: this app works on both the iPad and the iPhone.

Grade given: Definite A