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Category: iPhone

Billion Graves

Billion Graves

Billion Graves is a relatively new web site which attempts to photograph tombstones and locate them on a cemetery map using GPS codes. This is a great idea. They also plan to transcribe the stones, either by the photographer transcribing or by a volunteer coming along later and transcribing stones from photos online.


Billion Graves support told me the GPS is so “other people can know the distance they are from the cemetery.” I tend to think it is more useful to locate the stone once you find the cemetery except in the case of a stone photographed in a hidden cemetery. What are the chances of that happening often?


To submit a photo you download an app to your iPhone or to your Android, snap the photo and upload it. It’s that simple. You could do a whole cemetery in an afternoon in many cases. The app is $1.99 and, obviously, uses your device’s camera. You can set it upload after each snap or later. You can chose to save the picture after upload or delete it. Why would would you delete it?


Don’t have an iPhone or Android? You will not be snapping pictures. End of story. But you can still transcribe those others have snapped and not transcribed. Note that according to the software, an iPad or a new generation iPod will not work because only an iPhone has GPS accurate enough for this program. Thus only a select group may participate. 


You can use an iPad connected to the internet to tell you of cemeteries nearby where you are at this moment. And maybe that is what they are getting at in paragraph two above. “It sure is a nice day here in this county we are driving through. Let’s see if there are any cemeteries nearby to photograph.” I’m guessing that feature won’t get a lot of use. 


It totally eliminates all stone photos taken before the program. This eliminates the ability of certain folks to collect photos from various places and post them as their own. But it also eliminates a lot of available photos. And it eliminates the photos I and others took years ago of stones which may no longer be readable or which may now be broken, seriously damaged or gone.


I think this is a good idea but it is not ready for prime time.

FamViewer Genealogy App

FamViewer Genealogy App

One of the things I miss most about my Palm is having my TMG database available. I read about the [limited number of] genealogy apps for the iPod Touch and iPhone and checked each one out. A huge red flag was the limit in database size.

FamViewer, the most expensive at $14.99, did not seem to have a limit and reviewers commented that it didn’t. They also commented that it was easy. I confess, due to the price [it is expensive as Apple Apps go] I waited several weeks before I decided to give it a try.

My file contains over 10,000 names and yes, I uploaded them all. That tells you it worked. Is it easy? Yes it is but getting it set up requires some prep time. I advise going to the company’s website and reading the limited instructions. The limited instructions almost changed my mind. I’m glad it didn’t.

The first thing you need is Bonjour on your computer. Unless you are using an Apple computer it isn’t likely to be there. Not only am I using a PC, it is a 64 bit and I run Windows 7. A little research turned up that this would not be a problem. I downloaded the proper file. However, when I went to install it I was asked if I wanted to “repair” or “remove.” Some application had installed a small version on my computer. It’s almost always easiest to remove and start over which is what I did.

The next thing you need is a GEDCOM of your file exported from your genealogy software. That took awhile, quite awhile, due to my large file.

Following the instructions, which were very clear, I uploaded the file. It took seconds. My entire file seems to be there. Although it is a GEDCOM it has many of the events as well as notes and sources. It may not be my complete file but it is probably enough information to travel with.

In the end I uploaded the file using the Windows by IP address method rather than Bonjour because I use that method for other apps and it seemed easier at the time.

You can also enter notes into the program on any person. These notes, of course, do not magically migrate to your genealogy database but you can email them, individually or in batches, to yourself so you can add them to your database when you get to it. They remain on your iPod Touch/iPhone until you are ready for them.

How much space does that database take? Apparently not much. I didn’t make a note but I had commented to a friend regarding how much free space I had the day before. She was concerned about filling hers up. I said I didn’t think it would be easy, that I still had 20+ GB free. After installation I still have 20+ GB free and I also downloaded another app, some podcasts and some additional music.

And I now have my genealogy with me.

iPod Touch as a Genealogy Tool

iPod Touch as a Genealogy Tool

For years I depended on my Palm personal digital assistant [PDA] to keep me organized and keep all my information at my fingertips. My Palm contained my entire database from The Master Genealogist, every single fact.

Software changed. Palm changed. I was left without a PDA and was unsuccessful in my search for an appropriate replacement. I thought my Blackberry Smartphone would do it but it doesn’t.

Recently I bought an iPod Touch. Basically it’s an iPhone without the phone or camera. It has my calendar, my contacts, applications, music and pictures. Podcasts like Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems and genealogy lectures from iTunes U are “other” under music. You could add tv shows and movies although I can’t imagine watching any on the 2 x 3.5″ screen.

One of the first apps I downloaded was Evernote. I don’t know how people live without it. I keep all my genealogy notes in it. On the iPod Touch you can make notes but you need the internet to see your stored notes and to sync. This is also true of Dropbox, another application. If you put a file in your Dropbox you can see it on you iPod Touch when you have wi-fi. The iPod Touch has wi-fi but you need a wi-fi source to use the internet. When you have that the internet is your oyster. More and more places have wi-fi internet these days.

I downloaded several pdf reader apps, found one that works for me called pdf Reader, and uploaded Michael John Neill’s Casefile Clues collection to the iPod Touch. I wouldn’t want to read a book [you can though – in fact there is a Kindle app] but blogs and such work quite well. The pdf files are stored on the iPod Touch – no wi-fi required.

I’m not impressed with the genealogy apps at the moment. Although GEDViewer looks promising it cannot handle more than 2-3,000 names. I’m sure it is just a matter of time until one I like comes along.

You can record voice memos too.

The virtual keyboard takes a bit of getting used to but I have become an accomplished one finger typist. Think of the hours I wasted learning to type correctly!

If it had a camera and continuous internet connection it would be about perfect. Oh wait, that’s an iPhone. I suspect there’s one in my future.