Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Finding out almost anything and everything

When I last checked most of the genealogists I know were also people who had to live and do other things besides genealogy once and a while. But it is still interesting how many things I do every day relate to genealogy in some way or another. One of the notable events of this past year has been the phenomenal increase in my ability to find out things. It started with maps. Google Maps revolutionized the way I find places, not just for genealogy, but going to stores or other locations. Part of the reason this ability has made such a change is the availability of Google Maps on my iPhone. I used to carry a road atlas in my car, along with a detailed street map of Phoenix. No longer. Anyplace I happen to be, I can simply search and have almost instant directions to where ever I want to go.

Google Maps' ability is not limited to directions for travel, if I want to go to Costco or Target, I can search on that business and find the nearest location. This map idea has now expanded, during the past year, you can now search for almost any published book in the world and find the nearest library that has the book. This program is called WorldCat and contains the combined catalogs of over 10,000 libraries. During the past year, WorldCat added another service, searching the Internet for digital copies of a book. If you use WorldCat to do an advanced search, you can specify the format of the book, including a listing of all of the scanned, digitized copies of the book that may be available on the Web or any other format, including audio books and CDs. That brings us to scanned books, during the past year there has been an continuation of the explosion of scanned books on the Internet. Google Books is a good example, Google now has in excess of 10 million titles. You might want to check out ePub format. EPUB (electronic publication; also sometimes ePub, EPub, or epub) is a free and open e-book standard, by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). Files have the extension .epub. EPUB is designed for reflowable content, meaning that the text display can be optimized for the particular display device. The format is meant to function as a single format that publishers and conversion houses can use in-house, as well as for distribution and sale. It supersedes the Open eBook standard. Wikipedia. What does this mean? I can now read almost all of the available books on my iPhone!

OK, so how does this apply to genealogists? Think of the thousands of family history books being digitized every month. Many of these books will be available online on your desktop computer or even on a smart phone, like Google's Android phone or iPhone. With these devices you can carry around your whole genealogy file, assuming you purchase an App that will display the file.

This goes on and on, of course, because finding out everything takes a little bit of time. Speaking of iPhones, there is an App (application or program) called SnapTell. Using the the camera on your iPhone, you can take a photo of the cover of any CD, DVD, book, or video game, and the application will automatically identify the product and find ratings and pricing information online. This really works, even for obscure genealogy books, as long as they are available through or a similar Website. This looking up stuff can be carried even further. You can use your iPhone to read UPC barcodes. Yes, you can be in a store and scan a bar code and the iPhone will look up the price and tell you if there is a better price somewhere else. The App is called RedLaser.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring, Google is supposed to be working on an App for Android that will let you take a picture of anything and it will look it up in Google. Good Luck.


  1. Hi James--I have even more good news. Now WorldCat results for library materials are being surfaced through RedLaser. So you can get your maps, digitized content and more--through the world's libraries via WorldCat. Oh, and when a GoogleBooks preview is available, we also show it in!

  2. Isn't technology a great tool when put to good use. Great to see you put it to good use and good luck in using technoloigy as a tool in your genealogy research