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

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Genealogy Apps go Mobile

There are dozens of mobile apps aimed at the genealogical community. The App Gallery presently lists 118 apps. Some of these are free and others have a subscription price or are subject to a one-time purchase price. The list includes online or web-based apps (programs), desktop computer programs and apps for mobile devices.

Some of the large online database companies have apps for both iOS and Android devices that are directed at the mobile market. These include the following apps from the larger companies.

Some of the programs listed in the App Gallery programs that have been discontinued and no longer function. In the case of the Family Tree Maker App, the App Gallery is out-of-date and lists the product as available from whereas the desktop program was sold to So far, there has been no mention of the disposition of the App. The app for Android is listed in the App Gallery for $29.95 when it is actually free. The web apps that are listed for free are only a connection to the online website and the websites may not be completely free because of a subscription for complete or upgraded access.

One of the most common models for mobile apps today is to offer a "free" version of a program and then add on a paid upgrade for more features. There is certainly nothing wrong with this as long as the user is made aware of the limitations of the free version. I am concerned when the "free" version turns out to be nothing more than a demo and not a working copy of the program. 

From my standpoint, the biggest limitation for efficiently doing any meaningful genealogical activity on a mobile device is the lack of a keyboard. Those who can use their thumbs to rapidly input data into a virtual keyboard on the device will probably disagree with me to some extent, but I am not coordinated enough to enter text rapidly on a small keyboard. I do find the apps that connect to the large databases useful however, even on my iPhone, because it gives me an instant reference to my family trees on the programs even when I am away from my main computer. In my case, one major use if figuring out how I am related to my thousands of cousins. 

Researching, evaluating, recording and attaching a source to an individual in a family tree is an involved process and even in those cases where this is possible on a small mobile device such as a smartphone, it could become extremely tedious. It is somewhat easier on a larger tablet and those mobile devices with available keyboards can be used, in some cases, instead of a laptop or desktop computer. The main obstacle to entering data in a mobile device is the lack of an efficient way to copy information from an online database into the user's mobile family tree. The memory capacity of the mobile devices also becomes a factor in the implementation of complex features. Some of the more developed programs, allow research within the program and can even attach the sources that are found, but navigation and selecting the right information with your fingers limits the utility. 

I have been quite interested in the development of more sophisticated tablets such as the Apple iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 that have integrated keyboards, but after extensive research into the devices, I am more inclined to stick with a laptop computer for the time being. My decision on the Microsoft product is based more on my affinity for Apple computers than any failings in the device itself. 

Mobile apps are an interesting adjunct to using a full-blown computer system, but they still are not the equivalent of the desktop or laptop products with some very limited exceptions. 


  1. I was confused by your use of iOUS - you probably mean iOS, the Apple mobile operating system, right?

  2. OOPS, that was a brain freeze. I had IOUSs on the brain. I know better than that. Thanks for the heads up. :-)