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

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Getting the Rest of the Gold out of the Google Goldmine for Genealogists Part Five
  • Google Help
  • Google Search
  • Google Newspapers Archive
  • Google Drive
  • Google Docs including Sheets, Slides, Forms, Draw and more
  • Google Keep
  • Google Trips
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Chrome Extensions
Genealogists have a significant challenge in transitioning from paper to digital records. We only have to consider the tremendous effort that has gone through over the past few years to digitize its 2.4 million rolls of microfilm to see that the process is ongoing and far from complete. All of us also find ourselves somewhere along the transitional process from paper to digital. A significant number of genealogists still reject the majority of genealogists still reject the transition altogether.

Part of my idea in focusing on Google and its online programs and apps is to show the advantages of using digital methodology over paper-based systems. Because, for the most part, the programs I highlight are "free" in the sense that they have no additional charges other than the standard costs of obtaining online digital access, I can suggest them without feeling that I am trying to convince genealogists to spend money which is an even more difficult issue to confront than the transition from paper to digital.

The highlighted apps or programs in the list above are crucial but not unique to a transition away from an entirely paper-based system. Apple has a set of similar programs that come pre-loaded on Apple's computers and devices. Microsoft has another similar set of programs that are tied to an online subscription. There are also free open source sets of the same programs that can be downloaded to your computer. However, if you investigate each of these systems, you will see that they all, including Google, have "hidden" costs usually based on the amount of usage and online storage you want to utilize. Since I am currently in the process of replacing an external hard drive that is failing, I am painfully aware of the time and cost of moving Terabytes of information around on my current high-speed computer system. Ultimately, all of these programs make money by selling online storage capacity unless they do not offer storage as part of the package such as LibreOffice.

Google system revolves around the Google Drive program. Google Drive is an online data storage system that provides 15 GB of "free" storage. Google Photos is handled differently than the document programs. To see the options for Google Photos, look at this link:

Google Drive is directly connected to the suite of programs that are usually referred to as "Google Docs." If you have a Google account, i.e. a Gmail account or have signed in to Chrome, you automatically already have Google Drive and Google Docs accounts. All you have to do is log in with your account. Any documents you create in any of the Google Docs programs are automatically stored in your Google Drive account. You can find a huge number of videos about Google Drive and Google Docs on You can also start by looking at Google Help.
Google Docs includes the following basic apps or programs but the connections between other programs is extensive and there are more programs that can be added.
  • Google Docs is also a word processing program. It is not a complete substitute for an extensive program such as Microsoft Word, but it has sufficient features for most of the day to day word processing needs. 
  • Google Sheets is a spreadsheet program. When you start comparing these programs to other spreadsheets such as Microsoft's Excel, depending on your level of expertise and needs, you might not think much of the program. But if your needs are modest and you don't need extensive programming functions, the Sheets program works well. 
  • Google Slides is the presentation program. Some presenters like it because it is easy to access and free. Again, it is not fair to compare it to Microsoft's PowerPoint. There is a reason why people pay a significant subscription price for these other programs. 
  • Google Forms is a useful alternative to other forms programs and the fact that it is integrated into Google Drive and the other programs is helpful. 
The suite of programs also includes some that are not commonly listed such as Google Drawings. There are also programs such as Google Sketchup, Google Sketchpad, Google Doodle, and Google IO. I don't use any of these specifically for genealogical purposes but it always helps to know that they are there. 

Let me give some examples of how I use these programs. 

Many genealogists use Research Logs. I don't do paper, so I use Google Docs for my research logs. This is an advantage because as I add research information it is instantly available on all my devices; iPhone, iPads, laptop computers, and any desktop computer I happen to be using at a library or the home of a relative. The information I keep includes the regular items you would want to know about the status of an individual research project. 

I use Google Drive to move documents from my iPhone to my desktop computer. I can take a photo of a document in a library (if allowed) and immediately make it available to my computer at home or my laptop or whatever. 

I use Sheets to organize trips. We can share the individual sheets with family members and coordinate complex trips, family reunions, and other events. 

Since I can export a Google Doc to Microsoft Word, I do the majority of my initial writing outside of blogs in Docs. I even compose email messages and letters in Docs so that I have a ready reference for those emails and letters that are part of my genealogical research. 

This list could go on and on. Once you begin to use Google Docs or some other online-based system, you will probably wonder how you ever go anything done on paper. 

See the other posts in this series:

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