Tools


When I started doing Black genealogy 36 years ago, there was no Internet. There were some basic research tools and resources I used then that are still in my toolkit and others I’ve added along the way.

wooden tool box with tools Tools

Everything I use fits my research style and you’ll find what fits yours. But until then, check out the genealogy tools I list here. These are my personal favorites.

  • Evernote. This is my latest, favorite resource for genealogy. Evernote is an online notebooks, storage and all around organizing, brainstorming, amazing software. I downloaded it to my laptop and through apps to my mobile phone and iPad. When I put information on one, Evernote automatically syncs it to the others and stores everything on cloud storage. Evernote works on both Microsoft and Apple computers and allows you to organize your genealogical research and easily retrieve it when you need it. But don’t take my word about Evernote – stop by and sign up. It’s free.
  • iPad. Recently I spent several days at the New England Genealogical and Historical Society in Boston “hot on the trail” of a Puritan ancestor. I got an incredible amount of research done. And I left my laptop at home! Instead I took my iPad with all my research organized and easily accessible in Evernote or online in Ancestry.com. I bought my iPad for business but it has become an invaluable tool for doing my family research.
  • The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 3rd Edition by Val D. Greenwood. First published in 1972, this book has become the basic text and reference guide for genealogists. I first checked this book out of the library in January, 1976. What I learned on the pages of this book has helped me achieve unexpected success doing family history. It’s a must-read.
  • Research Charts. When I started doing genealogy, I used the classic generation charts and family group sheets to keep my research organized. I still use these forms to keep track of the myriad of names, dates, places and more that I accumulate doing family research. They are indispensable and can be downloaded for free on the Internet.
  • Notebook. Even though I use my iPad and laptop for most of my research, there are times when I just want to put pen to paper. It helps me think especially when I’m up against a brick wall on one of my genealogy research projects. Moleskine notebooks are my favorite – the latest is tomato red. They’re small enough to fit in a purse or pocket. And they’re filled with acid-free paper so your genealogy musings will last for years to come.
  • Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com is a membership-based genealogy website. I am a member. Ancestry is an amazing repository of family histories, primary and secondary facts, photos and even family tales. While there’s a wealth of information here, it’s important to document your own research and not rely solely on that done by someone else. Ancestry.com is a storehouse of valuable clues that often points me in the direction of ancestors just waiting to be discovered.
  • Flip-Pal. I’ve had files of family photos around for years. Now granted, they’ve gone from a jumbled mess to being organized in protective boxes but the truth is now I want photos of my ancestors in digital form. This is where Flip-Pal¬†comes in. The size of an iPad or small book, Flip-Pal easily scans anything – photos, family papers, memorabilia and more. Take it with you and it scans on the go when you’re out researching.¬†
  • Ancestry’s Red Book. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in doing genealogical research is that places today do not have the same boundaries as they did hundreds of years ago. Having that information has saved me many times from looking for my ancestors in the wrong place. Ancestry’s Red Book is my favorite resource on the primary and secondary sources in states, counties, cities and towns. Much of this information can be found online these days but call me old-fashioned, I like having it right at my fingertips in the Red Book.
  • Camera. There are so many great cameras on the market, do some tech research and find one that fits your lifestyle. As for me – I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with using my iPhone 5 to take photos. There are some great apps that allow you to kick your photos up a notch in quality. There are other smartphones with great cameras too because nowadays one electronic device can serve many purposes.
  • Cords, Batteries & Charger. If what you’re using needs power, make sure you have extra on hand. There’s nothing worst than having a big discovery moment and your laptop, camera, etc run out of juice. Sadly, I speak from experience on this.

If you have a another resource to share, I hope you’ll leave a comment.