How do I use technology in my genealogy?

First of all, I want to wish everyone the happiest of holidays.

Technology is essential to the successful genealogist these days, yet it is still amazing when I encounter a genealogist who espouses how they are “paper only genealogists”  From 2002 when I jump started my genealogy after a decade+ of a hiatus, I have been engaging, if not embracing, the various technologies which support the researching of my family history.

In this posting, I have received permission from Thomas MacEntee to use the format that he uses for his technology interviews at his blog, “Hack Genealogy.”  You can find out more about this blog through this link:

Compared to the others who Thomas has interviewed, I am but a “technology plebe.”  Thanks, Thomas, for giving me permission to use this format for both my ProGen assignment and on the blog!

About Me

Name: Jill Morelli

Title or position: Professional Genealogist, House Historian, lecturer and coach (and I have a full time day job as Director of Facilities for the University of Washington School of Medicine.)

Website or Blog:

Favorite Blogs:

Listserves I belong to:

  • Ostfriesen
  • APG (local and national)
  • The Transitional Genealogist
  • Sweden
  • Norway

Other social media links:

  • Facebook:
  • Twitter: I have a twitter account but I am always surprised when I get something.
  • Google+: no presence on Google +
  • Pinterest: have a site but I have not used it (need to test drive it to see if this is something I want to use)

I’m on Linkedin with my “day job”.

Fave mobile app: I have my genealogy on FamViewer.  Others: Kindle (reading Revolutionary Summer, and yes, I read books on my phone), camera, google maps (I get lost easily) One Bus Away (tells me when my bus will arrive), BookList (it records my personal library so I do not buy the same book twice.) Dropbox (used for uploading presentations as my emergency backup), buymeapie (a grocery list app which syncs with my husband’s list because he does all the grocery shopping).  I will download the conference app for the conference I am attending–puts the schedule at my fingertips and I can personalize it for what I want to attend.  All make my life easier so I can do more genealogy!

(The items above are my ProGen assignment.  If you want the rest of the story–read on!)

Location: Seattle, Washington

Technology: how to use

Hardware ( computer, laptop): Mac desktop, ipad, iphone (isn’t it a computer these days?).  Have asked for a laptop from Santa.

Cloud storage: Dropbox

Backup program or routine: Time Machine with auto backup

Printer: HP Photosmart Premium.  It does a beautiful job.

Are you “paper” or “paperless” or in-between?: inbetween.  I still like the feel of quality paper when I print a client report.

Email program: Gmail.

Smartphone model: iphone 5S.  Just got it.

Web browser: safari

Calendar program: iCalendar synced to my phone and ipad which also has my work calendar (Outlook).

Photo storage and editing: iPhoto; I use my phone camera primarily. use Photoshop Express app to lighten the exposure.  With my new phone which has a better camera and a flash, I might not need that function as much.

Fave Social Media: facebook, although I am not a “power user.”  I am a member of 3 genealogy groups, including GenBiz, a group set up to discuss the business of genealogy with members of my ProGen class –and any others who want to join.  Thanks, Rorey for setting it up!  I do not use it personally except on rare occasions.

Genealogy database program: The Master Genealogist; I also post my family on Rootsweb.

Music Player: Am I the only one who really doesn’t listen to music?  I might be.  I have no music on any device.

Blog platform: wordpress.  Simple and easy to set up and to change.

Other tech stuff: I am definitely a digital immigrant and am not an early adopter.  I struggle whenever there is a hardware or software problem.

Me and Genealogy

Number of years involved in genealogy: 35 years, which includes a 10+ year hiatus.  Serious addiction started in February of 2002 when I had a fit of boredom and did not want to finish a research paper for my Masters Degree.  I went shopping for a genealogy software program instead and then struggled to complete the paper.  The next and final quarter wasn’t so good either!  I had 157 ancestors/relatives in my paper file when I started inputting into TMG.  Today….100x that!

Professional or non-professional: Professional

What I do (describe your role in the genealogy community): genealogist, house historian, educator and volunteer.

What I enjoy most about genealogy and family history: Each of us has a responsibility to coach and mentor the next person.  My most satisfying moments are coaching a newbie and discussing the findings of a client report with the client!  They are so appreciative and amazed.

What annoys me most about genealogy: Individuals who are just “filling in the blanks” of the pedigree chart without an inquisitive mind to ask “why”.  Genealogical societies which are “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” by clinging to the old ways while their membership drops.

Genealogy super power: Don’t know how to answer this.  Most folks cannot see how I get all I do, done and still have a day job.  I just try to be very organized and I rarely watch TV.

Biggest advance in genealogy in the last five years: cloud indexing–the 1940 census was indexed by thousands of people and was done in record time.  We used to wait for years.  Cloud Indexing will allow the amount of data being digitized and put on the web to exponentially increase in the next 5-10 years.

What will always stay the same in genealogy: the need to have the tenacity of a detective, the inquisitive mind of a three year old and the analytical skills of a researcher.

What will need to change in genealogy: how we view libraries.  Seattle is in the top 10 of “best read” cities.  Each of the Seattle branch libraries have 3 areas:  a children’s library, a reference section composed of computer terminals and some reference books and the shelves where the books reside before pick up.  There are no browse-able stacks!  At the branch level, adult usage is “on line”.

My vision for genealogy in the year 2020: (actually, not that far away!)  The Vault is digitized and web accessible.  If we have “cloud indexing” and “cloud funding” why not “cloud solutions?”  — where we post our brick wall and everyone takes a look at it.  More minds yield more options and possibilities (actually a Rootsweb listserve rallied to my brick wall problem and exhibited this behavior this past month.) Our genealogy societies figure out their mission and vision based on a 21st century model.  My worry:  who is going to be the next generation of research genealogists?

Closing Thoughts

My Secret Hack for Genealogy: Genealogists know that we are here because others came first.  We stand on the shoulders of others.  But, our descendants stand on our shoulders so we must care for the living.

Advice to a beginning genealogist: slow down; your ancestors aren’t going anywhere.  Cite your sources from the beginning.  You will be so glad you did in a very short period of time.

Advice to a “lifer” genealogist: Keep learning and keep sharing that learning with others.

Happy Hunting!


what I have done since the last posting:  completed my assignment for ProGen, prepare for the holidays and particularly my father-in-law’s 100th birthday!  realized that my grandmother married an alien (of the Danish kind) in 1909 making her a Danish citizen.  Her husband received his citizenship in 1922i–but did she?  Next stop?  USCIS!


12 comments on “How do I use technology in my genealogy?

  1. Grace Keir says:

    Great information Jill. Thanks for sharing. I hope to use some of your suggestions in the future AND I may have questions for you when I get in a pinch.
    Your friend, Grace

    • jkmorelli says:

      No problem, Grace. Just ask. Happy holidays to you and Richard.


      Professional genealogist Give the gift of family!


  2. Hi Jill,
    Interesting read. Thanks for the shout out…and congratulations on your new iPhone 5S!

    • jkmorelli says:


      Is there a way to register at ancestorroundup so your blog posting would drop into my mailbox? I sometimes forget to check out what you are doing. Thomas is going to feature my article in his next blog posting. Woo hoo!

  3. My RSS feed is simply Just add the link using your favorite feed reader. Alternately, I have added a subscribe by e-mail widget to the lower right to make it more obvious.

    Cool that your blog will be featured shortly! I will look for it on his site. I truly don’t know how you find the time to do all that you do.

    • jkmorelli says:

      Thanks, Dawn. Since I didn’t know how to add a feed reader, this is a help. We are not all as technology talented as you! 🙂 Thinking about writing again for the Bulletin?


      • I am hoping at some future point to write about feed readers on my blog. I have a huge backlog of partial posts so don’t know when I will get it done. It is on my “editorial calendar” though.

        I would consider writing for the Bulletin’s Nov 2014 issue. (That last article took a lot out of me!) My focus currently is on prepping for my Virginia trip. I know it is a ways off, but time has a way of getting away from me. I have literally piles of documents to transcribe and digitize.

      • jkmorelli says:

        Thanks, Dawn. Our theme for the Nov. issue is “Ethnic Groups of the Northwest.”

        Any thoughts about topics? I have Chinese, Japanese, Native American and Scandinavian covered.


        Professional genealogist Give the gift of family!


  4. Hmm, I may have to scratch that thought, then, about the Nov. 2014 issue. Not my forte. I would imagine you would need to cover Hispanic research as well, although I am not familiar with when the first large wave of migration took place by that group into the Northwest. “Native American” is also a very large group; we have so many tribes represented in the area.

  5. robkendrick says:

    Reblogged this on The Three Trees Genealogist and commented:
    Good Article I read!

  6. I am starting a new blog, splitting the old one and making genealogy the focus on new one. I love the headings you used for this article. If I list you as the source and the URL may I use the headings as you have.
    Thanks for considering this.

    • Jill Morelli says:

      Of course; I would also suggest that I do not “own” those titles, but I appreciate the reference. Notice I used the titles from Thomas when he was doing short interviews on his blog. I believe he no longer does them.

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