The Finlay Family

Finding Our Ancestors, and Sharing Their Stories

iPad vs Laptop vs Desktop for Genealogy & Family History Work

As a busy parent, I work hard to preserve time for family history work. Over the years, the tools I use have made the biggest difference in how much time I can spend and how much I can accomplish. Today I want to compare different electronic tools that can be used for genealogy and how they have helped me do the work while raising seven children.

What can be done on the iPad?

  • (with iPhone) Digitize photo collection
  • Share and backup digital photos on Flickr, Google Photos, and online trees like FamilySearch and Ancestry
  • Search for records on Ancestry, FamilySearch, My Heritage & connect them to the family tree (I prefer to do this on the browser versions, although the apps keep improving)
  • Download those records to my iPad to get backed up (like my photos) and also entered into Evernote for further analysis
  • Manage genealogy conference handouts, notes, and resources on Evernote
  • Write blog posts (with a blogging app)
  • Create family history videos & share via YouTube
  • Blog, article reading
  • Webinar watching
  • Social media management for sharing family history
  • Great photo editing apps that are very user friendly
Some extra benefits of the iPad:
  • Can be used while holding and caring for babies and small children
  • Take it anywhere and everywhere in a regular purse
  • Awesome battery life
What are some limitations of the iPad?
  • Not good options for full featured word processing, like adding footnotes
  • Not good option for an offline, computer-based genealogy program (RootsMagic, Legacy, etc)
  • Clunky for multi-tasking: transcribing docs, comparing two docs or sites… it can be done but it is not smooth
  • Often tasks require an external keyboard or it is very inefficient typing
  • Poor internal photo management capability
What can be done with a laptop?
  • Full featured word processing, Evernote, and Facebook
  • Can operate computer-based genealogy software
  • Pretty good at multi-tasking, just limited by screen size and eye strength
  • Portable, but needs its own bag
  • Can use software like book making software, transcription software
  • Good file and photo management capability
  • Fully featured photo editing software, sometimes not so user friendly
What are some limitations with a laptop?
  • Harder to use while tending babies and small children
  • I prefer movie making on the iPad’s built in tools
  • Limited battery life
What can be done with a desktop? 
  • Multiple screens can be connected = more multi-tasking
  • External hard-drive backup
What are the limitations with a desktop?
  • Very difficult to use while tending babies and small children
  • Not portable for onsite research, or following children around

For the past several years, the iPad has been my go-to device. It has allowed me to accomplish a lot of family history preservation and sharing and a lot of genealogy research. What tool helps you facilitate your family history work as a busy parent?

Read more tips for busy parents who want to be involved in family history at the April blog link-up hosted by Family Locket.

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