Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Paperless Research Trip Was Successful

Let me clarify that a bit. I did not find much information that helped with my research goals for this trip but the paperless experiment worked very well, even though there were a couple of glitches in my initial plan. 

When I was prepping for this trip, I realized that the Families app didn't include the "general" to do items from my Legacy Family Tree database. The individual to dos show up but there is no way to access anything not tied to a specific individual in the database. (I ask Families about this. They said they would add it to their next version.) No big problem. I just created a To Do List report from Legacy, loaded it to the tablet and referred to it at each facility. My tablet doesn't have 3G, it's WiFi only, so everything I might need had to be loaded in advance. Frankly, I would have done that even if I had 3G, you never know when a cell signal will fail you.

I started last Monday morning in the Probate Clerk's Office in the Whitfield County, Georgia courthouse with my Android Tablet, Wand Scanner and Android Phone (used to take the photo below). Over three days, I also researched at the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society and the Murray County courthouse. I did not print one piece of paper. I did not write a word on a piece of paper. I copied everything with either the wand scanner or an app on my phone and typed all notes into Evernote on the tablet. 

I have used the CamScanner app on my phone in the past and been very happy with it. It was one of the first apps I loaded to the tablet but I hadn't tried to use it until this trip. Turns out it doesn't really work on the tablet. The image looks extremely distorted even before taking the picture. Apparently, it hasn't been optimized for Honeycomb (the tablet's version of the Android operating system) so my plan to copy things using that app on the tablet didn't work out. Again, no big problem. I could still use the app on the phone and I had the wand scanner.

Since this was a test for going paperless on a research trip, I used both the wand scanner and the CamScanner app to copy most everything in order to compare the results. The above marriage record was copied with the wand scanner. (I reduced the size for this upload but I have a larger size file.) Here is an example of the same record using the app. (I could have cropped it down to look just like the one above but just didn't do it.)  

For individual records, I really prefer the wand (which saves to JPG) over the app (which saves to PDF) but both give very good copies. For multi-page items, I prefer the app because you can save multiple pages to one document. If you are coping pages from a book, start with the title page, or even the cover, and then add the pages you want. You will have the info you need to write a source along with all of the pages in one document. 

The next time I connected the tablet to WiFi, all of the notes I took in Evernote synced with my online account making them accessible from my laptop and other devices.  

Switching back and forth between Evernote, the Families app (my genealogy database) and the To Do report was simple. Since my tablet has a USB port, I could also connect the wand scanner, download the scans to the tablet for backup and ensure I had a good copy before I left the facility. 

So. It is definitely possible to research without creating any paper. From now on, this will be my routine - unless I'm visiting a repository that doesn't allow scanning or photography. There are still some of those around. 

Even though this process worked, I'm still on the fence about the tablet. More about that tomorrow.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the companies mentioned in this post other than I use the products. I purchased the Families app and Legacy Family Tree Software but use the free version of Evernote.   


  1. Great report, I need to up my game, including investigating more apps for the Iconia tablet.

  2. Glad that the paperless part of the trip was a success!

  3. I use Legacy and my itouch when out researching and what I do is make my pdfs of the to-do reports or other reports and then upload them in a pdf reader program for my itouch. Thanks for sharing about the scanner and how you use mobile apps.

  4. Great post. Thanks for the information.
    I just - finally - got my tablet (an eeepad)which is an android. So far I love it. I'll be looking for more apps as time goes on. With your comments I'm sure I can go paperless, between my tablet, Iphone, and Flip-Pal.

  5. I'll be paperless at Rootstech 2012 -hope to catch up and compare apps. I use GDocs notes to take notes in talks and sync them to my Google Docs. I find that CamScanner works well on my tablet but holding it at the correct angle to avoid distortion is tricky. I keep my research notes outside of my genie program on a Google spreadsheet that I can amend on the go via a 3G connection.
    I love to hear how other paperless genies work, thanks.

  6. I love this concept! Great idea and thanks for walking us through.

  7. Thanks for all the details of your paperless research. Great explanations - very encouraging to a less-techy person.

  8. Great to know that it CAN be done! You have inspired me...it would be great to come back from a research trip without so much paper to "process". Thanks!!

  9. Fabulous!I have used my wand scanner on a couple of research trips and it has been nice not to end up with all that paper.

    Just started using CamScanner and am looking forward to using it on a research trip. I agree that it's nice you can put all the images from one book into the same document so all the info is together and only the one citation is needed.

    Thanks for showing us the two document images from the wand and CamScan. More importantly thank you for sharing the results of your paperless research trip!

  10. We may be willing to try this now! Thanks for testing the paperless route!