Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kindle for Genealogy: Redux

JPG to Word to PDF
In September, I wrote about using the Amazon Kindle ebook reader for genealogy - primarily discussing genealogy books that have been formatted for the Kindle and transferring public domain books from Google Books to the Kindle.

Since my Kindle is always in my purse, it seemed like it was time to kick it up a notch (as Emeril Lagasse would say) and discover some more uses of the Kindle for genealogy.

The Kindle actually functions as a high capacity USB drive that can be connected to the USB port on your computer. Adobe PDF files are one of the many file formats that are compatible with the Kindle. That means that any file that can be converted to PDF can be transferred to your Kindle.

I use Microsoft Word for creating word processing documents. Any Word file can easily be converted to the PDF format once you download and install the Microsoft Add-In Save as PDFIt's a quick download, automatically installs in the entire suite of Microsoft products and it's Free! If you don't have this Add-In already, you definitely need it. Being able to convert files to PDF format really makes file sharing quick and easy because just about everyone has the Adobe Reader on their computer.

In the illustration above, I started with a jpg image file that I inserted into a Word document. I then saved the Word document to a PDF file, then copied the PDF file from my computer to my Kindle via the USB port. This only took a couple minutes. If you have numerous photos you would like to put on your Kindle for reference, you can easily insert one photo per page into Word and follow the same process. You will then have a multi page PDF document that you can scroll through on your Kindle.

Carry all of your Descendant Charts, Family Group Sheets and other reports on your Kindle

I use Family Tree Maker 2011 to manage my genealogy database. Within this software, I'm able to create a variety of printed reports. For me, the most used are the Descendant Chart and the Family Group Sheet. Family Tree Maker allows me to export these reports to a PDF file. I'm not that familiar with other software packages, but I imagine they have a similar feature (please comment below if you can provide information about other software packages).

Descendant Chart on my Kindle (landscape view)

In my Family Tree Maker software, I created a descendant chart on my great great grandfather, John Crispin Pecht, and within a couple minutes, the report was created.

I selected the "Export to PDF" option and in a minute or so, my PDF file was completed. I plugged in my Kindle to the USB port on my computer and copied the file.

Once my files are on my Kindle, I can organize them by Collections. In PC terms, that would be equivalent to creating a folder. The file names within that Collection (folder) are displayed. I can select the file I want to view on my Kindle.

The default display on the Kindle is full page, but since the font is too small for me to read the PDF file comfortably, I can change the orientation to landscape and I can easily read and scroll through my file. The Kindle also has a zoom feature which you may use. Since my report is in PDF format, the document is also fully searchable. So if I'm looking for a descendant named Ruby, I can use the Kindle keyboard and type in Ruby and locate all references to that name. That makes it very easy to find the information I am looking for.

As you add more information to your family tree, you can simply create new reports, export or save them as PDF files and transfer them to your Kindle, replacing the old file.

There are many advantages to putting your genealogy reports on your Kindle. Number one is portability. I thought my netbook and Flip-Pal scanner were the greatest things ever for portability and convenience. And they still are. But I don't carry those with me every day. By using my Kindle, I really can have as many genealogy reports as I want with me all the time. I already have 205 books on my Kindle and have barely used any of the storage space on the device. My Kindle Wi-Fi has the capacity for 3,500 books, so there's plenty of room left for me to upload as many genealogy reports as I will ever need.

I have no doubt that other genealogists also experience moments of spontaneity as I do - and discover you aren't prepared because you haven't really planned a research trip. But an idea strikes you as you are driving by a library, court house or cemetery and  you think, "I should stop there and look up . . ." But you don't have your database or binder or research notes with you. By putting your genealogy reports on your Kindle, you can have that information with you all the time and be able to take advantage of those spontaneous moments.

Having these reports on your Kindle is also handy when you meet up with family members. You can look up the information on the spot, even when you don't have your laptop or netbook with you.

Even though I've demonstrated how you can put family photos on your Kindle, I will acknowledge that there are other portable devices that are more appropriate for carrying around digital versions of your family photos. I just wanted to point out that it can be done.

Copying my genealogy reports to my Kindle gives me yet another option in my genealogy toolbox. Please share your experiences using the Kindle for genealogy in the Comments section below. I'd love to hear other ideas for using this device to aid in genealogy research.


  1. I have nook and love it! I didn't even think of using it as a portable genealogy tool. Duh. =) Thanks for the blog post!

  2. As a side note- most any good photo editing software also allows for saving as a PDF in case you don't have or use "word" and of course there are several good free stand alone convert "to PDF" programs that are available too. After conversion then transfer the usual way to your outside device via USB. Legacy Family Tree also allows for exporting any of their reports as a PDF which is handy for lots of applications, including the kindle or nook. Great info, thanks.

  3. Thanks for the additional tips, Cheri! Good to know!

  4. Even though I don't have the latest gadgets, I enjoy learning about them. And Susan, your posts would be a good point of reference, if I ever purchase the latest things. Thanks for all your wonderful reviews.

  5. Legacy Family Tree and Roots Magic also allow you to save Pedigree Charts as PDF. Haven't checked other reports.

  6. I've just been given a kindle for Christmas, didn't even cross my mind. Brilliant idea. Thanks

  7. Very informative and interesting article, Susan. I don't have a Kindle yet but now I know more of what it can be used for.

  8. Just put a descendent chart on my Kobo. Easy as pie...thanks for the tip!

  9. Thank you! I love my Kindle and am so glad I found your post. I am going to start working on this right away!

  10. Glad you found this helpful, Erin!