Google Reader for the genealogist

I think it’s possible that Google Reader is my favorite technological innovation of the last decade. Google Reader has revolutionized the way I read websites, news, and compile information. If you have never used Google Reader, here is a brief synopsis.

Google Reader is an aggregator. You set up subscriptions to sites, each time the site updates it compiles in Reader, and then you  can read/listen/watch whenever you want to. This works for any site that has an RSS feed and even some sites that do not have the symbol shown. Look for the symbol, usually on the front page or bottom footer of a site. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.

To use Google Reader, first you will want to set up a Gmail account. It’s free. And if you don’t have a Gmail account already designated just for genealogy, it’s probably a good idea to do that. You can also have many Gmail accounts if that’s what you decide to do. When you log into Google (Gmail, iGoogle, or any other Google site), you can choose Reader from the drop down menu of products. You can choose from a variety of preset feeds, or you can paste your own links into Reader to subscribe to any number of website updates. To use Reader for genealogical work, you can subscribe to a site such as Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogical Newsletter. This is what the feed looks like. The bold type without shade indicates that I haven’t read any of these recent posts. To view the first article, just click on it, and it will open up within the feed. This is what it looks like. You notice that you have the option to email the update somewhere, possibly a cousin or fellow researcher. And if you scroll through titles and  do not want to read any of the updates, there is an option to mark them as “read”. Reader works for websites, podcasts, video feeds, and blogs. I have links to blogs I am following, including conference blogs.  This is what the FGS Conference Blog looks like. Note the shaded  articles that I have read, the unshaded ones that I have not read.If you use Google Reader to subscribe to the surname boards, it’s a great way to keep track of postings by other genealogist searching for information too. So, for example if you want to look for information on the Bodey family, look for the ancestry link:
Paste that link into the subscription field. Then any time someone posts a query or response, it will load to your Reader. This is what my Robbins Family feed looks like. Make sure you add feeds for alternate spellings such as Robins if they exist.  You don’t want to miss something just because of the alternate spelling of the surname. If you briefly look at this list and decide that none of the entries are relevant, you can mark them all at once as read by choosing the double arrow button on the right. No need to open each individually.
Google Reader also gives you the option of listing just the items that have new information, or you can list all of the feeds. Here is what it looks like. The bold items have new updates, and the unbold items have no new contributions.
Google Reader is a revolutionary way to keep track of all of the tidbits and websites that you want to read. And you might be surprised when you find a cousin or two! Before you leave this site today, subscribe to Mess on the Desk as well.