Review: Family Bee for Android

Family Bee LogoI have been using PDAs for years, and was an early adopter of the Hand­spring prod­uct that started the inte­gra­tion of PDAs and cell phones back in about 2002.

As a geneal­o­gist, I have used sev­eral prod­ucts that have allowed for dis­play­ing a geneal­ogy data­base on my PDA/cell phone, and was quite happy with Ged­Star Pro, which could read my data­base directly from The Mas­ter Geneal­o­gist and dis­play it on my Pal­mOS device.

But, folks, the Pal­mOS is dead. Long live WebOS, iOS, and Android!

I never caught the iPhone bug. The only things I can say were that the pric­ing I get from Sprint has always been bet­ter than what AT&T has offered with the iPhone, and I was happy with my Pal­mOS, and later WebOS devices. I was start­ing to get a lit­tle bit of app envy, though, as more and more apps appeared for the iPhone, and very few for the WebOS, par­tic­u­larly around the geneal­ogy space. I was able to run Ged­Star Pro in the WebOS’s Palm OS com­pat­i­bil­ity mode, but only in a lim­ited way, and only for a lim­ited time. Then, try­ing to start Ged­Star Pro seemed like the best way to force a phone reboot.

I now have a Google Android-based phone (the HTC Evo), and have been try­ing out Fam­ily­Bee for Android ($10 from Bee­keeper Labs). This app accepts GEDCOM 5.5 files and pro­vides an ele­gant and intu­itive way to nav­i­gate through your data­base. Search works exactly as you it does in any other Android app. Mul­ti­ple GEDCOM files can be uploaded. Each time you launch you choose the one you will use.

To get a GEDCOM file into the appli­ca­tion, you can down­load it from a known URL, send it to your phone via e-mail (directly, or by using a web form Bee­keeper Sofware pro­vides), or use a USB con­nec­tion to install it from your computer.

GEDCOM files can­not be mod­i­fied in any way, which is com­mon with geneal­ogy apps for hand-held devices. In my case, I do not really want to edit my GEDCOM, because I would then have to sync the GEDCOM with my data­base. What Fam­ily Bee offers instead, which I hap­pen to like bet­ter, is the abil­ity to attach notes to a file, which can later be exported or e-mailed. This sep­a­rates the notes from the data­base, and allows you to keep your “sin­gle source of truth” in the desk­top or web appli­ca­tion you use to man­age your data.

There is more for me to look at in Fam­ily Bee. But I can say at this point that it has already shown me some flaws in my sourc­ing (where I have sim­ply attached the wrong source or repos­tory to an event or doc­u­ment). That, and the abil­ity to take my data­base some­where that I can­not get an Inter­net con­nec­tion in a form fac­tor small enough to fit in a shirt pocket, is well worth the $10, in my view.

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