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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