Palm Reading

By Rhonda R. McClure Premium

Q. Is there a personal digital assistant (PDA) that you would recommend for a family tree?

A. Palm and the Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC (aka “Pocket PC”) are the two major PDA operating systems. A couple of differences: The Palm’s screen has a smaller viewable area to make room for a panel that guides the user in writing notes the machine can read. The Pocket PC is a little easier when it comes to using memory cards.

People who’re used to a traditional organizer often lean toward the Palm, as it was originally designed with that goal in mind. Those who go for the Pocket PC tend to see PDAs as extensions of their computers; they like the familiar programs such as Pocket Word.

Do a little research before your purchase. Read up on PDAs at Web sites such as Handheld Computing ( and Pocket PC Magazine ( Try out the devices at a computer store. See if you can get to the PDA’s address book and calendar section. What other programs are installed? Is the interface easy to use? Are travel cables available so you can charge the PDA away from home? You’ll want to make sure your Palm can run all the software you need it to—it’s not hard to find programs for just about any device.

A number of programs let you take your family history data with you, and some let you add new data. Most work from GEDCOM files you create on your computer. Here’s a quick list:

You’ll find more software options on Web sites such as Handango ( and PDA Street ( For my Palm, I like a program called Cemetery, available at (, for transcribing tombstones.