It’s a free, secure, stable, powerful piece of programming. If you have an Android smartphone or tablet, you will always have your contacts and e-mails. Even if you don’t have a smartphone, you will have secure access to your e-mail and contacts anywhere there is a hot-spot. These reasons work for anyone not just genealogists. So why do genealogists need a G-mail account as opposed to other web-based e-mail accounts?
The answer is iGoogle. iGoogle is another free Google product that lets you create your own custom home page for when you open your browser. This page, combined with the Google toolbar means that your favorite genealogy websites and bookmarks are always with you on the Internet. This process takes three steps. First obtain a free GMail account from www.gmail.com. You don’t have to use this new e-mail account for e-mail at all! You could decide to use it just for genealogy, though, so that when you post to a message board or forum, your e-mail account doesn’t change, even if you move or change Internet service providers (ISP) in the future. It’s really frustrating when I see a post from someone in my family research and their e-mail address is no longer valid when I try to contact them with information they have requested. With a Gmail account, you have a stable address for these posts.
Next, (or first if you already have a Gmail account) go to www.google.com/ig. The “ig” on the end signifies that you want the personalized iGoogle home page. You may have to sign-in to customize and save this page as your own. If you don’t sign-in you can still create a page with gadgets of your choosing, but the personal page won’t be saved.
Once you’ve designed your page and added the gadgets for your research, you’ll need to set this page as your home page in your browser. Each browser is a little different but the options for re-setting your home page are usually under the tools menu. You can have more than one “home page” on the Internet if you are using a “tabbed” browser. This means that you do not have to give up your current home page just add this one to the list.
Now when you open your Internet browser the iGoogle home page you designed is the first page you see! I have gadgets for weather, g-mail, various genealogy web-sites and blogs, etc. I’ve included some of those gadget choices here. Don’t forget to search for other words like “ancestry” and “family history.”
There is plenty of help for iGoogle on the iGoogle help screens so I won’t go into detail here on how to set-up your pages. The G-mail account and iGoogle make your Internet experience much more personal. Don't forget to test these gadgets. I've found that some gadgets are not as useful as I first though.