The Essential Genealogist

Published on 4 June 2021 at 08:00

DabbleWriter for Genealogists

As enthusiastic genealogists and family storytellers we all have our preferred tools that we use on a regular basis for our research and story writing. Genealogists need tools to research family history – to scan databases for documentation (evidence of ancestors’ vital facts) and tools to store the results of our research. Family Historians need writing tools to prepare stories for sharing.

One tool that I would recommend you use for writing your ancestral stories and keeping them together in the one place in the cloud, is DabbleWriter. This is a cloud-based tool for writers, like Scrivener, but easier to use. DabbleWriter can be accessed on your laptop computer directly on the web or you can download the App. You can also use DabbleWriter App from your mobile devices – iPhone and iPad. Using their preferred access option, Genealogists can structure a collation of their family history research results, and ancestral stories in their DabbleWriter Manuscripts.

Some Genealogists may even consider DabbleWriter as a suitable library for the myriad of research notes gathered while searching for their ancestors.

DabbleWriter can be used for free in a 14-day trial period and then can be purchased at a reasonable cost: Annual or monthly fee. (At the time of writing my subscription to the Premium account costs $10 US per month.)

I have been using DabbleWriter to record my family history story writing and preparing copy for blog posts in the future. My stories are either stored in several Books in the one Manuscript or as one Book per family group. I have created a series of linked Manuscripts for each clan in my family tree and have a structure for keeping everything together.

In the above diagram a Manuscript for my Maternal Ancestors is beginning to emerge as chapters focussing on individual ancestors. The scenes within chapters are being created to store events and anecdotes about that ancestor. I can have as many scenes as I like. Each scene and chapter can have as many words as I wish and can be edited easily as I write. Traditional spell checking and grammar and style checking, is built into DabbleWriter through the integration of the popular Pro-Writing Aid.

I really like the flexibility of DabbleWriter as Chapters and Scenes can be moved into a new sequence if relevant. Drag and drop tools are featured in the Navigation panel (see above diagram), which enable the user to move elements up or down as required.

The software supports your planning and plotting tasks for stories by displaying a Plot Grid tool. Within the Plot Grid the writer can create plotlines and plotpoints. These will be seen in the right-hand panel as you write, providing prompts right there on the page.

Chapters can be renamed with your ancestors’ names and content can be added in one or more scenes by writing directly into the middle pane or pasting text copied from another source.

DabbleWriter provides two main themes in which to work, a light and a dark theme (see below). These are useful choices depending on the device you are using and/or the time of day you are writing.

DabbleWriter consists of three main elements:

  1. Navigation panel – displayed on the left, contains the books, chapters, scenes, and the plot, characters, and world building.

  2. Content panel – displayed in the centre, contains the composed or imported text of the story.

  3. Goals & Stats panel – displayed on the right, contains your pre-selected word count goals and writing prompts from the Plotlines and Scenes.

Navigation Panel

Another fantastic feature of the navigation tools is the ability to add Characters and Story Notes. In this example I have changed the title from Characters to Ancestors.

I have changed the title of Story Notes to Research Notes, and I have added specific research notes in folders at the bottom of my Navigation panel. I can add any details from my research into these Notes to help me collate story scenes before commencing the story writing, keeping it all in one place.

Content Panel

You can focus on this central panel in full, without the distractions of the navigation or goals panel, by using the Focus Mode to change from one view to another. (see below)

Goals and Stats Panel

DabbleWriter includes a Word Count Goals tool to help keep you on track with your writing on a regular basis. Once you set your goal you receive daily reminders of your journey towards the daily and monthly goals.

In my recent Essential Genealogist Podcast Interview with software creator Jacob Wright, we unpack these features and provide insight into the benefits of using DabbleWriter as Genealogists.

If you are keen to explore how DabbleWriter can help you as a Genealogist, I invite you to join the DabbleWriter for Genealogists, my latest short course, available in the first week of June 2021, from my learning academy.

Learn more about Carole at the Links Below & Follow her website for Genealogy Tips and Podcasts

Carole is a keen amateur genealogist and family history writer. Stories of her ancestors appear in her blogs which she shares with her networked social media communities.


Join her followers at the Family History Preserved Facebook page at: You can also network with Carole in LinkedIn at:


Carole is a course developer and instructional designer, specialising in courses for family historians at her academy:


The Essential Genealogist is her latest service consisting of Tips and Podcasts. Find out more at:

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