By Alexandra Mendez-Diez
Technology has done a lot to make conducting our genealogical searches easier. There’s the obvious boon of increased access to nearly limitless resources, but there are a great many other ways in which technology can aid our research – from organizing what we find to digitizing and storing copies of photos. And one of the best parts is that we aren’t limited to using those tools only when we’re sitting at home, not with so many free genealogy apps on the market.
Whether you want untethered access to resources while you’re conducting in-person research, when you’re sorting through hard copies of documents in an archive, or you simply want to use the time you’re waiting in line for coffee to keep looking for your ancestors these 10 genealogy apps are a great choice.
10 of Our Favorite Free Genealogy Apps to Make Your Research Easier
When you embark on the journey to map out your family’s history it’s not just research that is important. Once you acquire research you’ll also need to organize it. Digital photos have only come into being very recently, but they are far and away the easiest way to store copies of anything you’d like to maintain a full visual record of. And while our ancestors have come from all over the world, passing down their genes to us, their language was often not included in our cultural inheritance. But, luckily, with translation software this is no longer the barrier it once was.
For these reasons, we’ve broken down this list of genealogy apps into categories based on the tasks most relevant to conducting genealogical research – family trees and research, organization, digitization and translation.
Family Trees and Research
The heart of any genealogy research is the searching and recording of our family’s data and there are several great genealogy apps that are completely free that will help you look from wherever you happen to be.
1. FamilySearch Family Tree
This app is available for both iPhone and Android. It receives high ratings in reviews with a 4.8 in the Apple Store and 4.3 on Google Play. Created by FamilySearch, this app offers a range of resources for searching, mapping and organizing your family tree. It’s worth noting that new information that you upload or add to your tree will be made public so that other people can use it for their own research, but information about the living can be kept confidential.
2. Find A Grave
Available for iPhone and Android. Offering access to 120 million graves in half a million cemeteries, this app lets you virtually tour cemeteries looking for the graves of ancestors. What makes the mobile option so great is that because so much of the information is crowdsourced it lets you easily upload any information you might find in your own visit to grave sites.
Chances are you spend a good deal of time on your phone in the browser app, but if I had to guess, most of you are using the default browser with your phone, such as Safari or Chrome. But you might want to consider adding this browser app to your phone. Available for iPhone and Android, Dolphin also offers apps specially designed for other devices, including the iPad and Amazon marketplace devices.
This is not specifically a genealogy app, however, it offers features that can make it an ideal choice for conducting this research from your mobile device. A gesture system lets you access pages you often visit quickly and easily. There’s an included web clipper that will let you send what you find directly to Evernote, and once you go to look at the clipped webpage you won’t have to reread the entire page as the browser allows you to highlight as well as create notes directly on the pages with annotations. This app is perfect for making use of Google research tricks on the go as well.
Genealogy Research Organization
Taking the time to properly organize is key to productive and fruitful research. We cover this in detail in our online course. Here are three apps that are a great choice for this purpose.
Organizational apps come and go, but Evernote has had true staying power. Available for the iPhone and Android, it also integrates with numerous other apps and systems in addition to offering a host of its own separate apps that can help with specific tasks – everything from scanning to keeping contact lists. The app is so popular because it’s a powerhouse with seemingly endless possibilities. The downside of that is that because it offers so much it can be a bit intimidating to figure out in the start (luckily there is a great how-to on using it for genealogy here), but once you invest the energy to learn the system the payoff can be enormous. Warning to iPhone users: the latest version has received very low ratings in the Apple Store.
Available for both iPhone and Android, with the current version receiving high marks in both systems, Trello is the perfect organizational choice for those who are visual thinkers. It offers a great deal of flexibility in the type of information it lets you organize but it uses a system based on cards and color coding that is visually appealing and easy to read at a glance. The desktop and app versions sync up beautifully. Take a look at our brief how-to here.
6. FamilySearch Memories
Another app from FamilySearch International, this app lets you capture and organize the family history that you’re creating right now, and have recently made. In addition to letting you upload photographs and text there is a record feature that lets you record family stories. It’s the perfect way to ensure that future generations will have a genealogical record to treasure and can also be a great way to organize information from your older living relatives. Available for iPhone and Android.
Photo and Document Digitization
One of the greatest treasure troves of family history searches is always the visual records left behind. By adding a quality digitization app to your phone you can hold on to these pictures forever, not having to leave them behind in archives and documents, and you can carry them around in your pocket while keeping them neatly organized.
7. Photoscan by Google
This app, which is available for Android and Apple, is a great choice for taking higher quality scans of pictures than you get by simply taking a picture of a picture. The app helps to minimize glare and will let you find the margins of the photo to help with the distortion. Ironically, though it is a Google app, the ratings are much higher for the iPhone than Android. When you tie it in with Google Photo you can have automatic backups with nearly unlimited free storage and a powerful way to search your own photos. Read more about this app here.
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Photomyne is another free photo digitization app and it has some really unique features – such as the ability to scan a group of photos at one time. The main version, which allows unlimited photos scans, is free. The upgraded version that includes additional features such as albums is $4.99. You can read our how-to on using this app here.
9. Adobe Scan
The concerns that come with scanning documents are somewhat different from those of a photo. With a photo you want it to look as close to the original as possible, but with a document, the main concern is ensuring there is good readability. PDF scans are a good choice for storing high quality scans of any document. Read more about file types for genealogy here. Adobe Scan is available for both iPhone and Android.
Once upon a time people either had to shell out a lot of money to hire a professional translator or spend hours hovered over a dictionary just to make basic sense of an old foreign language document. Those days are over with the magic of translation apps. Although a translation app will never be able to match the accuracy of a translator – they can give you the rough translations you need to make sense of a document.
10. Google Translate
One of our favorite translation services is likely one you’re already using on your computer and, luckily, there is a nice app available for mobile devices as well. In addition to being able to instantly translate text as you type the app has the ability to read text in images captured by the camera and translate those! Of course, this only works for typed text at this time but this feature can save you a lot of work. Available for iPhone and Android.
About Alexandra: Though Alexandra Mendez-Diez has not invested a great deal of time into researching her own genealogy, on her father’s side, a few well-placed phone calls to Miami once led to her discovering and meeting long-lost teenage second cousin twins in Havana. And while she would like to look further into the less common spelling of her second apellido to find out if it is as she suspects a direct link to Sephardic Jews from Spain, she’s been much more preoccupied with researching the genealogy of James Joyce’s fictional character Molly Bloom from Ulysses. This has taken her to Granada in the South of Spain, where she spent several months sorting through early 20th century hand-written court archives in search of Molly Bloom’s mother, a woman who never lived (hazard of being fictional), but could have.