BEST GENEALOGY APPS FOR PHONE & TABLET
Your phone and tablet can be invaluable tools for researching your family history when out and about. Genealogy expert Nick Peers recommends the essential apps for taking photos, recording conversations and more
Synchronise all your research
When carrying out your fact-finding on the road you should always make sure your phone or tablet holds the latest version of your research, including photos and the all-important family tree. There are several programs that offer alternative ways of doing this.
You could, for example, install the Rootsmagic app ( www.rootsmagic.com/ App) on your phone and sync it with the Rootsmagic program on your desktop PC. Alternatively, you could use the Familysync tool in the PC version of Family Tree Maker 2017 ( www.snipca. com/27193) to upload your tree to your Ancestry account ( www.ancestry.co.uk) via its Plan tab, then install the free Ancestry app ( www.snipca.com/27181, see screenshot below left) on your device. This gives you access to your family tree on the road, letting you update it wherever you are.
Need to jot down notes while out and about? Microsoft’s Onenote (Android: www.snipca.com/27182; IOS www. snipca.com/27183) offers many clever ways to organise and share your notes, and lets you add photos. For more basic note taking try Simplenote ( www. simplenote.com). Pair these apps with their downloadable PC counterparts to keep your notes in sync.
Capture old family photos
Imagine the scenario: you’ve been invited to view a collection of old family photos, but you can’t take them away with you to scan later. The answer is to use your phone’s camera on a tripod to ensure sharp results. You’ll find several perfectly good tripods on Amazon for £10 to £15, such as these 42in models from Paladinz ( www.snipca.com/27187) and Futa ( www.snipca.com/27188).
You should also consider signing up for a free Joyflips account ( www.joyflips. com). This app is purpose-built to speed up the process of photographing multiple pictures. While it’s available only for iphones at the moment, an Android version is coming soon.
Once you’re in position, set up your tripod on a flat surface where you’ll also place the photos, ideally on a plain background. Make sure they are well-lit – natural lighting is best – and have your photos ready to hand. Mount your phone on the tripod so its rear-facing camera is pointing straight down at the table top.
Next, open Joyflips and tap Scan. Line up the first photo under your phone and adjust the tripod so the photo is framed correctly in the viewscreen. Tap the record button and wait for the green circle to close and a tick to appear, indicating the photo has been snapped. At this point remove it and put the next one in place. If necessary, tap Pause to reframe the shot before taking the photo.
Tap the mic button (see screenshot above) to narrate details while the photos are snapped, letting you record useful information about who’s in each photo, or when and where they were taken. When you get home, use the app to crop, edit and manage your photos, which will be uploaded to your Joyflips account online, ready for sharing or downloading to your PC.
Scan documents and edit text
Your phone or tablet can also be used as a document scanner. While you can always take photos of documents using your
phone’s Photos app, we recommend using Microsoft’s free Office Lens app (Android www.snipca.com/27184; IOS www.snipca.com/27195) instead. It can automatically correct skewed scans, so you don’t have to be too precise when lining up the document. And it uses optical-character recognition ( OCR), which lets you turn snaps of typed documents into Word files you can edit.
When you open Office Lens, leave ‘Document’ selected as the scan type, then line up your document in the viewfinder. The app will then attempt to detect its edges (see screenshot above). When you’re happy, tap the circular capture button and wait. After a short period, the scan will be presented to you – it should be perfectly square and legible. If not, use the crop and rotation tools to adjust it. Tap the camera button to scan any additional pages or the tick button to finish.
Now you need to decide where to save the document, and in what format (document, image, PDF or as editable text). For editable text, choose the Word option. You’ll need to sign into your Microsoft account to use this feature.
Find your ancestors’ graves
One reason for taking your research on the road is to track down the burial records of your ancestors. Once you’ve used services like Ancestry.co.uk to find their final resting place, install the Billiongraves app ( www.snipca. com/27196, see screenshot below) to see
if the cemetery has been added to its database, and if any headstones there have already been photographed. Perhaps your ancestor’s is among them, in which case you can write down the details from the image.
The app can also direct you to the correct headstone using a map of the cemetery, or you can use it to take a photo of the gravestone if it’s not yet been archived, ready for transcribing and uploading to Billiongraves as well as adding to your own records.
Record interviews with your relatives
Other family members hold a wealth of useful information – what you need to do is find an appropriate way to unlock it. A simple, informal chat in a friendly environment is one of the most effective ways to do this, perhaps armed with photos and other family memorabilia to help steer the conversation in the direction you want.
Rather than trying to jot down notes as you chat, why not simply record the entire conversation on your phone? iphone users can use the built-in Voice Memos app to record a conversation or interview. But if you’d like more structure to your chat, try Storyglory ( https://storyglory. me), which lets you attach recordings of conversations to specific photos.
The free version lets you create and store your videos online indefinitely, which you can access via the app on your device or through a web link in your browser. If you want to download the story (in a video format) you’ll have to pay £3.99 a month. There’s no contract, so you could upgrade once every six months, say, solely for the purpose of downloading everything to your PC, then cancel immediately.
Android users should try the free Canomapp app ( https://canomapp.com), which lets you attach photos and notes to your recordings, as well as add ‘pins’ to bookmark specific sections. Both apps provide useful tools to help you organise your interviews, making it easier to refer to them during your research.
One quick tip: always make a test recording before you begin to ensure your phone’s mic picks up everyone’s voice clearly.
Share and present your research
If your phone or tablet’s family-tree app doesn’t provide you with an inspiring way to share family stories, look for apps you can use on your PC and mobile device, so you can present your research, documents and photos in an engaging story format. Microsoft Sway ( https:// sway.com) is the perfect tool for turning lots of different elements (documents, photos, etc) into well presented stories.
Your phone’s screen can seem a little cramped, so ask if your family member has access to a Chromecast or Apple TV device, which you can use to project your mobile app on to the big screen. If you bring your own Chromecast with you, be sure to use the Google Home app on your phone to let you connect it to your family member’s Wi-fi network.
Install the Ancestry app to access your family tree on your phone or tablet
Tap the Mic icon in Joyflips to record your comments on the photos
Look for an ancestor’s headstone using the app Billiongraves
The Office Lens app detects the edges of a document when scanning it