Genealogy For Dummies
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Perhaps you are one of those people so addicted to genealogy that you need to constantly be in a state of research. If so, you don't want to have to lug a computer around with you everywhere you go. However, if you have a smart phone, here are some apps that might help you satisfy your genealogy craving while you are on the go.


If you have an online family tree at then this app is a must. It syncs with your online family trees and you can add new family members, upload source documents, and research hints.

There are three sections to the app — Hints, Tree, and DNA. The Hints view contains a listing of available tips or clues that you can scroll through and review when you have the time. The Tree view is similar to the online Family Tree view, and you can select an individual to see the LifeStory page, Family page, or Gallery. The DNA section shows information on your genetic ancestry, DNA matches, and DNA circles (if you have tested with AncestryDNA).

Within the Tree view, there are some features that provide the ability to search records directly from the app (especially useful if you have a subscription to The app's search interface also allows you to filter the results to cut down on the number of items to review. In the app's settings, you can choose the default family tree displayed by the app, and you can elect to create a new family tree. The following figure shows the Family page for William Henry Abell.

genealogy-ancestry Ancestry app Family Page.

Ancestry also has a few other apps including:

  • Ancestry Academy: The app provides training videos on genealogical research and how to use
  • AncestryDNA: If you have tested your DNA with Ancestry, the app will provide the ethnicity estimate and show you your matches.
  • Find a Grave: The companion app to the online cemetery website.
  • Shoebox: The app is for taking pictures with your phone and adding it to individuals in your online family tree.
  • We're Related: Purely for entertainment purposes, the app hypothesizes how you are related to celebrities based upon online trees (which may or may not be substantiated through sources).

FamilySearch Tree

FamilySearch Tree is the companion app to the FamilySearch Family Tree website. The app provides a pedigree view of your ancestors and you can build your family tree directly from the app. You can view your ancestors with tasks associated with them and search the collection of historical records and attach them to your tree through the app. The app has a memories screen that allows you to upload photos, audio files, stories, or documents. Also, you can view Adobe PDF versions of pedigree, family, family with sources, fan and portrait pedigree charts.

The following figure shows the Pedigree view within the app. FamilySearch also produces the Memories app that allows you to save photographs, stories, documents, and audio files.

genealogy-familysearch The FamilySearch Tree Pedigree View.


The RootsMagic app is a companion to the RootsMagic software available on personal computers. Rather than syncing with a web application, like Ancestry and FamilySearch Tree, RootsMagic uses the actual RootsMagic file.

You can place the file on your smart phone/tablet by uploading the RootsMagic file on your computer to Dropbox or by transferring it through iTunes (for Apple devices). As it is a copy of your RootsMagic file, you won't be able to change items on the device. Along with information about your ancestors, you can also find lists of sources, things to-do, research, addresses, repositories, and places. There are also nifty tools in the app including date calculator, relationship calculator, soundex calculator, and a perpetual calendar.


The BillionGraves app serves two purposes. The first is a way to photograph cemeteries and enter the information into the BillionGraves database — if you have registered at the site. The second is a search mechanism for cemeteries already documented in the database. As for the latter, you can search for individuals or you can pull up a cemetery. There is even a clever function to route you to the location of a cemetery using the mapping application on your phone once you have found an individual grave you are interested in visiting. This figure shows the location of William Henry Abell's grave in Sugar Grove Cemetery.

genealogy-billiongraves Map of William Henry Abell's grave in the BillionGraves app.


If you want easy access to your research notes and documents, consider using Evernote and its companion app. With the app, you can create notes and embed photographs or audio from your phone. You can add tags to the notes to make them easier to locate the next time that you need them and you can add a location to the notes to georeferenced them. After the notes are synced, you can access them with any device (including computers) that supports Evernote.

The Family Nexus

While researching on the road, we sometimes forget all of the people who are associated with the particular place that we are researching. We might be somewhere researching the Abell family, forgetting that someone from the Helm family also lived in the area. That is where The Family Nexus app is useful. If you have an account on FamilySearch tree, you can hook the app up to your online family tree and it will plot on the map where specific events occurred. For example, the figure shows a map of the area around Wapella, Illinois, where four events noted in the family tree occurred.

genealogy-family-nexus Events around Wapella, Illinois through The Family Nexus.

Saving Memories Forever

Saving Memories Forever is an app and website that together assist you in asking specific questions and saving the recordings. There is a free version of the app/site that limits the number of storytellers to two. The fee-based version provides additional tools, including expanded search capabilities, the ability to add photos and Word documents to stories, unlimited storytellers, and backup for your recordings.

The app contains categories such as Childhood, Teenage Years, Celebrations, Religion, and Jokes. Within each category are specific questions that you can ask. The recording interface, shown here, is simple and easy to navigate. After you have recorded the interview, it is uploaded to the Saving Memories Forever website. The app also provides the opportunity for you to upload the interview to Facebook. After the interview is posted to the website, you can create tags to make recordings easier to find.

genealogy-saving-memories The easy recording interface for Saving Memories Forever.

OldNews USA

The OldNews USA app for Andriod helps you locate newspaper articles within the Library of Congress "Chronicling America" collection. This collection contains more than 11 million newspaper pages from 1789 to 1922. You simply put in a person's name, date range, and location and the app suggests newspapers that are the most likely have articles about your ancestor. The app then creates a search suggestion that you use to query the Library of Congress site. A similar app on iPhone is American Chronicle.


Have you scanned hundreds of photographs only to not be able to find the one that you want when you need it? The solution may be QromaTag — an app that allows you to say indexing terms such as name, location, and date while you scan with your device. It then turns the items into industry standard metadata that is stored with the scan. You can import your GEDCOM or contact list to tag individuals in your photographs. QromaTag also allows you to embed up to 2,000 characters per story within your image.


A handy app to have on hand while researching in the field is the Kindle app. Keep your favorite research "books" handy, just in case they are needed for a quick reference. One of the Kindle books that the authors use a lot is Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Using this work ensures that they cite their sources in the best way while we are researching, saving time in correcting sources later.

genealogy-kindle A quick citation check using the Kindle app.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Matthew L. Helm and April Leigh Helm manage several leading online genealogical resources, including They're also the founders of Boneyard Creek Heritage, Inc. Books by the Helms include Family Tree Maker For Dummies, Get Your Degree Online, Genealogy Online: Tech to Connect and seven editions of Genealogy Online For Dummies.

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