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Like many of you, I had a grandpa who seemed to be always doing family history. He would spend hours digging through old records and driving around to places where our ancestors used to live. He even traveled from Utah all the way to New York to travel to a cemetery just to try to find out more information on a particular family. With this as my example, I thought for sure I would never have enough time to do family history until I was at least a grandma. However, he slowly got sicker and sicker from a degenerative lung disease, and we knew he wasn’t long for this earth. As he slowly declined, he tried to pass on all the information he had tenderly and painstakingly gathered to my mom.
One afternoon, I overheard them discussing a family that they couldn’t find some dates on and my mom told my grandpa to go find them after he died and then come tell her the correct information! It hit me that these were REAL PEOPLE on the other side and they are MY FAMILY and I’m their hope for obtaining those saving ordinances. Not only that, but it’s a family endeavor. My grandpa is still helping us do our family history work.
Since then, I felt a sense of urgency, like my heart was going to burst if I didn’t get started right away. Without knowing exactly where this would go, I started looking to see what I could do from home while my babies were napping. Amazingly, I discovered that I could duplicate what my grandpa worked years on in a matter of hours thanks to technology. Now, I can do everything almost exclusively with a fabulous tool that is with me at all times–my smartphone. I knew that I had found my calling. Every time I sit down to work on something family history related, that same sense of urgency continues and I work like a madwoman, anxious to trap the information I’ve gathered and record it so these family members are no longer lost.
Elder Bednar reminds us “It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. Our fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation.”
Hi! We’re Jessie and Carissa from Family History Modernized. We hope to share the joy of doing family history and that it’s not your boring grandma’s genealogy! There are so many fun and modern ways to do family history and teach your kids about their history. We do so much exclusively on our phones and we thought we’d share a little about our favorite family history apps with you all today.
FamilySearch International Android/iOS FREE
This app is an extension of the FamilySearch website. You can browse your tree and discover information you’ve never seen before, add stories and documents, record audio, and do research from within the app. It automatically syncs with your FamilySearch.org account so you can switch between devices seamlessly. It even works without internet.
I love that I can pull up my tree at anytime. For example, at Thanksgiving dinner, we started quizzing each other on facts from our tree, like, which lines traveled to the United States with the Pilgrims, and which family line immigrated to Utah the very latest. We learned about our family in a fun and interactive way and all from the convenience of our phones.
FamilySearch International Android/iOS FREE
Add photos already in your gallery or snap new ones straight from the app and add them to your tree. The audio recording feature is especially awesome because you never know when a family member will start sharing a story and you can record it right into the app and have it captured! Another great way I use this app is to help my grandma digitize her stacks of photos of and upload them right into the app. She can help me identify those in the photos and tag them to members in our tree right away.
Ancestry.com Android/iOS FREE
This app is similar to Family Tree but it’s the extension of the Ancestry website. Where FamilySearch is a global tree, I use Ancestry to build my trees and then share the information with FamilySearch so I can keep a separate record that doesn’t change. Ancestry has billions of records and photos you can search right on your phone. My favorite feature is the Hints that appear and I can go through those right in the app and add records, photos and stories to my family tree. It syncs with my Ancestry.com account automatically so I can pick up where I left off on any device.
Ancestry.com Android/iOS FREE
Shoebox is like the FamilySearch Memories app but talks back and forth with your Ancestry trees. There are more photo editing capabilities and the photos always stay private unless you choose to share.
Otter Creek Holdings LLC Android/iOS FREE
On this app, you can search for burial information on your family. Using headstones as a research tool is a great way to get primary sources for your family documentation. They usually include dates and multiple members of the same family may be buried next to each other. The database of headstones is created by people all over the world uploading photos from their local cemeteries and transcribing them. You can add to the effort by searching for cemeteries near your location to see what cemeteries need photos and then go and upload photos straight to the app.
Ancestry.com Android/iOS FREE
Use the app like the website to search through the database of memorials. Relatives are linked and you can learn so much about families with this app. This is similar to BillionGraves, but the database of memorials is much larger. There are not only photos of headstones, but life stories and you can link family members so you can simply click through several generations and find important primary data. By using the app you can read memorials, request headstone photos, contribute photos, search through cemeteries and share my discoveries.
Piksoft Inc Android $4.99 iOS $3.99
Turns your phone into a scanner. I use this app all the time to digitize information; pictures, journals, baby books, etc. I can download the scans as a pdf and then upload them as documents into FamilySearch. Next time you’re visiting grandma, scan all those old photos or documents in the living room and you don’t even have to take the frame off the wall. This is much faster than scanning them on a copy machine! Plus, you can quickly share them to social media right away and that information is available within seconds! Now grandma’s wedding picture is forever preserved.
Day Journal: Personal Diary
The Apps Pod Android basic FREE with PRO upgrade $1.99
Bloom Built, LLC iOS $4.99
Journaling by hand was always a struggle for me so when I got a smartphone the first thing I looked for was a way to easily journal on my phone. I love this app. It automatically time stamps, saves your location and weather at time of entry and you can add pictures. I can also tag the entries based on what I’m writing about, my personal musings or thoughts I have while reading scriptures. I can record entries while I’m driving so I don’t forget to write it down later. Entries are all searchable, downloadable and shareable. I have more entries in my journal than I ever had before because it’s so easy and I always have my phone with me.
Google Inc Android/iOS FREE
Automatically backup all your photos so they never get lost and you can delete them off your phone without worrying about plugging it in! I also backup all the photos on my desktop and laptop as well and then can access them all on my phone through the app. Plus, no storage limit on high quality photos. I have tens of thousands of photos that I can easily access in one place. I can search by date, location, who is in the photo, or by what’s happening in the photo. The photo assistant also creates movies, stories, and panoramas automatically or you can create them yourself. I love to make albums of each of my kids for the year and also of our family vacations. Printing them is much easier because the albums are already there!
Adobe Android/iOS FREE
I edit all of my photos that I post on social media and this is a great way to do it from my phone instead of waiting until I’m at home (or to get off the couch…)to do on my computer. You can adjust brightness, sharpen the image, crop, touch up blemishes, and apply filters. The photos aren’t compressed so I can send them to a printer and have them coming out crisp and beautiful.
Rhonna Farrer Android/iOS $1.99 with tons of in app purchases
If you love graphic design or scrapbooking, you’ll love this app. Add text, frames, backgrounds, and more to your photos plus send straight to your printer at home or your local print shop. Follow her on Instagram for sneak peeks and free backgrounds @rhonnafarrer. You can also get inspiration and learn more design tricks at https://rhonnadesigns.com/apptutorials.
Chatbooks Android/iOS FREE
My favorite way to print out pictures is by using this app. I subscribe my social media streams and as soon as I’ve posted 60 pictures, a book of my photos is shipped to my door within the week! I create custom yearbooks of each of my kids and I’ll even print off double so I can give one to grandma so she can have plenty of pictures of my kids. For only $8/book it’s very affordable and very convenient. Plus they are the perfect size for my kids to take with them to church and they don’t take up space on my bookshelf like the big photo albums do.
Right now I’m making custom books of our recent family vacations and compiling memories for each kid’s “yearbook”.
Kirsten Wright/ $0.99/iOS
Use this to keep track of all the fun things your kids say! There are tons of prompts to use or you can simply record away. Each kid can pick an avatar and dress them up. A fun way for kids to take charge in documenting their story.
I never knew family history could be done so easily and was so fun! There are more apps coming out to make it even quicker and technology is improving so these devices we have in our purses, pockets, and hands are more and more powerful. We can use them to do amazing things for our families!