10 Apps To Help You Research Your Family History

Family History

If you're interested in your family history, there is a wide variety of genealogical apps available for people planning to create a family tree. Whatever mobile device you use, there is an app that will meet your research needs. Some mobile versions sync with desktop versions as well.

All of us wonder about where we came from and the history of our family. We may think that family gatherings aren't always events we look forward to. However, sometimes it's where we learn the most about our relatives through the stories and anecdotes that are told.

Our desire to know more about our family's past and our ancestors is the reason why a television show like 'Who Do You Think You Are' is popular. It's also the reason why there is a booming and lucrative family heritage industry today. Not only do people want to learn about their local history, but immigrants have also helped shape many countries. That means genealogical research is a global hobby.

For decades, genealogists spent many hours poring over papers and documents, making long journeys to investigate leads. While that still happens, beginning the task of researching a family tree is easier online and on-the-go.

Most genealogists begin by visiting local churches and records offices. However, one of the most famous repositories of family history records is operated online by The (Mormon) Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Other useful resources include such websites as Cyndi's List and Ancestry.com.

The digitization of family records and genealogy software have made all the difference to family history research, saving time and enabling mass sharing. Once family data has been recorded and stored, it is easy to manage and share with others. A GEDCOM file - an acronym for Genealogical Data Communication – can be used to import family tree data into a file that can be read by any genealogy program. Desktop files can therefore easily be transferred to a mobile app from desktop software.

Once the genealogy bug bites, it can become a lifelong hobby, and one that is taken on by subsequent generations. With more families embracing same-sex marriages and same-sex parenting, how will existing genealogy companies, often with traditional values, address these changes in family dynamics? Will they review their approach to future software upgrades and enhancements to account for such developments?

That remains to be seen. Until then, here is a list of 10 apps that will help you research your family history.

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10 Heredis

Free - iOS

Family history

Genealogical software Heredis was developed in France as a desktop application. Available as an app for iPhone and iPad, it has a colourful and intuitive interface. Features include eye-catching family tree charts that can show up to six generations, photo capture, file linking and indexing.

By using Siri, dictation directly to information fields is possible. Data can easily be exchanged with other family members researching their history too because GEDCOM files can be imported and exported. A valuable feature is the ability to synchronize data between any device, Mac or PC, using an available Wi-Fi network. Heredis can be found on iTunes and is free.

9 GedView

$3.99 - iOS

Family History

Family history research inevitably means making trips to records offices or visiting places like museums and cemeteries. GedView is an app that was designed to assist genealogists when they're on location. It can be used as a recording tool to take photos and videos, and as a means to view the media, including presenting a slideshow.

Other features include storage of multiple family trees, support of various file types, and the ability to import and export GEDCOM files for information sharing. GedView can even be opened from other apps such as Safari and Dropbox. Available for iPad and iPhone only, the app costs $3.99 on iTunes.

8 SavingMemoriesForever

Free-$3.99 - iOS & Android

Family History

Personal stories are compelling, and usually what we remember most about people. SavingMemoriesForever is an app that proves the point. Using your mobile device, audio recordings can be made of family members telling their story or another personal memory.

These recordings are saved to the Saving Memories Forever website where they are stored in your family's audio album. The recordings can be shared throughout the family or with anyone else you choose. If you are using Facebook, you can post and share the story on your timeline. The SavingMemoriesForever app is designed for both the iOS and Android platforms and is free. Premium subscriptions are $3.99 for additional features.

7 BillionGraves

Free - iOS & Android

Family history

Cemeteries do feature prominently in family history research for obvious reasons. It's not surprising then that an app exists called BillionGraves. At some point, information a genealogist needs about an ancestor won't be available locally. There might be some detail that only a headstone will reveal.

BillionGraves encourages users to help build a worldwide database of headstones by taking photos, transcribing details about them, and uploading the images. Using GPS technology, locations are identified for others to see, wherever they are in the world. BillionGraves is free, and can be found on iTunes and Google Play.

6 TribalPages

Free - iOS & Android

Family history

Launched in 2000, TribalPages is desktop software to help you create and maintain your family tree online. The Android and iOS app works in conjunction with the website. You can add and tag photos, update names and review birthday lists. Family members can be invited, via email, to contribute information as well.

Helpfully, you can decide what level of permission to give them, and an activity log lets you see which family members logged in and what changes they made. Updates are synchronized between the app and the website automatically. Google Play and iTunes have the app, and it is free.

5 Reunion

$14.99 i0S

Family History

Recipient of a MacWorld Editor's Choice Award and highly rated by users, Reunion is an iOS-only app for iPhone and iPad that complements the existing desktop software. The app displays a three generation family tree and allows you to easily update details, make corrections, add notes, pictures and video.

You can perform name searches or specify multiple criteria to search for something specific. Data can also be edited and synced back to the family file on the desktop version of Reunion. A nice feature is integration with Google Maps, so that place entries and map drawings can be utilized using the Geo codes. Reunion is a more expensive app and is priced at $14.99 on iTunes.

4 GedStarPro

Free-$9.95 - Android

Family history

Like Reunion, GedStarPro is a Windows desktop application where the mobile app is complementary to it. Available on the Android platform only, the app will convert your existing desktop data so information can be viewed on your mobile device. You can even use Dropbox to transfer it via Wi-Fi. Four view options allow you to see Personal Details, Family Group, Ancestor Tree and Descendant Tree.

There is also support for displaying photos, Google Maps locations and a To-Do List. The app does not currently allow for editing. New users can find GedStarPro on Google Play and enjoy a 28 day free trial period, after which it will cost $9.95.

3 MyHeritage

Free - iOS & Android

Family history

One of the largest genealogical software companies, MyHeritage offers an app of the same name for both the iOS and Android platforms. The app has a clean and simple interface and offers such features as photo sharing, profile editing and a records search.

Available in an impressive 32 languages, the software includes a fun feature called 'MyCeleb' which allows you to discover your celebrity look-alike. Like other apps, MyHeritage syncs information with your online data. Find MyHeritage for free on iTunes and Google Play.

2 RootsMagic

Free - iOS & Android

Family history

The penultimate app on this list is RootsMagic. A company in business for over 20 years, their RootsMagic app is a popular program that works in combination with the desktop version. Unlike some apps, there is no need to convert files for the app to work, and tools include calendars and calculators for dates and family relationships.

Research Logs, an address book, and lists for such items as places and media are also in the app. Views allow you to browse people by criteria such as surname, given names and by record number. Designed for iOS and for Android users, you can find RootsMagic for free on iTunes and Google Play.

1 Ancestry

Free-$19.99 - iOS & Android

family history

The top genealogy app is from Ancestry.com, the online family records database that was first established in 1983. A winner of the 2013 Appy Awards, the Ancestry app is linked to the online website. Apart from being able to view information, Ancestry Hints is a feature that displays green leaves or 'hints' that connect you to new records and photos discoveries that match your ancestors.

Family trees can also be built more quickly by connecting to Facebook. The Ancestry app is free to install on either iOS or Android,  but to get the full benefit, a subscription option will give you full access to the database. Options start at $19.99 per month.

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