Tyler S. Stahle | Jan 11, 2016

3 Ways to Use Your Smartphone for Family History

While today’s family history enthusiast will likely carry a laptop and an audio recorder, research trips no longer need to be bogged down with briefcases full of information. In fact, you’ve probably got all the tools and information you need right in the palm of your hand, thanks to your smartphone.

In the old days, researching your family’s history probably required making a trip to the library while lugging around a briefcase stuffed with pads of paper, pens, old journals, newspaper clippings, cameras, and various other documents.

But things are different in 2016.

While today’s family history enthusiast will likely carry a laptop and an audio recorder, research trips no longer need to be bogged down with briefcases full of information. In fact, you’ve probably got all the tools and information you need right in the palm of your hand, thanks to your smartphone.

Smartphones today are essentially small, powerful computers with the capacity to connect to the Internet, take high-definition photos, and even record audio. Some smartphone apps allow you to take your genealogical data with you wherever you’re researching.

You can use your smartphone for genealogy work in many ways. Here are three of the most useful.

Find Ancestors Using Cemetery Apps

At one time or another, we all hit a brick wall in our research. Perhaps you just can’t seem to find your great-great-grandfather’s place of birth. It’s easy to get discouraged when this happens. So what should you do? Why not hop on your smartphone and use a cemetery app?

“A lot of times I’ve had success finding information about my ancestors using cemetery apps,” said Crystal Beutler at the 2015 RootsTech conference. “You can look for your ancestors in these databases, which are made up of information submitted by cemeteries, historical societies, and volunteers like you and me.”

Beutler acknowledged that many cemetery apps are available but said that her favorite is Find A Grave. “Not only have I found pictures of headstones [with Find A Grave], but I found obituaries, biographies, photos of individuals. It’s really exciting.”

The app also provides a place where genealogists from around the globe can collaborate and assist one another in their research.

For example, if you can’t find an image of your great-grandmother’s headstone within the app, you can request that a photo of the headstone be taken and uploaded. One of over 200,000 volunteers worldwide could respond to such a request, taking and uploading the photo in a short amount of time.

The Find A Grave app is available for download on the App Store and the Google Play Store.

Edit and Enhance Family Photos

Let’s say you use your phone scanner to get an image of an ancestor, but unfortunately the image appears grainy and unclear on your smartphone screen. How do you improve the quality of this precious image? Well, lucky for you, there are apps for editing and enhancing images right on your phone.

“Facetune is a great way for fixing portraits that are old and damaged,” said Rhonna Farrer at the 2015 RootsTech conference. The photos below were edited using this app.

Facetune is available for download on the App Store and the Google Play Store.

But Facetune isn’t the only photo-editing app to choose from. If you’re looking to make your family photos shine just a little more, consider downloading Farrer’s own Rhonna Designs Magic app.

“Rhonna Designs Magic is a photo-editing app that I developed, and, among other things, this app allows you to not only improve the quality of photos but also make them pieces of art so that you can use them for family scrapbooks, personal histories, or planning family reunions,” said Farrer.

You can also download Rhonna Designs Magic on the App Store and the Google Play Store.

Record Family Voices

When it comes to preserving family memories, perhaps nothing brings family history to life like hearing the voice or the laugh of a grandparent or cousin.

“FamilySearch Memories is an app where you can organize photos and stories,” Farrer said, “but the thing we love about this is that you can record and save interviews of family members. It’s easy to record just from your phone.”

To record a family memory in the app, simply tap the Audio button on the bottom right. To record a family interview, tap the green + in the upper right corner of the screen. Record a family story, and then tap Done at the bottom of the screen.

Download the FamilySearch Memories app from the App Store or the Google Play Store.

What smartphone apps do you use in your genealogy work? We’d love to hear about them! Tweet us at @RootsTechConf.

Tyler S. Stahle

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