Miryelle Resek | Jul 3, 2017

Making the Most of Genealogy Research Trips with Mobile Apps and Maps

This is the third of a three-part series exploring how to use Google Maps and other apps on genealogy research trips. Read part one and part two.

In parts one and two of this series, we explored how to use Google Maps to track research locations, plan genealogy research trips, and share the information with your family. But what are some apps you can use while you’re on the research trip?

In his RootsTech 2017 presentation, Richard Sayre suggested a few different mapping or historical apps that you can use while you’re getting to your destination and when you get there.

Sayre explained, “You can travel with family data that can be displayed in a geographic way relative to where you are. …  That’s just where his house was. That’s where he’s buried. That’s where she grew up.”

Apps You Can Use While You Plan

Avenza Maps

While most of us remember pulling out maps from under our car seats when on a road trip and lugging them around as we traveled, it wasn’t always the most convenient option. Today, you can usually use your phone to download a PDF map of the area you’re traveling in to avoid looking lost or confused.

While you can use Google maps to do this, Sayre also suggested using the Avenza app: “It has a bunch of free PDF maps all over the world—different things that may be useful. It [also] has a lot of [more detailed] maps for sale.”

Using an Avenza map, you can interact with spatially referenced maps to view your location, record GPS tracks, add placemarks, and find new places. Avenza allows you to download a PDF map onto your phone that will be accessible if you run out of reception, data, or are away from Wi-Fi.

Avenza is available for download for iOS and Android.


Another useful tool you can download is a TopoView map. Here you’ll find a collection of topographical maps ranging from 1884 to the present.

These historical maps can be extremely useful to genealogists who are researching a particular geographic location or area. Maps that cover the same area published over time can help you envision how an area looked before it was developed and provide detailed lists of the changes that took place over time.


The Transit app can help you plan a genealogy research trip. The app works for more than 100 cities across North America and Europe. The app displays upcoming departure times for local public transportation, lets you request Uber rides, and much more. The app is available to download for iOS and Android.

Apps You Can Use While You’re There

Google Maps

As mentioned in part one of this series, Google Maps gives users the ability to upload photos from a specific location to the website.

Once you’ve reached your destination, mark it with a location marker and even upload a few photos of what you saw.

The Google Maps app is available for iOS and Android.


Use Instagram to upload photos or short videos you capture on your genealogy research trips. In the caption, explain the photo or video and why it’s important to you and your family history.

Read more ideas on using Instagram in your family history work.

FamilySearch Memories

FamilySearch Memories is an app that can help you capture and preserve things you see when you get to your destination.

Whether or not you find the actual burial site of your ancestors or the home they lived in, you can snap a picture of the area, tag family members, and add it to the Memories section of your FamilySearch account.

Find A Grave and BillionGraves

If you’ve managed to locate your ancestor’s gravesite, consider uploading its location to sites such as FindAGrave.com and BillionGraves.com so that other family members can log in and see where it is.

These apps can also give you an opportunity to do a bit of cemetery crowdsourcing and help others who are looking for family members at the same site.

What maps and apps do you use on genealogy research trips? Tweet us @RootsTechConf to join the conversation.

Miryelle Resek

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