Popular Mobile Apps for Finding Local History
“There’s a reason why we need to look at local history,” said professional genealogist Amy Johnson Crow in her 2016 RootsTech presentation. “We need to understand where our ancestors lived because the area where they lived and when they were living there had such an effect on them. We have to understand where they lived because otherwise we’re getting an incomplete picture of who they were.”
This article describes two of the many apps and resources that can help you find information on local history.
Field Trip is an app available for both iOS and Android. This app will help you learn about the local history of the area you are in, as well as information about the hottest restaurants and shopping malls near that location.
“There is a ton of history entries in Field Trip,” said Amy Johnson Crow as she demonstrated the app to the RootsTech audience. “You’ll see things for restaurants and lifestyle places, so it isn’t strictly a history app, but you will also see historic sites that are nearby.”
The Field Trip app functions according to a user’s location, not according to a search.
“This is an app that is very much in the moment,” explained Crow. “It’s very much like, ‘Hey, I happen to be standing here, and what’s the history around me?’ Think about how cool this would be if you’re out on a walking tour with the kids. It’s like, ‘Oh, did you know that over there is such-and-so?’ It’s all based on your location.”
Since what you’ll find in the Field Trip app depends on your location, you will need to enable the GPS location settings on your device; otherwise, the app won’t know where you are. Once you’ve opened the app, you’ll see a list of all entries near your general area. One of the suppliers to Field Trip is Arcadia Publishing, so you’ll see a lot of the same photographs that you’re familiar with from Arcadia local history books.
Crow says that an app such as this is useful because it can help you think not only of your ancestors’ locations, but it will help you consider the area in which you’re now living.
“No matter what website or app you’re looking at, don’t think only about the locations where your ancestors were living. Think about where you’re living,” she said. “I’m using this app to learn more about my local history.”
It’s likely that you’ve already got Instagram installed on your phone. After all, the social app has 400 million monthly active users, according to CNBC. You’re probably pretty skilled at sharing pictures of food or family within the app, but did you know you can also use Instagram to explore local history?
“If you think Instagram is only for food, vacation, and cat photos, I hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised that there are other things that you can explore,” said Crow. “Two ways you can use Instagram for local history: first, follow users like different libraries and archives and museums; second, follow specific hashtags.”
“It’s amazing what they will take photos of and share,” said Crow.
Hashtags are also a great way to follow a conversation and learn information on local history. Hashtags on Instagram are links that you can click to see all the photos and discussions going on that use the same hashtag.
“But what if we don’t see a photo that has a hashtag that we like?” asked Crow to the RootsTech audience. “We can actually go and search for it. When you’re on Instagram, tap the little magnifying glass icon at the very bottom on the screen.”
By tapping the magnifying glass icon, you can search for information by using place-names or hashtags.
To learn about other ways you can use Instagram for family history, read our post 3 Ways to Use Instagram for Family History.
What mobile apps do you use to explore local histories? Tweet us @RootsTechConf.