A decade ago there was no point even considering researching your roots if you weren't prepared to spend days, months or potentially years trawling through dusty registers and reels of microfilm in an archive where the temperature is controlled at near Arctic conditions. Now I can browse centuries of marriage records on my iPad while basking in the sunshine.
The internet opened up a world of possibilities for anyone eager to find out, at the click of a button, if a First World War soldier, merchant seaman or criminal lurks in their family tree. What's more, you can start the process anywhere, surrounded by family, and this is where the best genealogy apps come into their own.
The smartphone has given us so many tools rolled into one – a video camera for recording uncle Albert's war stories, a voice recorder for the camera shy, interactive maps so you can find the house where your grandfather was born and a pocket scanner for quickly capturing copies of great aunt Ethel's ration book before she chucks it out without telling you.
Before you know it you'll be infected with the genealogy bug, seeking out the nearest archive in search of all those documents that haven't yet been digitised.
1. INTERVIEWY (IPHONE, IPAD)
Interviewing your family is the best place to begin. This voice recording app offers clear sound, good basic functionality and the option to tag audio files that you have saved. If you want to keep the interviews for posterity, using a plug-in microphone with your smartphone or tablet will improve the quality further still.
2. ANCESTRY (IPHONE, IPAD, ANDROID)
Start building your family tree and find your ancestors in billions of historic records. This works best when used with a monthly subscription to the Ancestry website. Individual family records can be bought by non-subscribers (up to £1.49 a document), which is useful, but the subscription allowing unlimited downloads is more cost-effective.
3. WDYTYA FORUM (IPHONE, IPAD, ANDROID)
Who Do You Think You Are? magazine is the UK's leading family history monthly. This forum app gives access to a rapidly growing genealogy community online. Somewhere for newbies to ask for friendly pointers and for experienced hands to share advice. It is also a good place to pick up birth, marriage and death certificates.
4. TREEVIEW (IPHONE, IPAD, ANDROID)
Family trees that are easy to build and to view even offline. There are three privacy settings and a function to create a fast family tree by connecting with relatives via Facebook. If you want to view historical documents, including census returns, wills and nonconformist records, you have to pay to subscribe via TheGenealogist website.
5. MYHERITAGE (IPHONE, IPAD, ANDROID)
Another great tool for creating and editing your tree. A useful feature allows photographs to be incorporated. Has a good but basic facility for looking up records, but you need to pay a full subscription to view search results. It supports 32 languages and is renowned for its worldwide genealogy community, helping you link to relatives overseas.
6. FIND A GRAVE (IPHONE, IPAD (FREE))
Designed to help you search for family graves worldwide, but equally useful for those who want to share their findings via crowdsourcing. Add photographs of headstones and transcribe memorial inscriptions to build up the database. Also lets you post a request for local volunteers to search for your ancestor's headstone in a cemetery. To maximise the results, use Find A Grave in combination with Billiongraves, another great app that's suitable for Android and iOS.
7. ROOTSMAGIC (IPHONE, IPAD, ANDROID)
Links with Dropbox and iTunes so that you can view trees and research logs created with RootsMagic desktop software. Gedcom files can also be converted from other genealogy software companies for viewing as RootsMagic files while you are out and about. Contains tools, including a date calculator, perpetual calendar, and relationship calculator.
8. ONE NOTE (IPHONE, IPAD, ANDROID)
Every genealogist needs a first-class filing system and One Note is proving a credible competitor to the popular Evernote app. Incorporate digital photographs of old letters, clippings from genealogy websites, videos and audio interviews into your searchable notes, share them with relatives and sync with all your devices.
9. REUNION (IPHONE, IPAD (£10.49))
Accompanies one of the best family tree building software programmes, Reunion. Easy to use and with detailed but simple layouts, this app lets you work seamlessly on the go. The one downside is that it is available only for those who already have the full software package installed on a Mac.
10. HISTORYPIN (IPHONE, WINDOWS, ANDROID)
Pin old family photographs of a known area on to an interactive map and search for thousands of images uploaded by museums and archives. Great for comparing changes to the places where your ancestors lived or worked, as it overlays historical scenes on to Google Street View. Browse by date or location to find images and stories behind them.
Reference Link: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/apr/05/family-tree-apps-genealogy-laura-berry
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