Time-Saving Family History Mobile Apps for Beginners

January 25, 2017  - by 

You can do almost anything on your phone now: schedule appointments, pay bills, map driving routes, take photos and videos—and yes, even do genealogy! The giants of online genealogy have had mobile apps to go along with their websites for a few years, and now others are joining the fun. These great apps make doing genealogy quicker than ever, and they are geared toward people of all levels. So even if you’re just sticking your toe in the genealogy pool for the first time, there’s something for you. In fact, here are three apps you can try right now—no matter what your family history experience is (or isn’t):

1) Find a Grave

Available on iPhone/iPad and Android (free).

With a tagline that says “Introducing the greatest addition to Find A Grave since Marilyn Monroe,” who can resist taking a peek at this mobile app to see what could earn a designation like that? If you spend a little time with it, you’ll see that this free app is a breeze to use even if you’ve never entered a single name into Family Tree.

Find a Grave has been helping people locate graves of ancestors worldwide for almost two decades now. With information on 120 million graves in half a million cemeteries and numbers increasing by the thousands every day, they’ve increased your chances of locating Great-Uncle Bob’s headstone. And the app makes the process even easier. Of course, the most common thing people do at Find a Grave is search for the grave of a specific ancestor. Besides learning where your ancestor is buried, you can often glean useful details from the transcribed and photographed headstone.

Locating gravesites is something you can do on the app, but there’s much more: you can upload a photo of your ancestor’s grave with your phone and add the grave’s GPS location. You can also use the app to locate cemeteries near you, create memorials for ancestors, take virtual strolls through cemeteries, and request a volunteer to look in a specific cemetery for a headstone. The app makes it simple to share your discoveries by text, email, or Facebook.

2) Saving Memories Forever

Available on iPhone/iPad and Android. (The app is free. Basic membership is free. Premium subscription is $3.99 per month.)

Saving Memories Forever, a relatively new enterprise, was designed to have the website and mobile app work together to preserve recorded stories and memories. After installing the app on your device, you begin by adding a “storyteller”—the person you want to collect audio recordings from. From there, you can record and preserve stories based on questions and prompts in different categories. Tap on a question to reach the recording screen. After recording the story or memory, you can upload it to the website or share it on Facebook.

Once stories are uploaded, you can access them through the website after you log in. You can tag the stories to make them easier to find or share them with others by sending friends and family an email that invites them to come and listen. You can also upload photos and documents to the site.

Although the basic membership is free, this won’t get your very far. You’ll need to obtain a premium subscription to make full use of the capabilities here.

3) FamilyTree

Available on iPhone/ipad and Android (free).

FamilySearch’s Family Tree app makes the features of the FamilySearch website available on your mobile device. If you haven’t used Family Tree before, first create a free FamilySearch account here https://familysearch.org/register/. Then download the app, and you’re ready to get started. The app syncs with the website, so changes or additions you make on your phone will show up on the site.

The Family Tree app opens to a screen showing your personal family tree. If you’re new to Family Tree, you can enter your information directly into the program with the app directing you through the process. You won’t be able to see other living people in the program to protect their privacy, but when you enter deceased people, the app will automatically search for possible matches within the tree. This avoids duplicates and links you to material that might already be available on that person. For more information on an individual, tap on her or him. From the personal page, you can choose “Memories” on the bar near the top to upload photos, written stories, and audio recordings.

Running across the bottom of every screen are some menu choices. Clicking on “More” here will display some particularly useful options. On this screen, you can select “Help” and then “Frequently Asked Questions” if you get stuck. You can also choose “Search Historical Records” to access FamilySearch’s vast collection of free historical records and search for your ancestor in them.

The three apps described here are only a starting point. There are many more out there, and new ones are becoming available all the time. With these apps at your fingertips, why wait until you have a few solid hours to sit down and work on family history? All you really need is a few minutes to make headway uncovering your ancestors. So the next time you pull out your phone while standing in line at the grocery store, try working on your family history!


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Leslie Albrecht Huber

Leslie Albrecht Huber has written for dozens of magazines and journals on genealogy and other topics. She currently does communications consulting and contract work for nonprofit organizations. Leslie received a bachelor's degree in history from Brigham Young University and a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked as a professional genealogist, helpingothers trace their families, and has spoken on genealogy and history topics to groups across the United States.

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  1. Marara White. Some of my relatives have been endowed before the initiatory work has been completed. How is that possible?

    can this be fixed? how?

    1. It is almost certainly because of duplication of work. In the past the initiatory date did not always get recorded. So, in the past, the ordinances were done with the initiatory ate not recorded. Some time in the future the dupiclate work happened and the initiatory date was recorded. Since the system shows the earliest date it shows the previous endowment date as having having happened before the later initiatory.

    2. It is possible for a few reasons, some due to how previous work was done in the temple and others related to how (and what) data was collected and recorded over the years. The good news is that for the person with the ordinances out of sequence will receive the same chance to accept them and the same blessings if they do. The later ordinances don’t become effective until the prerequisite ones are complete. If you have evidence that an ordinance has not been recorded properly, the temple can update them for you.

  2. is there any where i can go to search my self as i can not afford to keep paying and then getting the wrong person.

    1. Hi Jackie. You can do searches for ancestors and for records on FamilySearch yourself from home – for free. No need to pay anyone else to do it.

        1. Computer access to familysearch.org will provide you with the way to do this. Your local ward should have a Family History Consultant to assist and train you. If none available then the next place would be the local Family History Center.

  3. I have the grandson of my first cousin who has entered family data. Instead of adding the female family members with their maiden name, he has added them with their married name. The LDS identifying #’s do not match. I have corrected a few, but it is a time consuming job. Will they connect, is there an easier way to make corrections. I have been into this since he was in elementary school.

    Pat B in Arkansas

  4. Leslie
    Thanks for sharing about the apps. As area FH Advisers we find few know about the FamilySearch Tree and Memories apps. We call it the best kept secret in the Church!
    Those who use the Tree and Memories apps are getting so much more done since you can now do FH any where and anytime.

    They are great for the family to use on the Sabbath day. Since FH is to be part of our daily personal worship as taught by the brethren. We can process a few hints, add photos, stories and audio recordings easily everyday. The promises from the Lord to Elder Renland if we do Find Take and Teach will save us from the temptations of this world and help us be strengthened by the Holy Ghost in all aspects of our life. (see Feb 2017 for full text of Elder Renlunds message).