Posted by Juliana Szucs on July 1, 2013 in Mobile, Site Features, Website

Summer is prime time for research trips, cemetery visits, and family reunions. For family historians, these trips used to take extra planning. Along with the sunscreen, bug spray, and potato salad, family reunions required choosing which books, papers, and photos to bring along for research or sharing—and the inevitability of forgetting something important. With the App and an Android, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch mobile device, you don’t have to leave anything behind. Your research is always with you and as current as your online tree.

Here are five ways you can take advantage of the App this summer.

1. Cemetery visits.
Use your mobile device to take photographs of ancestral gravesites and tombstones. To add the photo to your tree, select a person, click Gallery at the bottom of the panel, select Add Photo at the top, and then choose the photo from your photo albums. You can also edit that person’s information and add any new details you found on the spot.

2. Family reunions.
Not only can you show off all of the records and stories you’ve uncovered, you can also update the details for your living family right there on the spot. That story Uncle Fred’s sharing with you? Type it in the notes as he’s telling it. No more trying to remember the details after the fact.

3. Taking pictures of family heirlooms.
Even if Aunt Edna won’t give you her grandmother’s Bible, she’d probably let you take a picture of it and the pages documenting the family history.  Same with the gallery of ancestral photographs that line her walls. Digital photos of them in their frames will do until you can convince her to have copies made.

4. Trips to courthouses, libraries, and archives.
When precious onsite research time is of the essence, the camera on your mobile device can save the day. Take a picture of records that you can attach to your tree right then.

5. Researching in the great outdoors.
If you’ve got Internet access, you can be researching. Take your device to a park or the beach.  A nice day to sit in the yard is also a nice day to research in the yard.

If that’s not enough inspiration to load the app and start updating your online tree, how’s this? Your online tree (and Family Tree Maker 2012 as well, if you have it), will auto-sync with your mobile tree so your new details will be waiting for you at home when you get there. No more having to catch up on data entry after the trip. The App lets you enjoy your family history vacation even after you get home.

Learn more about the App

Juliana Szucs

Juliana Szucs has been working for for more than 19 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program.


  1. Robert Klein

    Unfortunately the application, unless it’s been changed recently, doesn’t include custom fields. In my case, this is the vast majority of fields that I’ve created in a sizeable tree, rendering the application useless. I’ve brought this to’s attention on numerous occasions on the phone, however, apparently to no avail.

  2. Susan Rink

    Excellent tips! I’d add these:
    * Use the recorder app on your phone or tablet to record your uncle’s voice as he tells you about his childhood — you can transcribe later — that allows you to focus on his stories rather than your notepad.
    * We all have photo albums full of unidentified ancestors — load your phone (or better still, your tablet) with those photos and ask your older relatives if they can tell you the names of those unknown people.
    * Draft up a list of basic “conversation starter” questions to use when speaking with your older relatives. Often they are embarrassed that their memory is failing and they may not remember Great Aunt Sadie’s brother’s name. If you ask a broad, open-ended question like, “What do you remember about visiting Great Aunt Sadie?” you are more likely to uncover important clues that will help your research.
    Good luck and enjoy your family visits!

  3. Anne Reeves

    A little off topic, but not wholly irrelevant. I have been a subscriber for several years and every so often take a break from my subscription when all relevant records available have ‘dried up.’ Once more records applicable to my family lines appear, I re-subscribe. During the intervals I occasionally work on the tree, tidying up, checking up on my information and generally trying to ensure that it is accurate. That sometimes has entailed re-checking the original image attached to a record. E.g. 1861 census on a person’s page with attached original record image for that specific person. Until recently – last year – it was possible to open just that image (obviously you couldn’t change pages; that would require a new subscription). Now apparently Ancestry has decided that even permitting a once paid for image on the tree should no longer be accessible without continued payment. How SCROOGE like is that?

    Of course if I had downloaded to my computer every last image that I had ‘saved’ to my tree, I would have the ability to check on the record. Of course, not all of Ancestry’s images are so wonderfully clear after having been downloaded – the pixel count is at times dreadfully low. And the company has made saving to the computer a cumbersome process – deliberately, no doubt, in order to ensure that the punters only bother to save the most significant images and then are forced to stump up oodles of boodle whenever they need to look at the images they thought they had available in their trees.

    • Trevor Thacker

      Thanks for the feedback, Anne; we’ll be happy to pass it along! Additionally, there are multiple ways to save images to your computer, depending on the image viewer you are using. More information can be found here:

  4. Linda Caughron

    Thanks for the info about adding photos using your phone-great time saver!! I have been taking photos with my phone then loading them on to my computer then adding them to my tree. I am visiting former family homes soon and this will just make my trip that much more enjoyable:)

  5. Anne Reeves

    Thank you, Trevor Thacker. My apolgies for being so intemperate. I wrote the above complaint just after I had tried, unsuccessfully, to check on a single piece of information on a census record page only to find that it was now impossible. Had it never been possible to do that before, after the termination of a subscription, I should not have been so unpleasantly surprised.

    Surely it would have been courteous to subscribers to forewarn that this previously enjoyed privilege was going to be removed??

  6. Angela

    My problem is with the ancestry mobile software itself. I have an iPad and an iPhone. For obvious reasons of size I like the iPad for viewing my info with friends and family. Unfortunately I do not have a mobile based unit. It is wifi. If I am not in an area that has Internet access I can not update nor view my info. Why can’t the software just let me see what I have and add new items and sync later when I connect to wifi again?

  7. observer

    I have to tell you, every time I read that little “headline” – Take your tree with you this summer – I misread it as “Take your teeth with you this summer.”

    Still have my teeth but don’t have a smart phone so it looks like I’ll drag my laptop and camera as always.

  8. James Jackson

    Before Family Tree Maker 2012, I found it easy to go to a family members’ ex spouse. Now I must remember the name and look up the name in trees’ list of names. Am I missing something?

    • Trevor Thacker

      James, If you are in the Family view under the “People” section, it will display the family information pertaining to the highlighted individual in the pedigree. There is a button that, when clicked, shows the spouse(s) attached to the individual, as seen in this screenshot:

  9. Ruth S. Lee

    I am 84 yrs. old and find it very hard to use the web site when it use to be very easy. You have really made it very hard and that is why I have not rejoined again after giving you all of my families information.

  10. dandj488

    Don’t try to take your cellular phone or other electronic device into the County Courthouse in York, PA. All such devices are banned at the main entrance. They consider them a security risk.

  11. joyce flynn

    I switched to a windows phone – and you don’t have a mobile app for windows. when might we see one?

Comments are closed.