Free Handy Tools for Genealogists
- Audio and Video Transcription Tools
- Audacity - One of the best rated free multi-track audio editor and recorder.
- oTranscribe - A browser based audio transcription tool that can be used for transcribing recorded interviews and oral histories.
- Voice Walker
- A downloadable audio transcribing program. Voice Walker allows you to
play a 4-second snippet of the file repeatedly by keyboard shortcuts and
then advances to the next snippet but with an overlap of the last snippet so you don't get
lost between parts of the audio file.
- Stories Matter - An alternative to transcribing oral histories. This application treats the digital audio file itself as the final 'product' rather than making a written transcription of it the end result.
- Citation Tools - Quick citation tools where you don't necessarily have to log in with an account or open a desktop program to generate a citation. (For more advanced citation and bibliography tools, see the 'Reference Manager' section below.)
- WorldCat - Perhaps the easiest citation tool to use. Simply look up the book and on the book's detail page click the small link at the top right that says 'Cite/Export' and it will generate a simple citation for you.
- Son of Citation Machine - A slightly more advanced citation generator than WorldCat. You paste the ISBN number or the book name in and it will generate the WorldCat citation which you can then further edit if you wish, guided by their template. You can also create your own citation completely from scratch.
- Noodletools - Another good multisource citation machine where you create a citation from scratch using a template. Noodletools is a little more complex than Son of Citation and gives you more fine grain control over source types and information that you can add to your citation. Helpful mouse-over tool tips fully explain each field.
- Open Attribute - Do the right thing. Attribute the images you take from the web. This browser add-on will identify visual works (i.e.,images and photographs) that are under Creative Common license and then create an attribution citation you can copy and paste.
- Cloud Storage Services - Free cloud storage comparison and review (July 2015).
- Mega - 50 GB free.
- Microsoft OneDrive - 15 GB free.
- Google Drive - 15 GB free.
- Box - 10 GB free.
- Apple iCloud - 5 GB free.
- Dropbox - 2 GB free.
- Flikr - If you need a lot of storage for photos, Flikr now offers 1 terabyte(!) free photo storage.
- Otixo - Access all your cloud services through one application. Preview files, move files between cloud services, create a collaborative space that can find and access files across cloud services.
- Lizard Backup - Automatically and constantly backs up your entire computer without any involvement on your part. You just set it and forget it. Lizard Backup will find all the new or changed files and then automatically add them to your backed up files. It's not free, but at $3.00 per month for unlimited storage, and for up to three different computers; it's one of the cheapest backup services I have found.
- Date and Money Calculators - Useful for figuring birth dates from age information on tombstones and all kinds of other calendrical (?) purposes.
- Forms and Charts for Genealogy - All kinds of forms, charts, and research logs.
- Family Search - Links to just about any kind of genealogical form you might need.
- Cyndi's List - More links to genealogical charts and forms.
- Genealogy Reference Bookshelf - Various reference sources useful in genealogy.
- The Free Dictionary - Dictionary, Thesaurus, acronyms, encyclopedia, idioms, abbreviations, and many other reference tools.
- Genealogy Glossaries - There are several good genealogy glossaries on the web, but none of them will have every single genealogy word you might encounter. Presented here are a few of some of the more extensive glossaries to be found on the web. It's always a good idea to check two or three to get a more complete understanding of the more complex terms, especially legal terms. Randy's Dictionary of Genealogy and Archaic Terms and Genealogical Abbreviations, Sam's Genealogy Terms and Genealogy Abbreviations, Genealogy Quest's 'Glossary of Genealogy Terms', and the Family Search Wiki of Foreign Genealogy Words.
- Family Search Research Wiki - More than 80,000 genealogy reference articles strong and growing. US State pages are especially comprehensive.
- Ancestry.com Wiki - Another large free genealogy wiki that includes content from two of the best genealogical reference guides out there: The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy and The Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
- Library of Congress Virtual Reference Shelf - Good roundup of other non-genealogical reference websites that might be of interest to researchers.
- Today in History - Links to 'this day in history' Library of Congress material and other similar websites.
- Language Translators
- Google Translate and Bing Translator - Running and comparing text through both Google and Bing translators may give you slightly different interpretations which can sometimes provide more insight into your translated text.
- List of Google Search Engines by Country - When searching for international information you may get better, or at least different, results by using that country's own local version of Google. The website Genealogy in Time has compiled most of the Google country search engines on one page and they have thoughtfully included a language interpreter for many of them as well.
- Library Catalogs - A small selection of library catalog search pages to a few noted genealogical libraries. To explore the breadth of potential record resources available for one location try searching for the name of a county in quotations, i.e. "Beaver County".
- Library Related - Resources and finding aids found in genealogical libraries.
- State Bibliographies - Allen County Public Library bibliography of genealogy books by state. Bibliography was made specifically for the ACPL, but many of these books will also be in your own local library.
- US Counties Dewey Decimal Numbers (PDF) - Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Genealogy Center created Dewey list for all counties in the US.
- Library Lookup Bookmarklet - Little button that you install on your browser. When you are on an Amazon or Barnes and Noble book page, the button will tell you if that book you are looking at is at your local library.
- Mapping Resources - Various mapping related resources for genealogy.
- Mapping Tools:
- Google Earth - In addition to using Google Maps to just look up places, there are some other creative and interesting projects you can make on Google Maps related to genealogy. Make a timeline, an immigration map, show family movement, etc.
- Earth Point Township and Range Conversion for Google Earth - I use this tool by first going to the BLM GLO site and finding ancestor land purchases. The BLM site will give you Township and Range coordinates. Copy those coordinates into Earth Point and it will fly you to Google Earth and show you exactly where your ancestor's homestead was.
- USGS GNIS - Use this program to find the tiniest of towns, named mountains, lakes, neighborhoods, etc.
- Family Search Place Research - Will show you the standardized and variant names of a place and give you a link to that place on a map.
- County Formation:
- Genealogy Inc Historical Maps - A good resource for determining county formation dates and rough county boundary changes over time. The maps aren't super detailed, but they are animated and do give some good information on county formation over time. Use these maps for a quick, high-level overview.
- Newberry Atlas of Historical County Boundaries - Very detailed historical county boundary outline files that open in Google Earth. Choose your state, click on the 'kmz' icons. This will download a winzip file. Open the winzip file and click on the inside file and it will open in Google Earth. Use the Newberry maps for special projects, multi state birds-eye views, or to see a timeline of county formation.
- Randy Majors.com - Randy has extracted the Newberry maps above and created a very cool mashup for you. Use Randy's site when you want a quick and convenient view of the Newberry maps.
- Map Collections:
- David Rumsey Map Collection - Over 2,400 antique maps on line for the US, States, and Counties.
- Perry Casteneda Historical Map Collection - Another good site for antique maps. This site also has a great link page to other historical map sites.
- USGS Historical Topographical Maps - Historical aerial and topographic maps from USGS. Some maps dating from the 1890's, most more recent.
- Old Maps Online - Allows the user to search for online historical maps by clicking in a map window.
- England Jurisdictions 1851 - My site focuses on North American genealogy, but this English map page is just too helpful and too cool not to be included here.
- Newspaper Map - It may be useful for some people to find newspapers by looking at a map rather than by title or by a specific city that the paper was printed in. Be sure to turn on the 'Historical Layer' to isolate older newspapers.
- Miscellaneous Digital Tools
- VideoNot.es - Web app that allows you to make notes in videos and then save your video annotations to Google Drive.
- TypeIt -
Onscreen keyboards with every type of symbol imaginable. Type the symbol using the on the screen
keyboard and then copy-and-paste to where you need the symbols placed.
- Goo.gl and Bitly are both link shorteners that work equally well. To reverse and decode an existing short link back to it's regular size use GetLinkInfo.
- FreeOCR - This site will extract typed text from images.
- New Records Online - Do you like to learn about new genealogical record sets as soon as they are available online?
- Genealogy in Time - New online records for the US, Canada; or all countries by date.
- LDS Family Search - Click on the 'Last Updated' column heading to sort the records by most recently added.
- Cyndi's List What's New? - Many organizations that put new genealogy related records online will publicize their site by sending a link notice to Cyndi's List.
- Ancestry.com new record sets - One of the very few links I have to a site that is not free, but a good resource to at least be aware of.
- Google Alerts - Have Google send you a daily email for all new blog and web pages that reference the phrase: "new genealogy records".
- Paleography - How to decipher old handwriting and OCR tools.
PDF Tools - PDF creation and manipulation tools.
- Cute PDF Writer - Cute PDF is the quickest and easiest way make a PDF from a document. This small program attaches itself in your printer menu, and then you simply select 'Cute PDF' as your printer instead of your paper printer to make a PDF out of a document.
- Nitro PDF Reader - A more advanced and multifunctional PDF creation tool than Cute PDf Writer. PDF creation, text search, annotation, and image extraction are just some of Nitro's other capabilities.
- Split PDF and Merge PDF - Are two free websites that will quickly remove individual pages from a large PDF, or merge multiple PDF's together into one.
- PDFbinder - Whereas 'Merge PDF' is web app that is suitable for smaller merges, PDFbinder is a downloadable program that will allow you to merge larger files.
- Smallpdf - Is a website that will let you perform various actions with PDF's including: Compressing a PDF file so you can email it easier, converting a jpg file to or from a PFD , or converting a Word, Excel, or Powerpoint document to or from a PDF document.
- Tabula - Will allow you to extract data tables from a PDF, and put make them into an Excel spreadsheet.
- Web-2-PDF - Like it sounds, this online application makes any web page into a PDF.
- Photo Dating and Image Tools - Date your old family photos and photo postcards.
- How to Date, Identify, and Authenticate Photographs - Excellent series of articles describing old photographs.
- Library of Congress - Chronological listing of photographic print processes with examples. If you can figure out what type of photograph you have, you may be able to better pin down the date it was taken.
- Fashion Era - Dating old photographs by clothing and hairstyles.
- Playle's Real Photo Post Card Stamp Boxes - Dating photo post cards by the manufacturer code in the stamp box.
- About.com Dating Cabinet Cards - Very brief quick guide to dating cabinet cards.
- TinEye Reverse Image Search - Do you want to see if an old photograph is anywhere else on the internet? Use TinEye for that.
- How Old Do I Look? - Upload an old photo of an ancestor and this website will guess the person's age based on facial recognition software.
- SepiaTown - Use a map interface to view historical images (buildings and cityscapes) from around the globe.
- Phil Harvey's Exif Tool (and GUI), The Exifer, and Jeffery's Exif Viewer - These tools will allow you to view or edit photo metadata (i.e, camera type, geo location, date, etc) for dozens of types of files. Phil Harvey's tool is a downloadable program, while the other two tools are online tools.
- Library of Congress Prints and Photographs collection (PPOC) - Need photographs of American farmers, workers, children, and everyday American's for a genealogical project? LOC has a huge collection (1.2 million online) for free download.
- Project and Task Managers
- Trello - Multifunctional Kanban-style task manager.
- Tom's Planner - Another free Gantt-type planner. Allows you to store your project in the cloud or on your own machine.
- Airtable - A relational database like Access. Far less functionality than Access, but a lot easier to use. And its free.
- Are you agile yet? Agilefant scales from personal to-do lists to large-scale multi-team development projects and portfolio management.
- Reference and Research Managers
- Mendeley (PDF Manager) - Downloadable program allows you to import and organize PDF's. Once you have imported your PDF library you are able to annotate individual PDF's with highlighting and posted notes. The program also has a cloud interface where you can view your PDF library from other computers and then share or collaborate.
- Qiqqa (PDF Manager) - Qiqqa has similar core PDF functionality as Mendeley, but it adds a few more bells and whistles. For starters the program will attempt to 'auto tag' your PDF's if your PDF's don't have any tags. Once your PDF's are tagged by you or the program, Qiqqa then is able to do some additional analysis and discovery with your library. Qiqqa refers to these extra analytical tools as 'Expeditions', 'Brainstorms' and 'Pivots'.
- Zotero (PDF, file, and Web Manager) - Zotero can be installed as a stand-alone program or as a Firefox extension in your browser. You can import PDF's, web pages, images, video, and most anything else. Zotero organizes you research into 'collections' via tags rather than folders. You can organize your items with multiple 'related' associations to other items. Zotero will also create footnote and endnote citations from Word or Open Office using a Zotero extension inside those two programs. You can sync your library with an online interface that allows collaboration.
- Tagspaces (PDF, file, and Web manager) - Sort of 'Zotero Lite'. Tagspaces can be installed as a stand-alone program or as a Firefox extension in your browser. It will allow you to create tags for most of the files in your computer including PDF's, documents, photo's, HTML, and some types of music files.
- OneNote - Digital notebook works across and syncs with all your devices. Integrates with Microsoft Office and OneDrive. Type, write, or draw. Capture anything and everything on the web including web pages and audio and video files. Insert tables, charts, PDF's, files, and just about anything else directly onto your OneNote pages. Highly customizable for genealogy research activities.
- Evernote - Advanced note-taking software.
- Security Tools
- Jotti Scan - Run your downloaded files through Jotti's malware scan before you open them.
- GeurrillaMail.com - Disposable temporary email addresses you can use that will expire after one hour. Useful for avoiding spam.
- This site will check your email to see if your login credentials have
been stolen, and if they have ever been for sale on hackers for-sale lists of passwords website.
- Text Transcription Tools
- Transcript 2.5 - A simple splitscreen tool to make transcribing documents easier.
- Genscriber - Another document transcriber. This one utilizes Excel so it's good for columned material, like censuses.
- Volunteer Look-Ups
- Gen Gathering - Very similar model to how RAOGK used to operate.
- Books We Own - Is there a particular book you need information from? If they have it, these folks will look up the information and email it to you.
- Ask A Librarian - Have a question on where to find a resource? Ask a librarian in the Library of Congress Genealogy Reading Room via web form.
- Family Search Book Photocopying - Now this is pretty cool. Family search will photocopy pages from any book they have in their library and email the copies to you. Free.
- Stack Exchange (Genealogy) - Have an interesting genealogy question? Ask it here and you may get some good answers and ideas.
- Web Publishing and Archive Management Tools
- Omeka - A free web-publishing platform used by some libraries and archives.
- Archivist's Toolkit - Open source archival data management system for your genealogical manuscript, photograph, and artifact collections.
This page last updated: Friday, November 6, 2015,
All links on this page last checked: Saturday, October 31, 2015