Genealogy Toolbox

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.
    • Google Voice Typing - You can now type or edit by voice on a Google Docs document (only works in Chrome browser).
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  • 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.
    • RecordSeek - This slick website will add website sources with proper citation right to your ancestors profile page in Ancestry.com or Family Search Tree.  
    • 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.
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  • Cloud Storage Services and Tools - Free cloud storage comparison and review (Sept. 2017).
    • Mega - 50 GB free.
    • Microsoft OneDrive  - 5 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.
    • Google Back Up and Sync - Google finally comes out with a service that will back up files from your home computer to Google Drive. Continuously. For Free. Goodbye, ransomware!
    • Otixo and Cloudgoo - 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.
    • CloudHQ - Automatically backs up all your files from one (or more) cloud services into a file on another cloud service.  
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  • Copyright and Fair-Use Tools - Do the right thing.
    • Open Attribute - 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. Or, if would rather create your attribution from scratch, follow these best practices for Creative Commons attribution. After you create your own genealogical work product, consider sharing it with the world at no cost via Creative Commons copyright licensing.
    • Copyright or Public Domain Guides - These guides will help determine if a work is still under copyright or if it's now in the public domain: Copyright Slider, Copyright Flowchart, Hirtle's Copyright Guide.
    • Fair Use Evaluator - This tool helps you assess if what you are taking from a source for you own uses would be considered 'fair use' of the original source material or work, and then the web application prints up time-stamped documentation showing the steps you took to evaluate for fair use. This could be useful in the event a copyright holder challenges your use of their material.
    • Binded - The world's first online copyright platform. Photographers, artists, graphic designers, and video-makers upload their work to a private copyright vault. From there, an individual fingerprint is created and saved permanently on a blockchain. The creator of the work receives a copyright certificate with proof of creation, while Binded searches the web to make sure there are no copyright infringements.
    • Open Access Movement - These three sites are mostly pure science, but hopefully it won't be long till all humanities journals are included in the open access movement. In the meantime you can browse these science sites to discover free research papers: Sci-Hub, Open Access Button, and Unpaywall.
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  • Forms and Charts for Genealogy - All kinds of forms, charts, and research logs.
  • Genetic Genealogy and DNA Tools - future addition
    • Name placeholder - Description placeholder.
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  • 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.
    • Microsoft Translator - Have a voice or text conversation with someone and your voices or text messages will be instantly translated to each other's language.  
    • imTranslator - This site has a translator, a Google/Bing translation comparison tool, a foreign language dictionary, and a text-to-speech translator.
    • ProZ and Translator's Cafe - Sometimes machine translators aren't able to give you a correct translation because you cant give them (and they wouldn't understand anyway) context. In those cases what you really need is a human to translate for you. Both ProZ and Translators Cafe offer free limited translation by forum volunteers.
    • Genealogy Translators Facebook Group - Try posting your document on this Facebook group for help translating into English.  
    • 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.
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  • Library Related Tools - 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.
    • ODLIS - Online Dictionary of Library and Information Science. Broad in scope, ODLIS includes not only the terminology of the various specializations within LIS but also the vocabulary of publishing, printing, binding, the book trade, graphic arts, book history, literature, bibliography, telecommunications, and computer science when, in the author's judgment, a definition might prove useful to librarians and information specialists in their work.
    • 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.
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  • 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. Google is giving away the 'Pro' version for free now.
      • 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. You can also try the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names if GNIS doesn't have your place.
      • Family Search Place Research Tool - (formerly 'Family Search Standard Finder') Shows all places in the world with the name your searching on a map. Clicking on the name brings up links and various information about the place.
      • NCSU Citing Maps - Examples of map citations from different types of map sources and formats.
      • Google Earth Engine - See a time-lapse of changes to your neighborhood from 1984 to present.
      • LatLong.net - Type a place name and LatLong will give you the exact latitude, longitude, and GPS coordinates on a Google satellite map view.
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    • 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 to creat a quick and convenient view of the Newberry maps.  Randy has now also created an international version that let's you set any country's borders by year. 
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    • Map Collections:
  • 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 and Stephen P. Morse - Onscreen keyboards with every type of symbol imaginable. Find your symbol, then copy-and-paste it wherever you need to.
    • NetLingo - Dictionary to help you decipher thousands of chat acronyms, text shorthand, smiley's, and technical jargon.
    • 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.
    • Google AutoDraw - Start drawing anything freehand and Google will guess what it is and make a professional-looking version you can download.
    • Perma.cc - Websites change, Perma links dont. allows you to save a web page so you and your readers can visit the web page forever. Even if the website itself disappears.  
    • Memento - Do you need to see a past version of a web page? Try Memento. Set the date and URL and it may be able to find a copy of the web page from the date you have requested.
    • OpenWith.org - Free programs to open any old file extensions.   
    • Pastebin - Quickly share copy/pasted text snippets online instantly between researchers or as a permanent cloud clipboard for yourself.
    • HTTP Status Codes - Decipher a website's reason for unavailability.
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  • Name Variant Generators
    • We Relate Variant Name Generator - Put in a surname or given name and this free site hosted by We Relate will generate name variants.
    • Baby Name Wizard - Can't read a name on an old document because you only recognize part of the name? This site takes partial names and returns all names based on that partial name.
    • Wiki List of Nicknames - Family Search wiki list of traditional nicknames.
    • Spelling Substitution Tables - Family Search's 'Commonly Misread Letters Table' and 'Phonetic Substitutes Table'.
    • Hear Names - This website will allow you to hear how a particular name is pronounced.
  • New Online Records Updates - 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".
    • Family Search Record Selection Tables - A table of record sets per location that may help you find the specific information about an individual you are trying to discover.  
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  • 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 multi-functional 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 PDF , 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.
    • Google Image Converter - Convert PDF's and image files (jpeg, png, and gif) to text.
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  • Project and Task Managers - Stay organized with these project and task management software programs.
    • Trello - Multifunctional Kanban-style task manager.   
    • Project Libre - Open source replacement for Microsoft Project.
    • 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.
    • Freedcamp - Free, multifunctional project manager.
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  • Reference and Research Managers - Take your research to the next level.
    • 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.
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  • Security Tools
    • Last Pass - Robust cloud password manager. If your not comfortable with a cloud based password manager, try KeePass which allows you to keep your password vault on your local drive.
    • GeurrillaMail.com or Mailinator - Disposable temporary email addresses you can use that will expire after a couple of hours. Very useful for avoiding spam when you need to give out an email in order to access a website. Or try Mailnesia. This free anonymous service will automatically click registration links on incoming emails thereby triggering those site activation emails for you.   
    • BitDefender - Highly rated malware and ransomware antivirus tool.
    • Malwarebytes - Another well-rated anti-virus tool that provides additional protection. You can also pick up Malwarebytes' Anti-Exploit Beta (grab build 1410) which provides security against exploits introduced through your browser as opposed to via downloaded files.
    • No More Ransom.org - A law enforcement and industry collaborative website that posts ransomware decryption tools. Another legitimate site that might be able to help you after a ransomware attack is Bleeping Computer. If you are a victim of ransomware or any internet crime, contact the FBI's internet crime complaint unit, IC3.  
    • Personal Software Inspector - Nowadays a virus is much more likely to enter your machine through an unpatched piece of software rather than through Microsoft Windows. PSI will help ensure that all 3rd party software on your machine is updated with the latest security patches. Also you can try legitimate highly rated Patch My PC as well.
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  • Social Media Tools
  • Text Transcription Tools
    • Transcript 2.5 - A simple split screen tool to make transcribing documents easier.
    • Genscriber - Another document transcriber. This one utilizes Excel so it's good for columned material, like censuses. 
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    • Volunteer Help and Look-Up Websites
      • 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.
      • Stack Exchange (Genealogy) - Have an interesting genealogy question? Ask it here and you may get some good answers and ideas.
      • RAOGK Wiki - Wiki created in the model of the original RAOGK. 
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    • Web Publishing and Archives 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.
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    This page last updated: 9 Sep 2017.
    All links on this page last checked: 4 Jul 2017.
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