Toolkit Roundup: Genealogist’s Tech Gift Guide

By Terri J. Bridgwater Premium

The holidays are right around the corner—making now a great opportunity to ask for that genealogy goody you’ve had your eye on. We’ve created this list of tech-related gifts just for you. Check it out, circle your top choices, and let the folks who buy for you know exactly what’ll put a real smile on your face. Then spend your post-holiday time doing what you love: researching and documenting your family history, instead of returning gifts.

Christmas gift boxes, pc and coffee cup on wood

Online Records

Break down brick walls from home with website subscriptions offering everything from major record groups to targeted, niche records. Visit the site and look for a link to Subscribe or Join.

  • A six-month US Discovery subscription to costs $99; World Discovery costs $149; and All Access costs $199. Members of AARP can save 30 percent.
  •, the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society ($89.95 per year) is especially strong for Colonial and Early American ancestors
  • lets you search for ancestors in millions of digitized newspaper pages. Six months of Basic access costs $44.95; add Publisher Extra (more-recent papers) for $74.90.
  • Check out Findmypast especially if you have British or Irish roots. Subscription prices range from $9.95 for one month of Starter access to $239.50 for one year of Premium access.
  • At, research your Union or Confederate ancestor for $25 per year in this site’s American Civil War Research Database.
  • If finding heirlooms is your thing, search for your family surnames in’s database of homeless keepsakes. A one-year subscription costs $59.95.


Wait a minute, books in a tech gift guide? Oh yes. Their expert advice can help you find and use genealogy tech tools and websites. I’ve found the following guides most helpful. You (and your gift-givers) can find them in the Family Tree Shop or at local bookstores. Prices range from $14.99 to $39.99.

  • The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger
  • Trace Your German Roots Online: A Complete Guide to German Genealogy Websites by James M. Beidler
  • A State-by-State Guide to Finding Family Photographs Online by Maureen A. Taylor
  • How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally by Denise May Levenick
  • How to Use Evernote for Genealogy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize Your Research and Boost Your Genealogy Productivity by Kerry Scott
  • Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher by Drew Smith The Unofficial Guide to Family Search by Dana McCullough
  • The Unofficial Guide to by Nancy Hendrickson
  • The Family Tree Historical Maps Book and The Family Tree Historical Maps Book: Europe (each provides URLs for finding zoomable online versions of the maps)

Consultations & Classes

Do you have a mystery photo that offers untold family history clues? Need help deciphering family DNA reports? Or could you use some direction in researching roots in your ancestral homeland? There’s an expert who can help for all of that, and more.

  • Maureen Taylor, aka the Photo Detective, offers online photo analysis for $65 for three photos at
  • Your DNA Guide’s Diahan Southard analyzes your DNA test results and recommends your next steps, starting from $25 to $99.
  • Get a pro’s look at your brick wall problem with GenealogyDotCoach, where virtual consultations start at $18.75 for 15 minutes.
  • Online classes, workshops and conferences through Family Tree University make it convenient to learn skills from DNA research to citing sources.


Genealogy software helps you organize your research and, if you choose a program that syncs with your online tree, keep a local copy. Photo enthusiasts also might consider photo-editing software. Prices vary depending whether you’re upgrading or buying new; these programs range from $29.95 to $129.95.

  • Family Tree Maker has an easy-to-use interface and creates great charts. It has Mac and PC versions, and syncs with Ancestry trees.
  • Legacy Family Tree for Windows (can run a Mac with Windows installed) syncs with your FamilySearch tree and soon will sync with MyHeritage.
  • RootsMagic is a great overall program for beginning and advanced genealogists. It syncs with Ancestry and FamilySearch trees, and is PC- and Mac-compatible.
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements lets you organize and edit photos, and easily share your pictures.

DNA Tests

Genetic genealogy tests will be a popular holiday gift: AncestryDNA alone sold 1.4 million tests in the last three months of 2016. Autosomal DNA tests, usually priced under $100 and available from AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, Living DNAMyHeritage DNA and 23andMe (which also has health reporting options) are a good first step into genetic genealogy.

A Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA test, available from Family Tree DNA starting at $169, is useful for exploring paternal or deep maternal lines.

Wall Chart & Photo Services

You might dream of displaying your research in a fancy tree or compiling it in a book. FamilyChartMasters, which offers $25 or $50 gift certificates, lets you create your own wall chart online or commission one. If your genealogy opus is a book, you also can request gift vouchers for photo book sites such as MyCanvas (call 888-360-9226 to purchase a gift card) or Shutterfly.

Hardware & More

Tech hardware may not sound like an exciting gift, but having the right tools when you need them makes it easier to do genealogy. These are invaluable to me:

  • Carry a couple of USB flash drives in your research bag for file transfer tasks like downloading records at the library or copying photos from your cousin’s computer. They start under $10 for 8GB of storage, which meets most researchers’ needs.
  • Cloud storage provides peace of mind that your research is protected from computer-destroying disasters. Services such as SugarSync, Carbonite, iDrive and BackBlaze offer plans starting around $5 per month and $75 annually.
  • Experts also recommend keeping a local backup on an external hard drive in your home or safe deposit box. Drives start around $50 for 1TB. PCMag reveals its top picks here.
  • A portable phone charger keeps your phone from dying just when you need it to get to the cemetery, check your online tree, take pictures or text your significant other that you’ll be back late from the library. Portable chargers are easy to carry and inexpensive, at $10 and up.

From the December 2017 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

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