Cutting-Edge Genealogy Tools & Apps

By Rick Crume Premium

More than 200 classes, an extensive exhibit area and communion with thousands of fellow researchers aren’t the only attractions at FamilySearch’s annual RootsTech genealogy conference in Salt Lake City. There’s also the Innovator Showdown, a competition among technology companies to identify the best new tools and apps for researching, recording and sharing family history.
This year, 46 tech firms vied for $100,000-plus in prizes. Each of the following six finalists got the opportunity to give a two-minute pitch to a panel of five judges, while 10,000 attendees watched in person and online. Their innovations are still in the early stages of development, but they promise to shape the future of genealogy. Let us introduce you them.


The first-place winner of the Innovation Showdown—whose creators took home $20,000 in cash and $25,000 in services—lets you record and preserve your family’s health history online in a family health tree. A series of questions prompt you to enter physical traits, chronic health conditions, allergies and medications. You can give family members access to gather more-complete information from them, and share the tree with your doctor if you want.
Contributors get a Personal Health Portrait and a Genetic Age estimate showing their risk for developing various common diseases. Now you and your doctor are better equipped to spot trends and take preventive measures if you’re at high risk for a condition. The service is free, but new features under development might require a fee.



To get the best scans of photos, you usually need to remove them from albums and scrapbooks. But that might cause damage if they’re glued down or stuck under plastic pages. Studio from Legacy Republic, winner of the second-place cash prize worth $29,000, lets you take high-quality scans of pictures mounted in an album without having to remove them.
Studio is a lightweight, portable device that works with an iPhone to scan an album up to 14×14 inches. Without touching the album, it creates 3-D scans and then stitches them together, removing shadows and glare. You can’t purchase the Studio device, though. Instead, you must have one of the company’s Legacy Maker consultants do the scanning (get started on the Legacy Republic website).



Taking third place with prize winnings worth $16,000, Twile makes it easy to create an online family history timeline. Start by building your family tree, including living relatives. Each person in the tree is linked to a colorful timeline with milestones—births, marriages, deaths—plus photos. You can keep your tree and timelines private or collaborate with relatives. Twile is working with social media sites Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to let you add items directly to your Twile timelines.
Basic service is free. With Twile Premium, $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year, you can add unlimited milestones and photos, and import GEDCOM files created with your online tree or genealogy software. A live RootsTech audience voted Twile the People’s Choice, awarding creators $10,000.

Ancestor Cloud

Need a translation of a foreign-language church record or a lookup in a book at a distant library? Ancestor Cloud connects you with other genealogists who can help for a fee. Here’s how it works: You post your request (which is free) in one of six categories: Archive Lookup, Record Pickup, Research Questions, Translation, Local Photograph or Custom Research. You can specify whether someone responding to your request should have a special skill or access to records in a particular location. Name a “reward,” typically around $50.
Ancestor Cloud then connects your request with one of its helpers (whom you get to approve) and gets a cut of the fee for linking the two parties and helping with the transaction. To sign up as an Ancestor Cloud helper, look under FAQ and click Apply to Help.

The History Project

On this website, you can create personal timelines incorporating pictures, sound, video, documents and text. Upload files from your computer or import them from Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox or Google Drive. You also can record an audio narrative and attach it to an event. Make your project public or private, or invite specific people to contribute. Want expert help? You can hire one of the project’s History Concierges to create your timeline for $50 per hour. The site also offers fee-based services to digitize photos and home movies, and to turn your whole project into a photo book starting at $69.


You might have the best intentions of keeping a journal to pass on your family legacy to the next generation—but you can’t find the time to actually do it. JRNL makes this task a convenient part of your everyday routine. The system prompts you with a series of questions to record your life story a bit at a time. You can add entries online, via texting or by email, so it’s easy to record memories whenever they occur to you.
Your journal is backed up securely online and you can access it from any of your devices. When you’re ready to preserve it, you can download it or have it printed as a hardbound book (prices start at $19.95 for a 100-page, 6×9-inch black-and-white book). Don’t you wish your ancestors had created personal journals like that?
From the May/June 2016 Family Tree Magazine 

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