Family history software and apps

This month’s twitterchat was looking at what programs and apps we use to help with our genealogy and family history. Instead of my normal summary, I am just going to mention all the programs and apps and if possible include a video or link to how to use that program or app.

Questions asked were:

  • Which apps and software do you use most for #familyhistory? What’s the latest tool/app you’ve discovered? Strengths/weaknesses.
  • How do you find out the next big things in software/apps? Where do you go for tech support or learning about new software?
  • How do software & apps change the way you research and organise your #familyhistory?
  • Any suggestions for software & apps for writing your stories, creating books or sharing #FamilyHistory?

Comment by Carmel:

Apps can be convenient when sitting waiting for an appointment, some work well for editing photos etc and when visiting family without computer they provide access to the online tree. Downside of some apps they may only have a short lifespan

Comment by Pauleen:

Software for genealogy has certainly changed how we research now compared to even in 2000-2010. I’ve said before that I find the constant tsunami of data makes it challenging to stay on top of everything, record and analyse it and generally be organised.

Comment by Hilary:

I use the WikiTree Sourcer browser extension to help me find the information I need on both free and paid websites

Comment by Lis:

I don’t use many family history apps. In my experience of apps, they often have a more mobile-friendly display, but sometimes lack the functionality of a web version. Sometimes they’re better though!

Peggy_Marco / Pixabay

Searching, saving and managing your research

Graphics, maps and photos

Connecting with others and sharing stories:

Youtube – lots of research sites also have their own youtube channel

Readers: What software, program and apps do you use relating to family history and genealogy?

Researching prisoners not convicts

This week the #ANZAncestryTime chat looked at prisoners and their crimes. It was decided to leave out convicts as we have already had that chat.

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What sort of crimes or misdemeanours were your ancestors sentenced for? Was it overseas or in Australia?

How could I forget??!! The story of my great-grandfather’s imprisonment for refusing to vaccinate his children. I received help from @Historylady2013 with this.

Here’s a video of one of my criminal ancestors. He escaped from gaol.…

(My great uncle) Cecil Drew, aged 11 charged with having stolen forty-five packets of cigarettes from Wylie’s store, Nundah, was convicted, but not punished. Mr. Ranking advised the boy’s mother to give him a whipping. ‘Police Courts’, 24 August 1905

Interesting – I wonder who the packets really were for. Even with the small packet sizes it seems too much for an 11 year old when thy could of take sweets and other treats.

I was wondering if he was getting money for the stolen packets Fran #ANZAncestryTime unfortunately his life of crime didn’t end there!

Yes a possible option though I like to think that the child is influenced by an adult at some stage and not born bad.

I really feel his family were living on the breadline Fran so poverty was all he would have known as a child

A great article.. your ggg described as a hard-working man with a large family, any sentence would have been tough on them, so pleased he got a reduced sentence Sue

I have found a case about a murder in my family however I am still to find out the final outcome for the court case. Also a case of some stolen shoes and the good news is my great grand mother was acquitted.

Ooo that sounds intriguing, Fran! Whereabouts did the murder take place?

At a place called Boulder Bank in the Wairau in 1857, which is near Cloudy Bay in the north of the South Island.

Apparently a different boulder bank to the one that is a scenic reserve near nelson but I need to research more.

My g aunt Mary was the victim of a bigamist who we believed had 3 wives at the same time, one in England and two in Victoria. He was convicted & went to jail in Melbourne. A cousin by marriage in NZ was also convicted of bigamy before he married my cousin.

Their stories have both been added to WikiTree by me. Plenty of information from the newspapers.

I haven’t come across a criminal in my family as yet. We have a few victims of crime but no perpetrators

Also some for having neglected children and then the children entered as wards of state which have lots of records available.

My Aussie ones were for larceny mainly and in Tasmania where we have great records for prisoners and courts.

Our Tassie prison records portal…

Tasmania always seems to do well with keeping records and making them available

Larceny, assault, and more assault. England, and NZ. I need to do some following up on the larceny, see if I can find out more.

I haven’t found any so far for my direct ancestors only for some of their siblings. We have a suspicion for my ggfather’s brother in Scotland. There is another one in the Highlands.

My Melvin ancestor is the one who was sentenced for the serious crime of perjury. The preceding case was a civil one and the judge deemed that five men had committed perjury. He was sent to jail at St a Helena prison. More later.

Unfortunately I don’t have all my records with me, but my Callaghan ancestors in Courtown had a few skirmishes with Drunk and disorderly and were fined, sometimes with a short sentence. There were also occasional punch-ups between kin

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What sort of sentences did they get for the crime, were they imprisoned and, if so, where? Gaols, Children’s homes etc.

Poverty and large families often causes for crime.

I agree Sue. Why my relative ended up in the reformatory I think, plus his father died.

Both the bigamists went to jail as did the two criminals in Scotland. And the Victoria bigamist’s children were sent to industrial schools. The daughter came to NZ to be with her aunt, my gmother, and married here. As a child I met her spinster daughters.

I should say that my g aunt was born in 1839, her daughter in 1864, my gmother in 1859. It took a lot of research to find what happened to g aunt after she emigrated to Victoria. She died in an asylum, such a sad life.

I just found something I had already and never realised. GG Grandfather only got three years after the verdict returned was assault only, not murder. See 2nd case. Earlier court proceedings interesting too.

18 months later.. my great uncle was charged, having stolen on 27th February, 1907, at Clayfield, two razors, a razor strop, a cigarette case, a shaving brush, and other articles, valued in all at 15s., he was given five years at Westbrook Reformatory

My gg grandmother’s first husband was found guilty of a stealing a bushel of coal (a felony) in 1823 and was sentenced to 6 months hard labour in Maidstone County Gaol…

Over the weekend I was researching a possible DNA connection. Found three married sisters sent to New Norfolk asylum as their behaviour towards their children and neighbours was not acceptable, They were only in their twenties.

Again can read all their records for their time in the asylum and why they were put there…

Stephen Melvin was sentenced to jail and while his crime was not commuted, the sentence was shortened due to the outcome of the trial of three of the men. He is shown on the Brisbane Gaol records but news stories say the men were brought up from St Helena.

My great grandfather Melvin’s brother was taken into a reformatory school but so far I’ve been unable to find the reason.

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Did they serve the full sentence? Did they turn their lives around or return to a life of crime?

My cousin 3 times removed was murdered by her husband in 1877. Due to insanity he spent the rest of his life at Ararat Asylum

Sadly, the coal stealer levelled up to sheepstealing 15 years later and ended up transported. His son helped dob him in! Following his story helped me discount him as the father of my gg grandfather – he was on a prison hulk at the time of conception.

One of the few time being in prison had a positive outcome seeing it helped sort out parentage for you.

Exactly! Though I’d like to confirm right parentage with DNA, as my ancestor reverted to using the convict’s surname later in life rather than his dad/step-dad’s.

Have a baptism record where he’s illegitimate with his mother’s surname, a birth cert and census record with his dad/step-dad’s surname, then as an adult used the first husband’s surname. Very curious.

My ancestor did seem to turn his life around.. by 1915 he had enlisted with the A.I.F. and served in Egypt and France, so I feel very proud of him.

I don’t know about the two Scottish ones or the bigamist in Victoria, but the NZ one did behave himself and later married my cousin.

I have not found any further information that shows Francis McDonald entered into a life of crime after the assault verdict. Though reading the court proceedings in @PapersPastNZ details more about the crime. Though does not look like the full story.

Served full sentences. Some turned their lives around, some didn’t. One ended up joining the army which seemed to help.

Stephen Melvin’s sentence was commuted and there were changes to the law relating to perjury after the case. He had not been in trouble with the law before or after.

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Where did you search for detailed information on the offence? Newspapers, archives etc?

I used newspapers, archival court documents at Qld State Archives as well as the judge’s notebooks and prison records. No bias, but there must have been something that decided the judge to charge them with perjury. The docs seemed a bit “he said” “she said”.

Newspapers often give a word by word of what was said or done, Can also see witnesses in case they are family members etc or neighbours.

Generally speaking court reporters write an accurate record of what happened though the more scandal-driven papers can be dodgy. Still worth checking archive docs if possible.

Newspapers, but Quarter Session records in local archives have been the best resource.

Newspapers & @nswarchives with court proceedings, jury notes, gaol records etc

If admitted to care home or asylum etc, check those records as some are more than 50 pages long giving lots of family info.

The childrens’ asylum where my relative was as a teenager was in Scotland. haven’t been able to see records yet.

Lots of court records for Tassie are online or you can visit the Archives to find those not digitized yet…

I found detailed newspaper reports on Trove #LoveTrove and I was able to locate his index card from Westbrook Reformatory #QldArchives most of his sentence was served as a farm labourer for a local farming family

I found my 3xgreat grandfather having a very short sojourn in the Inveraray Gaol which has indexes online.

One of my best discoveries was my 2xgreat grandfather as a witness to an equity case. Confirmed relationships and that he was on the Tooloom goldfields while family was in Ipswich

Don’t forget to check the UK newspapers via FindMyPast or with your NLA library card. Some of the crimes are reported there, not necessarily major offences.

Petty Sessions records either in Irish Newspapers or in the FindMyPast indexes can be very helpful.

If your relatives were in Argyll you can search the Inveraray Jail indexes at this page.

I always search newspapers for any interesting things when I write my biographies, but often the siblings who have records.


Blog posts about prisoners or criminals in our families

Pauleen: Vaccinations, Petty Session records, Shooting case,

Andrew: Colonial conviction, 


Researching London ancestors

A couple of years ago, I had no knowledge of how to search for London ancestors as I didn’t have any as far as I knew. But recently, with DNA assistance, I now have a few lines through dad’s finally found father.

As tonight’s #ANZAncestryTime chat was about resources for London research, I could actually mention some sources I have used.

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What general resources have you found the most helpful or what are your favourite resources for researching ancestors from London and its surroundings?

I’m hoping to gain some inspiration on ancestors who lived or moved through London.

Looking forward to hints about ways to find my London ancestor pre civil registration when I have no idea of location

Research sites I’ve used include Genuki, Pallots Index, Family Search, Ancestry and census info as a guide to places of birth. Booth’s poverty maps are great – if you have a specific address

I have found the London Metropolitan Archives very useful and also the London Encyclopedia which I purchased recently

I struggle with having any confidence that I have found the correct birth or marriage when there’s a city of a bazillion people

Yes, it can be difficult especially if researching a common name … So many Browns in North London

Censuses, directories and parishes records! Huguenot society for sure too but also French/international collections at @MyHeritage because a lot were French or Belgian/Dutch emigrants or refugees 🤩

Because I focus on 1800s and early 1900s I find the census and church records most useful for the basic starting point for my London ancestors. They moved to NZ and Essex so I can follow they with the census to Essex

For London #FamilyHistory there are some excellent Family History Societies who offer resources, talks and publications! There is an excellent guide by @LWMFHS

LMA have a great website with many rabbit holes to disappear down. I could easily spend hours there

Westminster Archives would be another great place to research in person and the Society of Genealogists. And London Lives

Re London parish registers and the LMA…

I don’t have any ancestors anywhere near London, and looking at my DNA matches tree, the location is mentioned only 17 times.

the @LdnMetArchives has a number of useful guides to its resources although record sets like Land Tax Returns which I find useful for 1770-1830 are often held in Borough Libraries. So much of the LMA data is now online which is really helpful.

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Do you use London specific resources? Are these available online? Is it a good place to visit for research?

Yes – mostly. I find maps very useful too and books e.g. A guide to London’s churches by Mervyn Blatch and Tracing Your London Ancestors by Jonathan Oates

Spent a few days at LMA when I was in London many years ago. So much to look at.

Can you tell us a bit about the London Encyclopaedia?

It’s one of those wonderful books that you can dip in and out of. The best kind of reference book. It’s a massive volume – 1116pages and covers anything and everything – buildings, people, organizations, streets, embankments, turnpikes etc etc

I have found it enormously helpful when tackling #52ancestorsin52weeks on my blog this year. I have a few families who originated from London.


Yes it was great when my cousin was in Hammersmith. Plus she was very interested so we visited national archives and LMA. Found some wonderful and totally huge maps that were impossible to look at the middle sections without both of us rolling it up together.

A blog about London history via walking tours

some background on 1890’s London , glad I wasn’t living there then…

Just bought an Unlock the Past book on London and Middlesex family history resources online from Gould Genealogy by Alan Stewart

no London ancestors that I know of but looked in our catalogue, quite a few resources… may or may not be useful

I found Robsons Trade Directory, as part of Ancestry’s London City Directories collection, useful in placing a bricklayer ancestor in 1819. The occupation tied in with his convict indent & newspaper notices entered by family trying to track him in NSW.

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In a large city ensuring you have the right person can be hard. What suggestions or techniques do you use that can help? What about pre-census and pre-civil registration? Or dealing with people and families with common first and surnames?

I think perhaps sometimes you may never know although if they had an unusual occupation that might help. I guess I look for common names in siblings or common churches for baptisms. But sometimes it’s just like looking for the proverbial needle…

Coming to terms with never knowing is difficult Alex. As family historians we want to know it all

We do want to follow them back but when it comes to London I throw my hands up and give up.

Just remembered when I started I had to use elimination to get down to a more manageable list before expanding out to look for other records. Found my great GM this way. This technique required sometime, logic and keeping good records.

Looking for consistencies across records e.g. other family members, occupation etc.

This is my major conundrum: how can you be sure pre-civil Reg and if they die before census? Do they move between parishes? Also married in London but lived elsewhere. Seems impossible when names are not unusual. Tips much appreciated.

Usually I look to a family’s children’s names to see if I can detect a pattern for the earlier generation eg why I’ve “decided” my William Partridge’s maternal grandfather was likely William Thompson.

I have an ancestor who was a journeyman carpenter but the marriage records labourer. All else “fits”.

clues for my Partridge family (then living in Gloucestershire): Eliza (mother) and son William both shown as born Westminster on 1851 census, daughter shown as St Pancras. My husband’s ancestors married in London, lived in Notts. she was from East Sussex

I have looked for wills and letters of administration as they will give names of people involved and addresses often.

I got a great will earlier in the year. It has a row of houses in London and my grandmother left different ones to different children. I just have to find it as I forgot to file it on my computer properly.

I think luck has a lot to do with getting the correct persons. I was lucky to have families that used unusual second names & less common maiden names reused down the generations. 3 cheers for Freeborn, Collis, Myhill, Frith, Grout, Tarbet & more.

Finding my 3x g grandfather Thomas Jones in London pre civil reg has been impossible, not knowing his location

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What maps and mapping sites have helped you understand London and its surrounds? Do you find ancestors relocate and return to London? Any ancestors with interesting capital-based roles? In parliament, for example?

I tend to order maps from Gould Genealogy as I find it quite difficult looking at maps online. My Dad’s old AA guide to London from the 1960s came in quite handy when I was doing research recently ! It doesn’t have just maps but also guides to churches et al.

My dad’s side of the family were mainly from London, Surrey, Kent area so comparing google maps with the poverty maps and ordnance maps from Scotland site have been great.

National Library of Scotland has some digitised London info.

I sometimes use Google maps to check out the relative proximity, and distance, between 2 places that an ancestor has lived. However, my Brown line has pretty much been in the Tottenham/Edmonton area for generations and generations

I often use street view on google. Even though it is fairly recent I find it gives a different perspective. I had a go at layering a while back and stripping back to older versions can be enlightening.

When writing up my biographies, I try to include addresses as well and hope they are in close proximity. My great grandmother…

Another biography showing mapping great grandfather…

I have a family member who was a grenadier guard. One of his duties was Gold Stick IN Waiting to the King. Gold Stick is a bodyguard

I was lucky my ancestors were coachmen and boot shop managers or similar and were easy to follow through censuses

Readers: What sources have you found useful when researching London ancestors?