6 Tools for Exploring Family History in the Modern Age

Old family photographs

There’s no denying that technology has significantly impacted the concept of human connection in recent years. While certain aspects of our increased levels of connectivity have negative connotations (think: continuously scrolling on Instagram), as a whole, technology has provided us with degrees of personal connection previously never imagined.

As such, today’s modern family has incredible opportunities to stay in touch, strengthen relationships, and learn more than ever about their family’s history. To help you leverage technology in your quest to explore your own family history and better understand your family narrative, here are six tools worth investigating.

1. LegacyBox

LegacyBox digitizes old family photos and videos

LegacyBox has the power to save family researchers from the headache of digitizing important discoveries. Say, for example, that you hit a treasure trove of family information in the form of a box of old VHS tapes in your grandmother’s attic. Hurrah! But the process of actually getting to watch these tapes and share them with your family is...less exciting. Enter LegacyBox!

Their fitting slogan, “Just Add Memories,” describes just how easy their service is to use.

After ordering and receiving an empty box, you simply fill it with your VHS tapes, photos, audio tapes, or reels and just like magic, you’ll have them returned to you digitized in the form of a thumb drive, digital delivery, or on a DVD! Once your files are in a digital format, you’ll be able to share them with your entire family with ease. No matter your age, LegacyBox can help you preserve your family history and is sure to be appreciated by all.

2. DNA Kits

DNA kit

DNA kits are very on trend these days. So much so that companies have even come out with test kits for canines! On the human side, DNA kits like Ancestry and 23andMe use breakthrough research to help users better understand their family history, genealogy, family medical history, build a family tree, and much more.

As 23andMe’s tagline, “order, spit, discover,” suggests, all you need to do is order the kit, give a saliva sample, and in 3 to 5 weeks you’ll be able to find out what your DNA says about you. Armed with the information behind your DNA, you can better research your family tree and discover illuminating insights about your family’s unique story.

There have even been several reports of users connecting with long lost siblings or birth parents from the database. Incredible relationships, reunions, and family narratives have been fostered by DNA test kits like 23andMe.

Read Next: What's the Perfect Follow-Up Gift for a DNA Kit?

3. StoryCombs

Family history app

StoryCombs’ patented technology allows app users to feel better connected to loved ones and explore their family history in a variety of ways. In private family groups called Hives, family members may preserve and organize favorite family stories in shared albums. By uploading images with video recordings (or narrated photos), memories and key family details are recorded and shared first-hand and saved for future generations.

Whether you’re uploading images, recipes, or documents, you can even prompt specific family members to speak about particular images. Say, if your aunt has the best understanding of what makes your great grandmother’s pie recipe so special, you could upload the recipe and send your aunt an in-app request to add a story to the image for the entire family to enjoy.

While DNA kits and family tree research tools are essential components behind discovering your family’s history, with StoryCombs, you can go beyond names and dates and share the stories that make up who you really are.

4. Online Genealogy Databases

Online family tree tool

Online genealogy databases like Ancestry.com are another easy-to-use example of technology helping users explore their family history. Ancestry.com breaks it down into four easy steps:

  1. Add what you know (think detailed names, dates and locations)

  2. Look for a leaf (a hint the site found about your ancestors from their billions of records)

  3. Explore your records

  4. Allow the hints to keep on coming! As you continue to grow your family tree, you’ll continue to receive more hints.

The site allows you to search for your family members on census and voter lists, birth, marriage, or death certificates, and immigration, travel, and military records. With 20 billion records, you’re bound to find plenty of details regarding your family history.

There are also an abundance of ways to connect to others sifting through their family history on Ancestry.com. The site includes an Ancestry Support Community, which encourages users to share tips and solutions as well as start discussions. There are message boards and examples of public member trees as well as a member directory. The site also offers an option to share success stories with others along your journey.

5. Facebook Groups

Facebook group for Ancestry DNA

For the amateur genealogists out there, ample Facebook groups exist to connect you to others experiencing the same quest. With more than 11,000 registered Facebook groups for genealogy, you can choose to explore a broad or more localized subject. One notable benefit of joining is often the many subgroups that can exist within the larger groups, including ethnicities, linguistics, specific locations, and much more.

Genealogy groups within a social network you’re already a part of further show that technology is an incredible tool to make us all feel more connected. With tens of thousands of group members searching and participating across the world, there's no telling what you might discover.

6. National Genealogical Society

National Genealogical Society

National Genealogical Society (NGS) is a nonprofit that seeks to educate the public extensively about their own family history.

To that end, NGS lists helpful resources on their site including tips to start a family history, how to build a family tree, a family relationship chart, guidelines for genealogical research, and much more. The site offers courses, including American Genealogical Studies and a course in Family History.

Imagine not only reading about your family's history, but being able to actually see, touch, and hear that history for yourself. NGS makes this possible, offering five-day research trips to Washington D.C., where they focus on the planning and you simply focus on the experience and your research.

While technology can have its downsides, there are many incredible things happening in the family history space. Do you have any favorite tools for learning more about your family’s history? Let us know in the comments below.