Using your mobile device for genealogy is a great idea, but with that convenience takes some additional know-how. Back-up your mobile device images in a few simple steps and you’ll never say, “I lost my photos on my phone!”
“I lost my photos on my phone!!”
This is NOT what you want to hear from a dear friend who is also a genealogist. So my heart sank when Genealogy Gems Contributor Amie Tennant’s email dropped into my inbox.
“I spent 6 hours researching at a cemetery and archives in a far away location. You won’t believe this, but when I got home I realized my smartphone wasn’t working. I had taken all the tombstone images with it, all the document copies were made with it, all my notes were on it. And I hadn’t even had time to back it up.”
That’s the problem, unless you back up as you go, you can’t be sure that just an hour later it won’t all be gone. These days you’re more likely to snap photos of records with your phone than a camera. But with that convenience comes the need for a new game plan to keep those precious images safe.
Back-up Your Mobile Device Images: The Plan
I put together an immediate email to Amie with a restoration and preservation game plan. If, like Amie, you are using your smartphone and mobile devices more and more, you’ll want to put this plan into place too.
First, I advised Amie to visit her phone store (for example, The Apple Store if you have an iPhone) and see if they could retrieve the lost photos and data. You never know unless you ask!
Image of Amie’s 4th great-grandfather she was able to retrieve.
Next, it’s important to consider automatic back-up options. Automatic back-ups are great, which is why I love BackBlaze. But BackBlaze is back up for your computer. The BackBlaze app on your phone only gives you access to those computer files, and doesn’t back up your phone.
One option is to back-up manually as you go. In other words, as soon as you snap that image of a record, save it to a Cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox. You could even activate Cloud back-up so that it happens automatically, though with the size of image files, you would likely need a paid subscription service to allow for adequate storage space. However, if you are going to continue to use your phone as a genealogy tool, it may be well worth the investment. Let’s look more closely at these two options:
Free Manual Option: If cost is an issue, you can save your photos to a free Dropbox account at the time you take the photo, and then move to more permanent storage on your computer at a later time.
1. Take the photograph
2. Tap the photo in my iPhone’s Photos app
3. Tap Edit and do a quick edit to clean it up (improve contrast, rotate so that it is right side up, crop to get as close-up as possible)
4. Tap Done to close the editor
5. Tap the Share icon and tap Save to Dropbox
6. Select the folder in Dropbox where I want to save the image and tap Save
However, it would definitely be faster and simpler to have your phone automatically backing up to the Cloud.
Low Cost Automatic Option: If your phone is going to be one of your genealogy tools, then automatic cloud back-up may be worth the low cost of around a dollar a month.
Personally, I am not a fan of iCloud even though I have an iPhone. I just don’t find it very user friendly to work with. Setting up your photos and videos to automatically back up to your Google Photos library via Google Drive is another option. Again, since photos and videos do take up a lot of space you’ll likely need to invest in a low cost monthly storage plan. Click here to learn more, or Google search Google Drive Plan Cost (or substitue the name of the service you are considering) for current plans.
Bottom line: There are several Cloud services available for our smartphones and mobile devices, so there’s sure to be one that’s right for you. Where ever your images find their final resting place, make sure it has Cloud back-up.
Amie’s Response to the Plan
I quickly sent the plan to Amie. She responded by saying:
“Thank you, Lisa! It was devastating. You were right, a nice man at the phone store was able to restore them! But, I don’t ever want to have this happen again. When I set up my new phone, a Samsung Android, I noticed a setting that said something like “automatic save to Google drive” and it would sync your images. So I clicked it “on” but now I can’t find where I did that! Any ideas?”
Troubleshooting Backing-up Your Mobile Device
When people shoot me a question, my usual response is “Just Google it!” I Googled Automatic backup of android phone and got several great hits on the results list.
One article on Android Fact.com was particularly helpful. (Read the full article here.) Remember, it can get pretty expensive to be instantly uploading images with your cell phone carrier. I suggest clicking Wi-Fi Only to ensure that uploading only takes place when you are connected to Wi-Fi.
I regularly emphasize backing up important documents that live on your computer. But let’s face it: If you have a smartphone, it would be oh, so sad to have to say “I lost my photos on my phone!” So don’t wait—back up your smartphone or mobile device today.
Another Tip for Using Smartphones for Genealogy
Here’s a another mobile computing tip my book Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research.
Smartphones and other mobile devices offer a plethora of editing tools. It is well worth the investment of a few extra seconds to clean up and maximize images as you go. This is particularly true of records that need to be clear for future reference or printing.
Try applying a filter to your images for maximum readability. I like the Noir filter in my iPhone’s Photos app editor.
More Gems on Using Mobile Devices for Genealogy
How to Use Your Mobile Device for Genealogy: Free Video!
3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Mobile Device
The Newberry Library’s online Atlas of Historical County Boundaries is finally fully updated and interactive! Read the good news here–and my preference for using the powerful geographic data that drives the Atlas.
The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries at The Newberry Library’s website has been undergoing upgrades for quite some time. Genealogists who rely on this fantastic online resource to research old county boundaries in the U.S. have been able to access the basic data that drives the map (dates and geographic boundary changes). But they haven’t been able to use the popular interactive map. Great news: the Atlas is finally fully interactive again.
Changing Boundaries Reflected in the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
Understanding changes in county boundaries over time is key to doing genealogy research in the United States. Boundaries have changed repeatedly–and some dramatically. County governments typically keep important genealogical sources: vital records, court records, land records and more. We need to know which county would have housed our ancestors’ records during specific time periods so we can find the records we want.
What’s New at the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
According to the Newberry Library’s press release, users can now:
- view a base layer map that allows an overlay of boundaries on top of cities, towns and other geographic features;
- zoom in and out of maps and expand the view to full screen;
- select a date of interest from a drop-down box with all border change dates for that state; and
- view information about border changes in a hover box that changes as users hover over different counties.
Here’s what the new interface looks like:
Google Earth Pro vs. the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
It’s great to see improved functionality on the Atlas site. But after reviewing the update, I still think the experience of using data from the site is superior in the free Google Earth Pro (GEP) program. To use the entire data set in Google Earth Pro, simply download the KMZ data file onto your computer,and when you click to open the file, your computer will detect the KMZ format and know to automatically open Google Earth Pro (as long as you already have GEP installed on your computer.)
Using the file in GEP allows you to use the data in conjunction with the rest of your genealogical information (such as placemarks indiciating places lived & schools attended, historic map overlays, embedded old family photos and home movies, etc.). This provides a more integrated genealogical research experience. Learn more by clicking here to watch a free video I’ve made about using Google Earth for genealogy.
Explore new Irish Genealogical Abstracts that have become available this week. They are a great alternative to records destroyed in the 1922 Dublin fire! Also new are church and burial records for England, poorhouse records for Scotland, German military recruitment, documents, and colonial letters for Australia. Finally, a variety of exciting collections are now online for the U.S. for Massachusetts, New Mexico, Georgia, and more!
Irish Genealogical Abstracts
New this week at Findmypast are several genealogical abstract collections! First is the Thrift Irish Genealogical Abstracts, created by renowned Irish genealogist Gertrude Thrift. This collection features copies of wills, bill books, parish registers, commission books, and freeman lists, as well as detailed family trees and pedigree charts. Records in this collection date as far back as the 16th century and up to the early 20th century.
Next is the Crossle Irish Genealogical Abstracts collection. Explore the various notebooks of 19th-century genealogists Dr. Francis Crossle and Philip Crossle to reveal a wealth of Irish genealogical resources including copies of records destroyed in the fire at the Public Record Office in Dublin in 1922.
Finally, the Betham Irish Genealogical Abstracts features abstracts and genealogical sketches created by herald Sir William Betham, the Ulster King of Arms. The notebooks are an excellent substitute for missing records and include abstracts of wills, reconstructed family trees, and detailed pedigrees.
Also new for Irish genealogy this week is the Cork, Pobble O’Keefe Census 1830-1852. Search these records to discover who your ancestor was living with as well as their occupation, birth year and marital status.
Findmypast is the leader in genealogical records for Ireland, the UK, and now including U.S. and Canada. Get a two-week free trial of their premium subscription and explore millions of Irish record and more! Click here to subscribe now.
England Parish Records
Extracted Church of England Parish Records, 1538-1837 for Nottingham, England are now available online at Ancestry.com. The records include baptisms/christenings, burials, marriages, tombstone inscriptions, obituaries, tax lists, wills, and other miscellaneous types of records.
Over 75,000 records have been added to Findmypast’s collection of Yorkshire Burials, covering Anglican parishes and municipal cemeteries. Find your ancestor’s name, age at death and burial place, with more than 4 million records covering over 400 years.
Scottish Poorhouse Records
New for Scotland are Kirkcaldy, Fife, Poorhouse Records, 1888-1912. This collection includes records for those who received help from the Abden Home Poor Law Institution, originally named the Kirkcaldy Combination Poorhouse.
German Military Records
Halle(Saale), Military Recruitment Lists, 1828-1888 are now online at Ancestry.com.
From the collection description: “These recruitment lists are arranged in chronological-alphabetical order and contain detailed information about male military personnel in the city. Typically records for young men begin at age 20. Therefore this collection includes age groupings for men born beginning in 1808 up to and including 1868.”
Australia – New South Wales
At Ancestry.com, you can now explore the New South Wales, Colonial Secretary’s Letters, 1826-1856 collection. If you had ancestors living there during that time period, you can find a wealth of information in this collection, including petitions by convicts for sentence mitigation, marriage permission requests, character memorials for potential settlers, land grant or lease applications, official visit reports, information about court cases, and lists of assigned servants.
United States – Maps & More
Confederate Maps. The Cartographic Branch of the National Archives has announced the digitization of over 100 Confederate maps from Record Group (RG) 109. All are now available to view or download through their online catalog. “These maps can include rough sketches created quickly before or during a battle, but can also include maps that were drawn to accompany official reports or even post-war publications. Many are highly detailed and colorized.”
Massachusetts. At AmericanAncestors.org (the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society), 12 new volumes have been added to the parish of Immaculate Conception in Salem to Massachusetts collection, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Records, 1789-1900. This update consists of 23,972 records and roughly 90,300 names.
New Mexico. Bernalillo County, New Mexico, Marriage Index, 1888-2017 are now available online at Ancestry.com. The original records come from Bernalillo County Record’s Office, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Georgia. From a recent press release: The Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) is celebrating its 1 millionth digitized historic newspaper page. The premier issue of the Georgia Gazette, Georgia’s first newspaper, published from 1763-1776 in Savannah, will become the 1 millionth page of historic newspapers to be made freely available online through the Georgia Historic Newspapers (GHN).
Colorado. Also celebrating a 1 million milestone is the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection (CHNC), from the Colorado Virtual Library. The millionth page came from the Montrose Daily Press, Volume XII, Number 247, April 21, 1921, which is part of a digitization project supported by Montrose Regional Library District.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting the free Genealogy Gems podcast and blog!
Opening pages of rare 1905 Sanborn Map of San Francisco, showing city just before 1906 earthquake. Find the entire map book at the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection
Genealogists rely on historical maps to help us navigate the geography of our ancestors’ lives. One of the most important resources available online is the David Rumsey Map Collection. Well, Rumsey recently announced on his website that he will be making more than 38,000 of his historical maps–everything he’s currently got online–available at the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).
I blogged recently about the DPLA, which aims to create an enormous, free digital library we can all access online. It will be great to have the Rumsey map collection searchable on the DPLA so we can search these maps while we look for any other sources on any particular location our ancestors lived. “Maps tell stories that complement texts, images, and other resources found in the growing DPLA library,” says Rumsey. “And the open content policies of my online library fit perfectly with DPLA’s mission to make cultural resources freely available to all.” He applauds what the DPLA is trying to accomplish and even encourages other collectors to donate content.
Rumsey has spent years collecting thousands of old maps and putting them online. Now he’s working to share them even more widely. His entire collection of about 150,000 maps will eventually be housed at Stanford University. Meanwhile, we can all enjoy the thousands of images we can search on his site or at the DPLA.
Google’s free program Google Earth includes nearly 150 historic maps in the Layers panel. You can also add historic maps downloaded from Rumsey’s site to Google Earth by using the Overlay feature. My video tutorial series called Google Earth for Genealogy will show you how. You can also get step-by-step instructions in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. Or get them all in a discounted bundle.