“I Lost My Photos on My Phone!!” Here’s What You Need to Do

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!”

Back-up Your Mobile Device Easily

“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.

Amie wrote:

“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!

Back-up Your Mobile Device Photos

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

mobile genealogy bookHere’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

Listen to the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast on Android Devices

FOR ANDROID USERS: How to Get the Premium Feed on Your Android Mobile Device

Recommended app: Podcast Addict for Android, available in the Google Play Store.

Follow these steps to set up the Premium Podcast using the Podcast Addict app for Android. Examples shown below are on a tablet, so keep in mind that it may look slightly different on your device.

1. Download the Podcast Addict App

      Podcast Addict app

Google Play Store

On your device, go to the Google Play Store and download the Podcast Addict app.
(*Note: If you’ve never used the Google Play store you may be required to set up an account, including payment information. This is unrelated to Genealogy Gems, but necessary in order to download apps from the Google Play Store.)

Recommended app: Podcast Addict for Android, available in the Google Play Store.

Follow these steps to set up the Premium Podcast using the Podcast Addict app for Android.
NOTE: Examples shown below are on a tablet, so keep in mind that it may look slightly different on your device.

2. Add the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Feed

Tap the + icon to add a feed

Tap “RSS Feed, YouTube/Twitch Channel, Soundcloud URL”

In the “RSS feed URL” field, copy and paste this address to ensure it is exactly correct with no extra spaces at the end (the feed address is case sensitive):
https://lisalouisecooke.com/Premium_Feed/feed.xml

  • Check the box for “Authentication (Premium Podcast)”
  • Type in your Genealogy Gems Premium Membership username and password. You MUST use your membership username, NOT your email address.
  • Tap “Add”

Your Podcast home screen will now have the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast.

Tap the podcast icon.  It may appear yellow like this or it may be our logo) to reveal all episodes, starting with the most recent episode at the top of the list.

3. Downloading Episodes

You can download episodes so that you can listen offline, without an internet connection or using your device’s cellular data. Download an episode by tapping the down arrow icon on the right:

Once the episode is downloaded, a play button will appear that you can click to listen. A small download icon will appear indicating that this episode is downloaded to your device:

3. Listening to Episodes & Viewing Show Notes

When you open the app, tap the Genealogy Gems Premium podcast to access episodes:

You can go straight to the episodes you’ve already downloaded through the app’s menu. Tap the three lines icon:

Then tap Downloaded episodes:

On this screen are only the episodes you have downloaded for offline listening. To return to all episodes just tap the 3 line icon in the upper left corner.

4. Deleting Downloaded Episodes

After you have listened to a downloaded episode, you can delete it to free up the space on your device. (Don’t worry, all of the episodes are still available through the main podcast feed in Podcast Addict.) To delete an episode in the Downloaded Episodes area, tap the 3 dots icon on the episode you want to delete:

(Note: If you want to delete all the episodes that you’ve already played, click the 3 dots icon at the very top of the right-hand corner, and then tap “Delete Played Episodes”)

On the page for that downloaded episode tap the trash can icon to delete it from your device:

Need More Help?

If you’re experiencing error messages or other technical difficulties, please visit our Premium eLearning FAQ page and head to the Troubleshooting section towards the bottom. You’ll find answers to the most common causes of problems and solutions and tips to fix them.

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