Syndicate content
Stay current with genealogy and family history topics by reading the FamilySearch blog. Find out insights into our future and our past.
Updated: 19 min 43 sec ago

The Key to Family Reunion Success

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 10:02

Planning a successful family reunion can be overwhelming—you can almost imagine yourself drowning in all the details and decisions. Before you get too distressed, it makes sense to ask: what will make your family reunion successful? Although everyone has a different picture of the ideal event in their mind, most would agree that a successful reunion brings family together and allows them to reconnect, share stories and experiences, and strengthen their understanding and love of their heritage. 

To help you nail down the major elements of your event and free your mind to be creative about ways to achieve the real goal, we’ve put together a nuts-and-bolts guide to planning a family reunion. We’ll focus on big questions that will help you know you are on the right track and free up time to plan for the more meaningful aspects of the event. 

If you answer these questions as early as you can, the rest of the details will fit nicely in the framework you build. 

1. What type of reunion will you have? The One-Day Extravaganza

This works best for:

  • Groups of any size

  • Family members who live relatively close to each other. If family members have to travel a long distance for the reunion, having a one-afternoon event might not feel worth the trip.

The Weekend (or longer) Adventure

This works best for:

  • Small to mid-size groups

  • Family members who live far apart from each other

Here are some checklists to keep you on task:

2. When will the reunion be?

Many reunions take place when the weather is warm and schedules are flexible. This is not required though. Do a quick poll of family members to find dates that work.

Once you set a date, don’t change it—even if your cousin Fred tells you that it’s the least convenient day of the whole year. No date is going to work for everyone.

Here are some survey tools to help take a poll to find the best time for most family members:

3. Where will the reunion be?

We’ve divided our recommendations on location by reunion type. 

One-day extravaganza

Since this is a one-day affair, the location needs to be central and easy.

Option A: Someone’s home
If the group size isn’t too large and someone is willing to host, a home might be perfect. It’s free and if it rains, everyone can move indoors.

Option B: A park
Parks are often cheap and have lots of space for outdoor fun—just be sure to rent a pavilion or have a back-up plan in case of rain.

Option C: A rented indoor space
If you’re willing to pay, this guarantees weather won’t interfere.

Longer adventure

There are several ways to approach this. Here are two to consider:

Option A: Near family
If there is a central location near most people, you could choose that location. If not, you could hold the reunion near one family and rotate locations to be near a different family each year. Both options allow for a home base and cut travel costs—at least for one family a year.

Option B: Destination reunion
Simply choose a fun place to go. The advantage of this option is that many families don’t have the funds to travel for both a vacation and a reunion, so this allows them to accomplish both at once.

Here are some destination ideas to get you thinking: “Where? Choosing a Reunion Place,” Reunions Magazine. 

4. Where will everyone sleep?

This is relevant only for multiple-day adventures, and it depends on where you hold the reunion. Here are some possibilities: 

Option A: Family member’s house
In the right conditions (the reunion is near one family’s home, the family has space, the group is small enough to fit in the home, and you don’t think everyone will strangle each other), you can have everyone stay at someone’s house.

Option B: Rental house
If a family house isn’t realistic but you like the concept of shared meals and sitting around the living room to talk after the kids are in bed, look online for a large rental house.

Option C: Condos/hotel rooms
For larger groups or families who do better with a little space and privacy, consider renting adjacent condos or hotel rooms.

Option D: Under the stars
An outdoor setting like camping in tents or staying at clustered cabins means you have outdoor gathering space (as long as it doesn’t rain).

Here are some hints for finding the right rental property: “How to Decide Which Vacation Rental Site to Use,” Business Insider. 

Once you’ve gotten these first four decisions made, take a deep breath. The worse is behind you! In a pinch, other decisions can be made within a couple weeks of the event. Here are the last two questions to answer: 

5. What should you eat at the reunion? 

Option A: Potluck
If families live close, potlucks are cheap and easy for one-day events.

Option B: Catering or take out
This can work for a one-meal event or for the big meal of a longer event. Make sure you find a way to have people chip in for costs.

Option C: Divide and conquer
For longer reunions, remember that hooking up for at least some of the meals provides important bonding time. Let each family cover a meal, and then let them do what works best for them—whether that means making a homemade four-course meal or ordering pizza.

Here are some fun food ideas: “The Ultimate Family Reunion Meal Planning Guide,” Favorite Family Recipes

6. What activities should you have at the reunion?

While you can be as elaborate as you want, here’s the area you can also really simplify. Instead of choices, we’ve provided ideas here: 

  • Maximize meal times. Focus on food and time for talking, and keep organized activities minimal. Provide simple options for kids and teens—a playground at a park, a soccer ball and football, some Frisbees, some easy crafts, or some party games that don’t require much prep.

  • Share the schedule. For longer events, divide planning responsibilities by day between families.

  • Offer options. Plan outings and activities that fit different ages and abilities, and let people select what works for them.

  • Have some downtime activities on hand. Games and movies can fill an unexpected rainy afternoon.

Here are some more activity ideas:

Tip 1: Don’t overschedule. Remember that it takes large groups a long time to do anything.

Tip 2: Be flexible. Don’t pressure people into joining activities. If someone wants to skip the game to chat or stay back from the hike to nap, let them.

As you plan, keep in mind what reunion success really means, and make decisions that help you achieve that—and you will be well on your way creating an event everyone will remember.


Turn Major Life Events into Family History Moments

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 16:11

Many of the most meaningful and important moments in our lives can be recognized only in hindsight, like that chance meeting that eventually led to an engagement ring, that one classroom lesson that started you on a lifelong career path, or the random recipe you tried one night that turned into a long-standing family tradition.

There are other moments that you know from the beginning are going to be important and transformative. Some you anticipate for years, like a wedding, the birth of a child, an anniversary, or a milestone birthday. Others, such as a funeral, may be less welcome and anticipated, but no less life-changing. All these events will be recorded in your memory and reminisced about for years to come. They are the threads from which family history tapestries are woven.

If we approach them mindfully, these major life events can provide wonderful opportunities to make larger connections to family heritage and ancestry. Here are three ideas for doing just that.

1. Create a Wedding Heritage Display

Marriage is about more than the joining of two people; it also links entire families together, reaching back generations. Thus, a wedding celebration is the perfect time to acknowledge and celebrate this joyous multigenerational union that surely sparks rejoicing in heaven as well as on earth.

When my husband and I married in 2004, we kept the decorations at our reception fairly simple. But there was one display that meant more to me than almost anything else in the room. On a table near the entrance, I arranged a series of matching frames that contained three generations of wedding photos.

In the center was our engagement photo, flanked by our parents’ wedding photos: Donald and Beverly Lucas, married in 1959, and Janet and Jeff Hill, married in 1973. On either side of those photos stood the wedding pictures of Donald’s parents (1922), Beverly’s parents (1932), Jeff’s parents (1941), and Janet’s parents (1947). Many of our guests were drawn to this simple display, which illustrated how the joining of six young couples over the course of 51 years eventually led to this particular moment. Without each of them, there would have been no celebration that day.

After displaying these heritage wedding photos in our bedroom for years, I eventually preserved them in a keepsake album that includes names, dates, and places for each marriage.

Try It Yourself

The next time there’s a wedding in the family, hunt down ancestral wedding photos from both the bride’s and the groom’s families and present them as a gift—either framed or inside a simple album, with room for the bride and groom to add their own wedding photo at the end. You might find some of the wedding photos you need by searching your family tree on To access photos from the other half of the wedding party, however, you’ll have to recruit a member of that family to search their online family tree.

2. Make a Collective Keepsake at a Milestone Birthday or Anniversary Party

When my in-laws celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2009, they opted for a low-key backyard barbecue, with just their children and grandchildren in attendance. To make the day extra special for them, we created a memory book at the event and sent it home with them.

My husband took a picture of each attendee, and we printed the photos on the spot using a personal photo printer. We handed each person a 5×7-inch card, and asked them to share a treasured memory of Don and Bev or a note of love and thanks. Their kids, grandkids, and in-laws wrote about family trips, harrowing bike rides down steep Carnation Drive, memorable injuries, visiting Bev when she worked in the gift wrap department of the old ZCMI, countless hours spent eating and chatting on the patio, and the thoughtful gifts Don and Bev would drop off, just because.

We paired each person’s photo with their handwritten card and slipped the photos and cards inside a photo album to present to the honored couple. On the first page of the book, we placed their original wedding photo next to a photo of just the two of them taken at the party, 50 years to the day later.

Try It Yourself
  1. This idea works equally well for a milestone birthday party. We created similar albums (on a much larger scale) for my grandma and grandpa on their 80th birthdays.

  2. Put one person (probably you) in charge of collecting the photos and memories during the event. If you ask people to bring something in advance or expect them to follow up after the fact, you’ll find that they don’t all do their part.

  3. Instead of individual portraits, make sure each person takes a photo with the guest of honor, so everyone has a recent picture of themselves with their parent or grandparent.

  4. Try this idea using a Polaroid camera (yes, they still exist) or a Fujifilm Instax, which take and print photos instantly. Have each person tape or glue their picture inside a spiral-bound journal or art journal with heavier-weight pages (can be found at big box stores), and write a memory next to the picture.

  5. Use your smartphone to take the pictures, and print them on the spot using a mini wireless photo printer designed for that purpose.

  6. Have everyone upload their photos and memories to Instagram or another social-media app using the same hashtag (such as #donbevlucas50th).

  7. Capture audio recordings of each person’s memories using the FamilySearch Memories app.

  8. If you create a physical keepsake, scan or photograph each page to upload to the guest of honor’s profile on FamilySearch’s Memories.

3. Preserve Precious Memories Shared at a Funeral

When my beloved grandmother Neva Turner Nielsen passed away earlier this year, just shy of her 88th birthday, my sorrow was lifted and tempered by the many moments of family love and unity I witnessed. As I sat in the chapel listening to my Aunt Diane deliver a life sketch, I heard several tidbits and stories I had never heard before, including these:

  1. As a child, Grandma used to dress the barn cats in doll clothes and try to sneak them into the house, despite the fact that they would be flung by their tails out the back door and over the lilac bush if her mom ever spotted them in the house.

  2. At age 12, she had to take over all the ironing (using a heavy old flat iron heated on the stove), housework, and cooking (including feeding large hay crews on the farm) for two months after her mom broke her shoulder in a car accident.

  3. She attended her first high school dance with my grandpa on September 17, 1943—and they got married four years to the day later.

  4. She served as the LDS seminary president during her senior year of high school, on top of being on the drill team and student council.

Not wanting these and other details to get lost to history, I asked my aunt to send me a copy of her remarks so I could post them on my grandma’s profile on Family Tree.

As is the case at many funerals, there were also tables overflowing with memorabilia from Grandma’s life—precious pictures and keepsakes that would likely be divided among her four daughters. After the mourners dispersed, I took the time to document the contents of those tables using my smartphone. Despite my best intentions, I knew I would never get around to borrowing these original photos from my aunts in order to take them home and scan them. So I did the next best thing. I photographed the complete displays and took close-ups of individual pictures, briefly removing some from their frames to do so. (To be honest, a photo taken on a smartphone often can’t be distinguished from one that has been scanned.)

I posted several of these pictures on my Facebook page for our fellow family members to enjoy, and I also uploaded them to Family Tree, where they’ll be accessible to all of Grandma’s posterity.

Try It Yourself

Depending on your emotional state at the time of the funeral, see if you can listen for tidbits and details that are new to you about your loved one, so you can make sure these stories are preserved for future generations. Maybe even ask for a copy of the life sketch after the funeral, so you can keep it for your own records or post it to Family Tree. Take a moment to photograph the photo displays for the same purpose.

Bonus idea: After attending the funeral of a family friend, Wendy Smedley of Centerville, Utah, offered to collect all of the tributes posted to the woman’s Facebook page and upload them to Family Tree—with permission and access granted by the family, of course. Sometimes being just outside the inner circle will make you the perfect person to perform this kind of service. Immediate family members will often be too overwhelmed and grief-stricken, and they’ll appreciate this small but simple act that can impact generations to come.


DNA Testing at Family Reunions

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 10:19

by Diahan Southard

Lately, it seems to be very difficult to have any discussion on family history without mentioning three little letters: D-N-A. While family history enthusiasts and serious genealogists are flocking to testing companies like AncestryDNA to help them further their family history efforts, there are plenty of other individuals being tested who have never considered researching their family’s past. This trend reveals a nearly universal interest in what our own DNA holds, and it may be just the thing your family needs to invigorate your family history research and bind even the most skeptical among you to a common pursuit of documenting your family. What better place to start this conversation than at your next family gathering?

You might want to begin your discussion with a magic trick. Prepare a batch of lemon water and have everyone write messages with it on white paper. Then bring on the heat—a candle or iron will do—and watch the message appear! This activity naturally leads into a discussion of DNA, because when we are trying to tell the story of our ancestors using our DNA, it is almost as if we are reading a story written in vanishing ink. We have a very small window in which to capture the story before it disappears. This vanishing act comes courtesy of the way our DNA is inherited: half from Mom and half from Dad. But what about the other half? The half they didn’t give you? It vanishes. However, all is not lost! Testing multiple members of your family can help recover parts of that lost story.

As summer approaches and you pile into minivans, pack coolers, and congregate in rented picnic pavilions or Aunt Carroll’s backyard, take a minute to consider how your relative’s DNA might help you fill in the parts of your story that have vanished. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Test the oldest generation first. Note that not everyone needs to be tested if your focus is on family history. Remind your family that testing the oldest generation first is key to helping preserve the genetic record of your ancestors. Anyone who does not have both parents living should have an autosomal DNA test completed. Gather up your cousins and pool together resources to make sure that Grandpa, Grandma, and Great-aunt Ida are all tested. Men should be tested on the YDNA at Family Tree DNA, and everyone should get an autosomal DNA test from AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA, or 23andMe.

  2. Use evidence to get their attention. As you well know, not everyone vying for a piece of Uncle Everett’s chocolate sheet cake will be equally interested in this whole genealogy and DNA thing. Show them the ethnic pie chart first, and if you have been tested at AncestryDNA, your Ancestral Communities. These two kinds of results, with their geography and interesting graphics, seem to have the most universal appeal. Remind them that this is your DNA talking, not the family history research you have done. It is this DNA, on its own, that is identifying you as a member of these population groups. Usually that gets their attention.

  3. Find DNA connections on your match list. As fascinating as the percentages are, don’t neglect the match list when you are sharing your own DNA testing experience. It is often overlooked, but its message is remarkable. The people on that list are relatives. It doesn’t matter if you can identify your common ancestor or not. If they make the list, you share an ancestor, and that makes you family. That means there are physical ties, in the form of our DNA, linking one generation to the next. These same physical pieces of DNA lived the life of your ancestor. That DNA crossed the plains, or built railroads, or survived cholera, or fought in a war. This DNA connects us to our ancestors and their stories, so even though we have lost our connection on paper, we are still very much connected biologically.

  4. Fill out your family health history. There are some fantastic tools out there to help you start conversations about your family’s health history. (Try, for example.) Being aware of what diseases or conditions have affected your family in the past is an important first step to living healthier lives. Take the opportunity to fill out your family health history while you have everyone together at your family gathering this summer.

  5. Test the kids too. I know I just spent the last several paragraphs telling you not to test the kids, but if one of your goals is to spark interest in family history among the younger generations, seeing their name listed among other biological relatives might be just the thing to help them feel connected to their past (or to that sibling they just can’t believe they are related to). Of course, with DNA testing, as with any other kind of investigation into our past, there is always the chance of finding out something unexpected, so please be sure the child is old enough to understand what DNA testing is all about.

As you pack your bags for your next trip to see Uncle Joe and Aunt Karin, throw in a DNA kit or two right next to the Parcheesi board and dog leash. Then, over the potluck potato salad and baked beans, try to fit in a little discussion about vanishing ink and how, thanks to our DNA, each one of us can play a part in telling the stories of our ancestors.


Creating Family Temple Traditions

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 10:22

by Maddy Stutz

Christmas Eve blanket forts and summertime puzzle building may not seem like the most meaningful of traditions, but in simple ways, these and other unique family traditions have brought me closer to the family that I adore, and I’m grateful for every loveable moment.

Establishing family traditions that unite family members is important, but those traditions can be made eternally significant when they involve gathering your family to, around, or in the temple. It doesn’t matter if you live near a temple or if the closest you can get is via Google Earth. You can establish temple family traditions that create special bonds between your living family members and connect them with their ancestors. Here are different examples from families who have found ways to create meaningful temple traditions.

Help Everyone Get Involved

“It all started after my parents got back from their mission,” Chris Matthews explained. “My dad got this idea to have monthly temple trips with all of the cousins. Our first trip was to the Ogden Utah Temple, where 28 of us did the work for nearly 125 of our deceased relatives.”

Since that first temple trip in February 2016, the Matthews family has visited 7 temples and performed ordinances for over 1,000 family members through this newfound tradition. Younger cousins are baptized and confirmed while older cousins as well as uncles and aunts help perform the ordinances, offer a dry towel, or direct traffic. Everyone is involved. “One of my dad’s motives for this idea was to help my nieces and nephews stay strong in the gospel and grow in their appreciation of their heritage,” Chris continued.

A few months ago, Chris’s dad passed away, and on his birthday, relatives in Hawaii, Arizona, Utah, and various other states flocked to temples to honor the man that started it all. Even though their grandfather is gone, they plan to keep this tradition going strong.

Take a Drive Together

The Matthews are just one example of a family building traditions around the temple. In the rainy town of Puyallup, Washington, live the Nielsens, who have made gathering to the temple a tradition of their own.

“Our three youngest boys are adopted,” Melanie Nielsen said as we talked about her family traditions while they lived in Pocatello, Idaho, “and they remember being sealed to us and the feelings that they had in the temple. When they were little, they would always ask to drive by the temple just to look at it. Doing frequent temple drives with the kids became our own little family tradition.”

Strengthen Family Ties

Sometimes keeping your family focused on the temple can happen through unconventional means, especially if you don’t live close enough to visit on a regular basis. No matter how far away you live from the temple, you can create traditions that will bring the spirit of the temple into your home and family.

In my own family, my grandparents have created a storybook for each of their grandkids every Christmas for as long as I can remember. It’s filled with their favorite memories of us throughout the year, poems and short stories written by my grandpa, and a spiritual message for us to read. It may not immediately seem like a tradition focused on the temple, but it’s something that has reminded all 26 grandkids that we’re a sealed family.

For the past few years, my grandparents have switched it up to focus primarily on a relative that has passed away. The first ancestor storybook I received was about my great-grandmother. It included pictures, a life recap, her patriarchal blessing, and her testimony of the Savior. “It’s important to know where you came from,” my grandma said. “I can look at my grandkids and see so many characteristics of my mother and grandmother in them, and I think it’s important for them to see how those traits have been passed on.” Looking back on the lives of our ancestors has helped my family to feel gratitude for the blessings of the temple that seal us together for eternity. By remembering them, we can keep the spirit of the temple in our hearts, even when we can’t be there physically.

Create Your Own Temple Tradition

Gathering your family to the temple can be a well-organized event or a spur of the moment decision, but both accomplish the same goal. Are you looking for some new traditions to start with your family? Here are a few ideas to help you brainstorm:


Streamlining Your Family History with Family Tree Lite

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 16:37

In recent years, FamilySearch has added a variety of tools that can both enrich your tree and make your research experience faster and more productive. You can attach photos, list sources—and attach or link to them—submit names directly to the temple, use record hints, search partner sites, and more. FamilySearch’s Family Tree mobile app carries these capabilities over to your phone or other mobile device. It’s truly amazing how much FamilySearch can do. But have you ever wished FamilySearch did less?

There are a number of reasons this might be the case. The first is limited available internet bandwidth. All the bells and whistles of run smoothly when bandwidth is plentiful. But in situations where it’s not, they can bog down the connection. A simpler site means a faster, less frustrating connection when bandwidth is limited such as in some countries or even just areas with less than stellar internet speed. Bandwidth can also be limited when too many devices are competing with one another. For mobile users watching their data, another benefit of a simpler site is that simplicity means less data used—which could lead to significant money saved.

These are some of the reasons that FamilySearch has released a new streamlined version of FamilySearch’s Family Tree, known appropriately as Family Tree Lite.

Back to the Basics

When you open the site, the first thing you’ll notice is that the information is presented in a list instead of the usual tree format. It starts with the family in which you are the parent, and then continues with the family in which you are a child, then your father’s family, your mother’s family, and so forth.

Clicking the names of individuals will take you to their personal screen, which also sticks to the basics. By scrolling down a little more, you can see temple ordinances and links to spouses and parents.

Neither the family list screen nor the individual screen include:

Personal Screen
  • Photos.
  • Any attachments, such as documents or audio clips.
  • Sources—not even as notes.
  • Record hints or research suggestions.
  • Links to partner sites.

Although you won’t find this information on Family Tree Lite, it still exists in other locations. If you are looking for photos or records hints, you need to check the full site.

Menu options at the top of the main screen allow you to change views to look at individuals on their own screen, return to the page with your own information at the beginning, search for a specific individual on your tree, and even look in more depth at temple work (see “Submitting Temple Work” below for more information).

Clicking the Edit button brings you to this screen where you edit information. Edits and Updates

While options are fewer than in the full site, Family Tree Lite still allows you to make edits and updates to the information on your family. From the individual screen, you can click a detail (such as birth information) and choose Edit to make corrections or additions. Remember that to merge individuals or add sources, you must visit the main site. And of course, Family Tree Lite communicates directly with the main site, so any changes you make on one will immediately appear on the other.

Submitting Temple Work

One important capability Family Tree Lite maintains is the ability to submit names to the temple. To see temple work that needs to be done, look for green temple icons. You might find them by scrolling down the main screen or by searching for specific individuals. In the example below, the green icon near William Friedman’s name alerts me to the fact that there might be temple work that can be done for him.

This screen shows that William has not been sealed to his spouse. If the information is ready, I can request click Request to submit his name.

Clicking the green temple icon brings you to a screen with more information. From there, you can see details on the person, what temple work has already been completed, and what temple still needs to be done. If you decide the name is ready, you can click Request, and begin the process.

Unexpected Research Benefits

Unexpected benefits often come from going back to the basics, and the same is true with a visit to Family Tree Lite. The format of the information may help you recognize problems or notice holes you hadn’t seen before.

My first visit to Family Tree Lite made apparent some data problems in the first few generations of my family. When looking at my big family tree, I usually skip straight back to generations where I know of work to be done and discoveries to be made. While I see the parents in each generation, I have no real reason to look at their children. The layout of Family Tree Lite lists all the children of my direct line ancestors though. I immediately noticed that several of my ancestors had too many children. The problem came from duplicates—people in the system more than once. In these cases, it was because I had the person in my tree both as “Living” and as “Deceased”! These ancestors had passed away but the “Living” version of them had not been updated. In a few minutes, I was able to clean things up and make the needed corrections.

So the next time you want to use with a connection that isn’t quite what you wish or with a minimal toll on your overall mobile data plan, try stopping by Family Tree Lite.


How to Use Virtual Photo Storage

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 11:07

by Ben Robison

Photographs play an important role in preserving family stories. Where are you keeping yours?

So many cloud-based photo storage options are available today that picking one can be a daunting task. Determining the best one depends on individual needs, but a few offer more features than just storage and thus stand out from the competition. Notable standouts, including FamilySearch Memories, Google Photos, and Amazon Prime Photos, offer robust curation and sharing capabilities, so we’ll look at those options. But first, what is cloud storage?

“Put It in the Cloud”

You may have heard the phrase “put it in the cloud” before, but what does it mean? The cloud is the internet, so when you put a file “in the cloud,” you’re uploading the file to an internet server. The primary benefits of using cloud storage (for any type of file, not just photos) include:

  1. Security and backup. Those servers are in buildings that are protected against fire, power outages, natural disasters, and even armed assault. They also have hardware protection built in, so if a server (or part of it) fails, your files aren’t lost.
  2. Access. As long as you have an internet connection, you can access your photos on any device.
  3. Sharing. For most of these cloud-based services, it’s not necessary to attach multiple large files to an email when you want to share photos. You can grant access to those photos online and allow others to view and comment.
FamilySearch Memories

Memories is a great way to share on Not only does the app capture photos (with its own built-in scanner), it can record audio, scan documents, and add written stories as well. All these memories are then added to your tree in FamilySearch. The sharing abilities are identical to anything in Everything can be seen by people who can see a person in their tree. Memories is a free app for both Android and iOS, and it is also available on the site.


Google Photos

Google Photos may well be the gold standard for photo organization. For starters, it’s free, with unlimited storage if you keep images below 16 megapixels (MP) each. Most high-end phones (such as iPhone7, Galaxy S7) have 12MP cameras—and they take great photos. If you opt for original size photos (rather than the reduced file size option), you get 15 Gigabytes (GB) of free space, with the option to buy more storage space if you need it. Where Photos really shines is in the curation. By default, Photos shows pictures in the order they were taken, but you can easily sort the photos by place, event type, person, or even objects in the photos. While it is not perfect, Google’s facial recognition does an amazing job of tracking people even as they age, making it very easy to keep people organized.

This automatic curation reduces the work involved in keeping photos organized and accessible. You can create your own albums, and Photos also creates albums for you based on where you are and what you’re photographing.
You have full control over who can see, comment, and add to your photo albums. This control is a great feature, because you can add many people to one album, and they can then share their memories and photos too. If you have photos on your home computer, you can install the uploader, which scans photo folders and uploads them into Google Photos.

One thing to keep in mind with Photos is that if you download a photo to your computer, it will not take any comments with it. Also, if you describe yourself as a photographer, the 16MP limitation may be an issue.

Amazon Prime Photos

This service is part of Amazon’s Prime membership, which is $99 per year. It offers almost all the same features as Google Photos, but its automatic curation abilities are not as robust. You can share, but only with five other people. If you already pay for Prime, this option may be worth considering. One unique feature of Prime Photos is the ability to print photos or create scrapbooks.

Honorable Mentions: iCloud Photos and Flickr

If you and those you share photos with all use Apple devices (both phones and computers), iCloud is one option. If you and yours use a mix of different devices, Flickr is another option.

Both let you manually curate all your photos and share via email. Flickr will let you create printed photo albums.

Storage-only options

If you already have your own system for keeping photos organized, a storage-only platform may be an option. These options provide the security and backup you need while also making it easier to share photos with others.

Cloud storage platforms


Storage (space,
number of photos)*






15GB–1TB, 3,800–250,000

iOS, Android, Windows, Mac

Link, email, or social media





iOS, Android, Windows, Mac

Link or email



$5/mo or $50/yr


iOS, Android, Windows, Mac**


Price is per computer.

Google Drive



iOS, Android, Windows, Mac

Link, email, or social media

Storage space is shared across all Google products.




iOS, Android, Windows, Mac

Link or email

Monthly upload limits of 250MB to 5GB, depending on plan.

*The quantity of photos is an estimate, assuming an average file size of 4MB.
** This option does not back up files on a phone or tablet, but those files can be accessed from a mobile device.


With the availability of high-speed internet almost everywhere, it makes sense to use a cloud platform for storing family photos and videos. All these products are from well-established companies that offer access, security, and reliability.

For everyday use, Google Photos is tough to beat. It’s a great way to capture and tell personal and family stories. It is also easy to add those photos to FamilySearch Memories, so using both together is a great approach. Google Photos and Memories complement each other and let you do genealogy and family storytelling at the same time.

Photo management platforms


Upload or Sync




FamilySearch Memories


From web or mobile app

iOS, Android, Windows, Mac

Shared by all who are in that family line


Google Photos


From mobile app or desktop application

iOS, Android, Windows, Mac

Share via link to anyone


Amazon Prime Photos

Included with Prime

From mobile app

iOS, Android, Windows, Mac

Up to five people

Requires $99 Prime membership

iCloud Photos
(honorable mention)



iOS and Mac only

Share with other Apple accounts


(honorable mention)


From mobile app or desktop application

iOS, Android, Windows, Mac

Share via email


Ben Robison is a co-founder of Legacy Tale and is an ardent supporter of using the power of storytelling and technology to strengthen families across generations.


Five Reasons to Digitize Your Family Photos

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 16:51

by Logan Metcalfe

Organizing and digitizing old boxes of photos is one of those jobs that most of us can do but that we seem never to get around to. Kind of like cleaning out our closets, it’s always something for another day. The key to digitizing your old memories is visualizing the benefits and recognizing that they far outweigh the effort and cost involved.

Here are five big reasons to digitize your family photos:

  1. Better preservation. While nobody likes to think about destructive events such as floods and fires, too many families have had their photos destroyed in disasters. These memories are almost always the things they miss most. Digital files can be easily replicated and stored in different locations, which vastly increases their chances of survival.

    Old photos can also be fragile and digitizing them enables you to adjust colors digitally and to fix scratches, fold marks, and other damage. You can then print copies of the restored pictures on better paper, making them more likely to endure through the years.

  2. Flexible organization. Once your pictures are digitized, they can be organized in powerful ways, enabling you to search quickly and find what you’re looking for. You can also add valuable context, including the backstory, information about who was pictured, and where the photo was taken. These details can vastly increase the value of your pictures for generations to come.

  3. Less clutter. For those needing to downsize but not wanting to part with precious memories, digitizing enables you to revisit your memories whenever you want while passing on the boxes of pictures to family members with more storage space.

  4. More sharing. Digital pictures can be shared at the click of a button so all your siblings, children, and other family members can get copies. This sharing means fewer squabbles over who gets what and also makes for some great Throwback Thursdays.

  5. Greater enjoyment. When was the last time you dug out those boxes to look through your old photos? Despite our best intentions, it’s never the right time or place. Digitizing your favorite photos enables you to enjoy them whenever you want, wherever you are. You can also transform them into new products you may enjoy more, such as photo books and wall art. Even better, instead of getting that sinking “I need to get around to that” feeling when you open the closet and see those neat boxes of photos, you’ll feel a sense of pride for achieving something that has priceless value for you and your family.

So now that you’re convinced that digitizing your old pictures is the way to go, what steps should you take to digitize your pictures? Read about six steps to digitizing your family photos.



Six Steps to Digitizing Your Family Photos

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 16:35

by Logan Metcalfe

If you have boxes full of old photos, you’re not alone—billions of lonely family photos gather dust in closets and attics around the world. Even those of us too young to remember when a “camera roll” meant around 30 shots of film will soon inherit piles of printed photos from our parents.

So what do we do with all these old photos? The answer is to digitize them, and here are six steps to get the job done.

1. Organize before you digitize.

It’s tempting to jump right in and start scanning, but take some time to sort your photos first. You don’t want to create a big disorganized digital mess. Gather all your photos in a place with a large, flat surface that you can leave messy for a while—a dining room you rarely use is perfect.

  • Group the photos by events and people. Sort pictures into events such as vacations, weddings, and birthdays. Pictures not associated with specific events can be grouped by person or family.
  • Separate duplicates. Place duplicates in separate piles so you don’t end up scanning the same image twice.
  • Sort each pile by date. Organize each of your piles chronologically. Don’t worry—you may need to do some guessing, and it’s okay not to be perfect.
  • Pick what to digitize. Go through your piles, and identify the ones you want to scan. Put a small sticky note on the back of those photos. You may find it easier to digitize everything and weed out what you don’t want later, but not only can this approach be expensive if you’re paying someone to do the scanning, it can also bury your best pictures in a pile of digital junk.
2. Equip yourself.

If you decide to do the scanning yourself rather than using a service, the next step is to choose your equipment.

  • Auto Feed Scanner—If you have hundreds or thousands of photos to scan, an auto feed scanner can be a fast and reliable way to do it. There are several brands out there, but the one I use is the Epson FastFoto FF-640 (and, no, I’m not getting paid to say that).
  • Flatbed Scanner—Dedicated scanners have large flatbeds that accommodate larger prints, and the software they come bundled with typically has great scanning features, such as photo edge detection and image enhancement. Office “all-in-one” printers usually include a flatbed scanner but may be more limited in size and software features. Placing photos on the glass flatbed can be a pain, which is why I use them only for large or fragile photos.
  • Smartphone and Tablet—Mobile device cameras are getting better all the time and can be very effective tools for digitizing small volumes of photos, especially when combined with scanning apps that have features such as automatic edge detection, perspective transformation, and cropping. Mobile devices are best to use when you don’t need super-high resolution and if the pictures would otherwise be damaged when removed from an album or frame.
  • Digital Camera—Traditional digital cameras are not as convenient as other options for digitizing pictures because they require correct lighting and additional software for cropping and other adjustments.
3. Decide on storage.

The main options for storing your digitized images are on your computer, on external drives, or in cloud storage. Thumb drives can also be used for lower volumes of photos. I recommend picking one of these options and backing up your files to a second (and even a third) of the options. Because high-resolution photos can take up a lot of space on a computer, I scan to an external drive first and then copy the photos to my Google Drive cloud storage.

4. Adjust settings.

The software that came with your scanner or computer is the simplest option and will likely handle the job. The most recent scanner software even enables you to scan directly to your cloud storage account. Although the scanning settings may seem daunting, scanning a photo as a JPEG file in sRGB at 300dpi with 24-bit color will give you the results you want for most photos. TIFF is a better format to use if you’re likely to edit the photo later, but file sizes will be larger. I recommend scanning slides and negatives at 2400–3200 dpi.

Few things are worse than scanning a bunch of photos and then realizing you did the scans at the wrong resolution, so check your settings, and do a test to make sure everything looks as it should and is saved in the place where you want it.

5. Scan, scan, scan.

Scan pile by pile, and save each pile to a separate folder on your chosen digital storage. Before each scan, add information (or metadata) where you can in the fields provided, with the date being the most important. This information will be saved with the files and makes for easier sorting in other software later.

6. Share and enjoy!

Now that you have a beautifully organized digital archive of your family’s photos, it is time to share and enjoy it! Many online services are available that enable you to add descriptions and to organize, tag, edit, and privately share your photos. Some also offer printing services that easily turn your digital pictures into photo books, framed prints, and wall art. Why not create some neat products from those old pictures for someone else to digitize in years to come!


Five Apps That Make Including Photos in Your Family Story a Cinch

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 16:11

Photos and videos are an important part of family histories. More than just preserving names and dates like documents do, they offer more complete views of our ancestors’ lives and personalities. But making photos and videos a meaningful part of our family stories takes effort. If left in dusty boxes in the basement, photos are sure to be forgotten, thrown out, or destroyed. In order to really be part of our family’s stories, photos must be preserved, organized, and labeled.

If you have a few of those dusty boxes filled with photos, this process can feel like an overwhelming task. Fortunately, new technology is changing the game and providing quick, convenient, fun ways to store, label, and share photos. We’ve chosen a few of our favorite new apps to highlight here.

JoyFLIPS(free app and web service)
JoyFLIPS works to connect family photos with deep, rich family stories. The free app (available in the FamilySearch App Gallery) comes with unlimited storage. JoyFLIPS allows users to scan hundreds of photos in minutes and makes preservation and sharing easy. The JoyFLIPS service goes another step too. Users can tag photos with their voices. Then its state-of-the-art artificial intelligence searches through genealogy sources, such as documents, newspapers, and other records, to find matching information and add further details to the story attached to the photo. This artificial intelligence also picks out names, dates, and places from the photo tags and searches on FamilySearch’s Family Tree to find other people who might be connected.

Another perk is that JoyFLIPS users can order printed photo books or access professional photo restoration through its site.

Forever(web storage and free app; $299 for membership[monthly payments available], which includes 10GB permanent cloud storage. Additional storage is available for an extra cost. Other tools are also available at additional costs.)
Forever excels at storage. They create a permanent digital home for your photos and other digital media, and they guarantee it for your lifetime plus 100 years. At Forever, your photos are triple backed up and always moved to the most current technology.

Forever offers more than just storage space though. The site and app allow you to edit, tag, organize, and share your photos and create keepsakes and print photo books using Forever Artisan (available for $59.99). Forever Historian (also available for $59.99) provides advanced options for organizing photos, video clips, and more. Don’t know what to do with your old slides, cassette tapes, and home videos? Send those to the people at Forever, and they will convert them into digital formats and store those for you as well.

Emberall(free app; $79 for a prepurchased gift card that allows full use of the Emberall video recording service as well as a DVD)
Emberall’s focus is on video recording personal and family histories. The process starts when you purchase a gift card that has a unique code enabling you to download the Emberall app (available in the FamilySearch App Gallery). The Emberall site provides a list of categorized, high-impact questions that you can use to interview family members, or you can create your own questions. Simply record the answers to the questions with your phone’s camera. Once you’re satisfied, the recording is uploaded to the cloud, where it’s stored in your private album library. Continue adding recordings, editing and sharing them as you go. After you’ve finished the entire album, which can often hold around two hours of content, you can order the DVD (the price is included in the original gift card purchase) and have it sent to your home.

WeGather(free app)
What started as a popular Instagram account known as Save Family Photos, which was dedicated to using old family photos as conversation starters for telling family stories, has now launched as an app called weGather. WeGather was built not only to share photos, but to include space for metadata, where all the tags and text go. The founders of weGather hope to encourage families to connect around and share old photos with the basic philosophy that photos with no information connected to them have much less value and that photos often prick memories and get the storytelling juices flowing. The website states that the weGather process requires only three steps: (1) Grab a photo, (2) Add your memories, and (3) Ask your family what they remember.

Qroma(free app; complete scanning system bundle sells for $59.99)
Qroma’s goal is to help you safely preserve and organize your photos and to make the process as easy as possible. To achieve this goal, Qroma relies on two simple tools: your phone and your voice. Their first secret to success is the QromaScan Lightbox, a device that controls the photo environment, ensuring high-quality scanning at breakneck speed. The next secret to success is QromaTag. With printed photos, the back of the photo provides a place to add dates, names, places, or anything else you want preserved with the photo. Metadata attached to photos offers the digital equivalent. But many people find it too difficult or tedious to follow through. QromaTag makes the process quicker by allowing you to simply talk, telling the device what you want on the label. Qroma then creates industry standard metadata tags that stay embedded in your image—just like the words on the back of a printed photo.

A bonus for family historians is that Qroma also allows you to upload your GEDCOM and tag people in your family tree using voice recognition.

So whether you’re already an expert at including photos in your family story or preserving photos is a new ballgame for you, give some of these new resources a try. There’s sure to be something that can make using photos to tell your family’s story just a little easier.


Your Preservation Stories

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 13:10

Preservation pays off—read stories of family discoveries people have made due to the preservation efforts of others.

Piles of old documents sitting around in the attic. Old family keepsakes gathering dust. Each piece of your family’s past has a story to tell, but unfortunately, these stories can be forgotten or lost if steps aren’t taken to preserve them. You can protect these precious memories from the passage of time and the effects of age and neglect, helping ensure their survival for future generations.

The following stories are just a few that people have shared about how preserving books, photos, documents, and more has brought them closer to their ancestors and helped them discover more about their past. What have you learned from a preserved family treasure?

A Taste of the Past

“I’m lucky enough to have my great-grandmother’s cookbook, printed in 1890. The pastry section has several of her fingerprints in butter and added recipes in her own handwriting. The book is such a giveaway on what she cooked for her family at the turn of the last century.”
—Ricco Renzetti



Family History—For Someone Else’s Family

“After finding Grandma’s scrapbook, I started looking more closely at the people within the pages, and I was moved by her page of the first boy she really liked. His life ended too soon, but he was not forgotten. Perhaps someday, someone in his family might like to know this little part of his life and the smile on his face, so I took the photos of the page and notes and attached them to his page on For me, family history, no matter whose family it is, is about not being forgotten. I never knew Ronald Dangerfield. He is not part of my family, but he is not forgotten because my grandmother took the time to remember him.”
—Allison Kimball
Read more


Saving the Scrapbook

“Incredibly, I called on my dad’s aged cousin on the very day she was discarding her parents’ (my grandpa’s sister) family scrapbook, which contains many cards from their 50th wedding anniversary as well as sympathy cards from her father’s death. She didn’t think anyone cared. I fished the pages out of her trash and still have them today, years after her own death.”
Michael Benson



Grandpa’s White Shirts

“Shortly after my grandfather passed away, I started a new job working for the Church. I needed white shirts to wear to the office every day, but because I wear a special size, I wasn’t able to find anything that fit me. As my family and I went through my grandfather’s possessions, we discovered three white shirts that hadn’t been worn in years, perfectly preserved and covered with plastic. Sure enough, they were a perfect fit. I was able to wear my grandfather’s shirts for years before they finally wore out, along with a pair of his black dress shoes that I remember him polishing every day when he got home from his own job with the Church. Although it would be my first day working for the Church, my shoes and shirts had been here before. Because Grandpa preserved these items, I was much better prepared to start my new career, and I knew he would have been happy to know that they were being used instead of just being stored somewhere.”
—Logan Steele

Once Known, but Long Forgotten

“One of my brothers passed away a few years ago. My sister volunteered to scan his photo albums, but then her scanner died. I used JoyFLIPS to scan several albums and all his loose photos too. Mixed in among the photos were funeral programs, wedding invitations, and all kinds of newspaper clippings. Today, I discovered that one of the news articles was about my nephew. He received the Silver Star for bravery above and beyond the call of duty while he was serving as a Marine in Vietnam. I remembered that he received a Purple Heart, but I had forgotten the Silver Star! What a find!”
—Jennie Merkley

About JoyFlips
JoyFLIPS allows you to scan printed photos quickly from your iPhone. You can record audio stories about the photo, organize them into albums, and then share your photos and audio stories from JoyFLIPS with your family, friends, and FamilySearch.


Seeing the Effort of Preservation

“I use Twile timelines for my children who are not into hardcore genealogy research but who are very visual; they love to go look at and add to our family timeline. They learn a little about their family history in this way as they scroll up and down the timeline. It has also been a great way for us to all share our individual memories about events from our current family photos. Our children are even talking about how fun it will be to keep adding to the timeline and to keep up with each other in this way as they grow up and leave home. I really love that Twile makes it easy for current family memories to merge with family history. It is all on the same timeline!”
—Melissa Finlay

About Twile
Twile turns your FamilySearch tree into a free and private visual timeline of everything that has ever happened in your family.  It is designed to make family history more engaging and accessible to the whole family, especially the younger generations.


How To Get Started With Indexing Online

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 12:54

Did you know that FamilySearch has been indexing records for nearly 100 years? What began on handwritten and typed index cards by LDS Church employees in 1921 has become a global effort that is now producing over a half-million indexed names daily! And now, there’s a new way for you to be a part of this exciting and important project.

Web Indexing

The new indexing tool is for indexers of all ages and makes indexing easier than ever. Now there’s no need to download a separate application. You can index, get help, and discover your own family, all in one place.

Once you’re signed in, the steps are simple. Just click “Find Batches” and choose a project to get started! For first-timers, you’ll need to create a FamilySearch account before you begin.

Why Index Online?
  1. Index on the go. No matter where you are, you can simply use the internet browser on your iPad, Nexus, Kindle Fire, or preferred tablet or laptop. (Cell phones are not an ideal experience—yet!)
  2. Find projects that interest you. Search project titles and descriptions with keywords, or filter projects by difficulty level, location, language, or time period. When you’ve settled on a project you like, set it as a favorite for easy, one-click access.
  3. Join a group and set a goal. Your indexing contribution applies to every group of which you are a member. Also, any indexer can now create groups for families, genealogical societies, or other community organizations.
Get Started

If you’re new to indexing or just want to brush up on your skills, take a look at some of the many tools and resources you have at your disposal.

  1. Take a Quick Tour
    Give indexing a try with a quick tour.
  2. Review the Simple Guidelines
    Take a minute to get familiar with a few important guidelines every indexer should know.
  3. Choose a Favorite Project
    With over 100 indexing projects worldwide, you’re sure to find one that interests you.
  4. Find More Hints
    Have questions about indexing in general? We’ve got answers. Check out these valuable resources.
  5. Get Answers
    Have more questions about web indexing? Here are answers to frequently asked questions.
Indexing Connects Families

Being able to discover meaningful family history information online is becoming a reality every day for an increasing number of people around the world, thanks to indexing volunteers. Those searching for missing people and information in their family trees regularly express gratitude for the work of volunteers—but volunteers often communicate that the work is its own reward. As an indexer, you’ll soon learn that this unique way of helping others also helps you—often in unexpected ways.


Winners of BYUtv’s Relative Race Surprised at the Finale (Spoiler Alert)

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 15:59

The shock of winning $50,000 crept across Brittany Stuart’s face as Dan Debenham, host and producer of BYUtv’s Relative Race, announced the results of a grueling ten-day race. Brittany and her husband, Justin, are known by Season 2 fans as Team Green from Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

“I don’t know what to feel. I’m humbled and overwhelmed,” Brittany exclaimed when she heard that she and Justin were the winners. “I wasn’t expecting this.”

The second season of the BYUtv program featured four couples who were selected from 1,000 contestant applicants. The race began in Miami, Florida, and ended in Boston, Massachusetts, for the final challenge.

The objective of the reality show was for each couple to meet and spend a night with a new family member each day of the 10-day race. Each day’s leg of the race was timed, and the losing team of each leg got a strike. Three strikes and the journey of family discovery ended. 

Through DNA matching, Ancestry had located the unknown relatives and charted a route to a general area, but competitors had to find their own ways to family homes in an allotted time. Equipped with only a printed map, a rental car, a clue, and a flip phone without web access or GPS, the couples raced to navigate their way through unfamiliar cities and states each day, solving additional clues associated with their next unknown relative that would ultimately lead them to their relative’s home. Once they met their new relative, they’d snap a photo on the rudimentary cell phone and send it to the show’s host to stop the clock. Couples faced elimination if they went over time and received a strike. Then they were able to relax a bit to learn how they were related and get to know more about each other.

Justin said the hardest part of the competition was being constantly stressed out. “We weren’t used to that, and even if we thought we knew where we were going we weren’t sure if it was the right way until we arrived. It was a crazy, fun adventure with many twists and turns,” he said. “In such a stressful environment we learned to work together and what it takes to become a team.”

Brittany agreed. “There is always the anxiety of what the day will bring. You’re sore and you’re tired or may feel sick. But you push yourselves, and that’s so satisfying to see how far you can go.”

They found that being introduced to new family members was the highlight of each day.

“It’s all worth it when you meet your relatives. It clears the fog from your head and you realize you are here to meet these precious people who are making sacrifices for us,” Brittany remembered.

From being treated to frog legs and alligator tails to sleeping in an elaborate tree house, the couple was welcomed and accepted as family—easing the tensions of the day.

The last challenges on day 10 were held along the Freedom Trail in Boston with three couples remaining.

“When we saw Dan [Debenham], it was this whole explosion of relief,” Brittany said. Their win didn’t really register with them until they got back to their hotel that night.

“We had been running and gunning the whole day and were soaked [because it was pouring rain], cold, and tired. It’s hard to process things when you’re exhausted. We were still trying to catch our breath and didn’t put it together right away. We just knew we’d done our job and tried our hardest,” Justin explained.

“That $50,000 meant our first home together and giving back to our families who have done so much throughout our lives,” Justin explained. The couple also helped their favorite charity, Beauty for Ashes Uganda, which works with single moms and widows in the Teso Region of Uganda (

The Stuarts have been married just over a year and were living in a tiny one-room apartment before winning the race. In their new house, Brittany has enough space to have a studio and work from home. Brittany’s passion is to empower women through photography and fashion (, and Justin has two YouTube channels (  and 

“We are very blessed and thankful we got to be part of this opportunity. We look back and see how we’ve grown as a couple. God is working though this experience. All glory goes to Him; we wouldn’t be here without His guidance,” Justin added.

 “I’m so, so happy,” Brittany exclaimed. “This show was the best thing for us ever, for our marriage, for us individually. At first we were focusing on the prize but then when we started meeting our family members our whole focus changed.”

They are still in touch with the family members they met.

“One of the biggest things we are taking away from this race is the importance of families. I don’t think I put it in the forefront before, but this has really opened my eyes,” Justin said.