Genealogy Calculators

Julian Calendar and Heliocentric system of date calculations.How often in genealogy do you need to know the difference between two dates? Or the age of the person at death? Or calculate a birth date?

Do you wonder which day of the week was the wedding or birth? There is a reference to Easter 1879 and you need to know that date. And what about figuring out exactly when those calendar dates shifted and changed?

Do you often calculate the relationships between relatives or figure out how many times grand a specific grandparent is to another person?

These are the times when genealogy calculators save us. Let’s explore a few.

Date and Age Calculators

Ancestor Search - Estimating birth and death datesAs mentioned above, calculating dates in genealogy is a daily process. We need to estimate birth dates, death dates, marriage dates, migration dates, and so much more.

Most date calculators are on sites that feature other tools as well.

Ancestor Search offers a variety of date and age calculators:

Other date and age calculators include:

While not helpful for investigating the dead, GenealogySearch offers an Exact Age Finder to tell you precisely, down to the seconds, how old someone is based upon their birth date and birth time. It’s fun, especially for working with children.’s Date Duration Calendar is more helpful is estimating lengths of time.

The Census Day

1820 US Federal Census exampleA challenge that faces all genealogists is called “The Census Day,” the date that the census is mandated. As explained by genealogist William Dollarhide on GenealogyBlog, from 1790 to 1820, Census Day was the first Monday in August, the day when all the statistics for the census were collected – not the day the census taker arrived at a household to collect data on the residents there. The data was collected over weeks or months prior to that August Monday, thus any children born between when the census data was collected and that Monday would not be in the census. Makes sense, but this has confused family historians for a couple hundred years.

The Golden Egg Genealogist has a downloadable spreadsheet to help you narrow the dates in and around Census Day to help estimate the birth of children born within that gap.

Roman Numerals

Online Calculator for converting to and from Roman Numerals.Many legal documents and records include dates in Roman numerals, resembling a form of code if you aren’t familiar with the system.

The RapidTables Roman numerals date converter does more than convert years. It coverts dates in Roman numerals. For example, 9 Feb 1777 would be II.IX.MDCCLXXVII.

Julian to Gregorian Calendar

When working with ancestors back in the 1500-1700s, you have to deal with the switch from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar, a calendar correction that lost 10 days to adjust the calendar and compensate the lack of a strict 365 days to a year. It’s actually 365.25 days. Every country switched in a different year spread out over 300 years, ranging from as early as 1582 for Belgium to Estonia in 1918 and all dates in between.

To understand how complicated this is, consider these examples.

As countries switched, the calendar dates were…confusing. By the Julian calendar, it would be 28 Jan 1752, but by the Gregorian, 8 Feb 1752. To make things even more complicated, 31 Dec 1749 would be followed by 1 Jan 1749. Yes, the same year. Don’t ask why, just go with it. And 24 Mar 1749 was 25 Mar 1750 as a new year was started on 25 March to “catch up” with the lost days with the Julian calendar. Yes, very confusing.

Let’s make it even more crazy making. Italy, home of Pope Gregory, made the switch in 1582. Greece made the switch to Gregorian calendar in 1916. So much for being nice neighbors.

In France, the then strongly Catholic country embraced the change in 1582, but the area of Alsace waited until 1648, and Strasbourg in 1682. Researching in those areas, you have to know when the switch happened to help convert the dates to something familiar.

The United States, England, and Canada made the switch official in 1752, so you will find many a record date transcribed in different ways to accommodate the oddball rearranging of the dates.

There are many other examples, but luckily, you don’t have to do much work other than to know when the country in which you are researching made the switch. The rest may be helped with one of the Julian to Gregorian calendar converters.

The Change from Julian to the Gregorian Calender by Ancestors Search tool is exceptionally helpful. For a good explanation, check out the FamilySearch Wiki’s article on the switch from Julian to Gregorian calendars. If you wish to understand how the calculations work for yourself, check out this quick guide on ho to calculate with the Gregorian calendar.

Why stress over this? Use technology. The Keisan Online Calculator for Julian and Gregorian Calendar Calculator is ideal. Enter a date and pick a calendar and hit Execute. It displays the date in Julian and Gregorian calendars, and displays a graph comparing the two dates.

Scroll down and you will find excellent examples people have added to explain how they’ve used the tool. One person used it to translate a Julian date from a Sumerian tablet in the 4th millennium BCE, and other was trying to work out the contemporary date for the assassination of William Rufus on 2 Aug 1100 CE.

While on the Keisan Online Calculator, check out the other calendars they offer including Hijri, Iranian, Hebrew, and Mayan calendars and converters and age, date duration, how many days, day of the week, week numbers, and other date calendars.

Screenshot_2021-02-08 Julian and Gregorian Calendar Calculator

Why should you care about all these calendars? When you are transcribing and recording the dates in your research, it helps to match apples with apples. Converting the dates to a consistent form as you analyze events throughout 1752 and 1753, it helps to have them literally be consistent.

Other Julian and Gregorian Calendar converters and calculators include:

Relationship Calculators

Stephen Morse One Step Genealogy Relationship CalculatorWho is related to whom is one of the challenges we face, but counting the steps between greats and cousins can be head cracking.

Stephen Morse offers a One Step Relationship Calculator that helps you trace the confusing tangle of family connections. Each time you click one of the 12 family choices in the box, it drills down through the relationships. For example, my father’s parent’s brother’s child would be my 1st cousin once removed (blood relative).

Ancestor Search’s Cousin Relationship Calculator displays a relationship chart based upon one person’s relationship to another of the same ancestor.

Abueling’s Genealogy Calculators includes a generation calculator. Place the birth year of an ancestor and the birth year of the next person, or yourself, and it offers a rough calculation of the number of generations between the two.’s Cousin Calculator can be used online or downloaded.

If you want to do some of this manually, check out the relationship charts on FamilySearch.

Stephen Morse One Step Ahnentalfel CalculatorStephen Morse’s Ahnentafel Numbers in One Step is a calculator tool that helps you automatically number your relationships according to the Ahnentafel numbering system which numbers you, the start of the tree, as number one, your father as number 2, and mother as 3. Your father’s father would then be 4, double the number of his son, and your father’s mother would be double plus 1, thus 5. Your mother’s father and mother would be 6 and 7, double your mother’s numbers, and so up up the tree. This system is commonly used when numbering in a direct simple ancestral tree as it doesn’t take into consideration siblings. It can be confusing the further the tree goes back. Most genealogy software programs calculate this automatically, but on the rare chance you are doing this manually, this calculator would help.

Luckily, most genealogy software does these relationship calculations for us. Trying to remember them in your head can bend the mind as you figure out the relationship of your grandmother’s mother’s sister’s granddaughter from her third marriage.

How Far is It?

An experienced genealogist knows that people traveled and lived together, often moving across the planet together. Working with FANs (Friends, Associates, and Neighbors) and clusters, we make new discoveries all the time.

A key process is identifying proximity. How far away did they live from each other? Maps help.

Google Maps tracing the journey and travel time.

Google Maps can help you to locate your ancestors and their FAN club easily. Take it a step further to estimate how long it would have taken them to move from location to location. Google Maps calculates the distance by travel time – based upon today’s transportation options and road conditions. Want to determine how long it would take in the 1700s or earlier? Switch the transportation to walking or bicycles for a better estimate. Just remember that the roads we have now might not be the same as the roads they had available to them then, though many highways were built over old roadways.

Indies Unlimited publishing blog describes in detail how long it would take to get from one place to the next for writers exploring new worlds and historical fiction based upon real-world estimates. These are good suggestions as our ancestors often traveled with luggage, supplies, weapons, and through various terrain. Also, one would need to take into consideration the health and age of the person traveling? Young? Old? Athletic? Traveling alone or with others?

Here are some estimates for travel times, based on averages:

  • Walking: 4 miles (6 km) per hour; about 20 miles (30 km) a day.
  • Horses: 30 miles (30-40 km) a day at an average pace.
  • Wagons: Depending on the terrain and weather, and amount of weight and number of horses, estimate 15 miles (20 km) a day, maybe more with two or more horses.
  • Trains: Average speed for trains about 1900 was 20-25 mph (32-40 kph) with few straight lines with no obstacles moving past 40 or 50 mph (64-80 kph).

Here are some distance calculators to experiment with:

Inflation Calculators

As you pour through probate record inventories, put taxes, property values, and income into perspective, it helps to use an inflation calculator that shows you how the value of money has changed, and what common objects like food and transportation would cost compared to today’s values.Westegg Inflation CalculatorWestEgg’s Inflation Calculator has you enter the amount of money, the initial and final year between 1800 and 2020, and it displays an estimate. It reported that in 1800, USD $100 would cost $1,543 in 2020.

The Ancestor Search Inflation Calculator is similar, but ads the percentage of change. It also covers only from 1913 to 2015. USD $100 in 1913 would be valued in 2015 at $2171 with an inflation ind3x of 22.7%, a percentage change of 2171.7%.

The Official Data inflation calculator by Ian Webster includes the UK, Canada, Australia, Europe, and other countries. While the initial year form goes back to year zero, the calculator only estimates inflation after 1750.

The Bank of England Inflation Calculator dates back to 1209. It estimates that 100 GBP in 1209 would be equivalent to 208,278 GBP at a 0.9% average inflation percentage a year, a conservative average.

I Am Kate Historical UK Inflation Calculator goes back to 1751 and has a great chart to show you inflation changes. Of note, in 1755, the inflation rate was -6%. In 1757, it was 21.8%, a dramatic shift in the economy. In 1970, it was 6.4%, but by 1975 it was 24%. A fascinating look at the financial struggles your ancestors may have faced even recently.

Measuring Worth is a free site that explores the issues of inflation and economics in more detail. It compares annualized growth rates, relative values in US, UK, Australia, and Spain monies, stock growth rates, and of the most interest to genealogists, purchasing power today in the US and UK over the centuries.

In US dollars, in 1799, $100 has a relative income worth of about $44,000 to $75,500, give or take based upon the level of skill of the worker from Unskilled Worker to Production Worker. Dig deeper by clicking the link to get more details and you would earn that $100 in 1799 would be work about $2,185 in 2020 dollars.

The Daily Meal isn’t a calculator but an article that explores what food a dollar could by you from 1937 to 2000, reminding us that penny candy used to cost a penny.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics broke food prices down over the past 100 years, citing bread in 1913 costing about 5 or 6 cents, today USD $1.42 for the cheap stuff. The smallest price changes were found in flour and sugar. In 1913, flour was about 3 cents per pound we assume, and today, 52 cents. Sugar went from 6 cents to 68 cents. Compare that to coffee that went from 30 cents to almost $6.

There are many other inflation calculators out there. There used to be some wonderful online calculators that would list prices of food, homes, and other products and services in that time period compared to today’s money, but my favorites are no longer supported. If you find a good one that helps us compare the value of base money with what it would buy at that time, please share it with us.

Historical Wages and Costs

When you discover your ancestors made $10 a day or $50 a month, what does that mean in today’s dollars. Here are some charts and calculators to help you put those numbers into perspective.

GoBankingRates Minimum Wages from 1938 to 2020. These numbers are based upon state averages and the federal guidelines.

While not covering an extensive time range, BusinessInsider offers a look at the value of USD $100 in 1920 to 2015. Make Change offers similar information looking back at how far a dollar would go 100 years ago.

Timeline and Event Calculators

While not specifically a calculator, the process of retrieving data from a database based upon a date or date range is a cool tool to keep in your genealogy toolbox.

Irrelevant to the purpose of the site and used to just draw in visitors, Scope System’s AnyDay in History tool is worth bookmarking. Enter a month and day and it generates major events on that day throughout history. It features famous birth dates, deaths, military POWs missing in action, holidays, religious history and observances, and general historical notes, some famous, some infamous.

Scopes AnyDay for September 11On the day we chose, September 11, Henry Hudson landed on Manhattan Island in 1609. D.H. Lawrence was born in England on that day in 1885, as was designer Valentino in 1932. Nikita Khrushchev died of a heart attack in 1971, ad did Luis Alvarez, noted physicist and Nobel Prize winner in 1988. In 1789, Alexander Hamilton was appointed Secretary of the US Treasury, and the Boston Red Sox eat the Chicago Cubs in the 15th World Series in 1918. In 1927 on this date, Babe Ruth hit is 50th of 60 home runs in baseball.

Scopeys AnyDay Custom Peer List.OurTimeLine’s Peers and Contemporaries offers a similar perspective by highlighting those alive during the same time as your ancestors, at least those who left their mark of influence.

They also offer OurTimeLine timeline creation tool. Enter in significant dates for your ancestor and it highlights historical events during that time period, putting your ancestors into the context of history.

Timeline for James Acy Knapp.

I tested it with my ancestor, James Acey Knapp (1836-1877). During his childhood, Michigan entered the US Union in 1837, and a depression and panic with massive inflation hit the US and other parts of the world. The Opium war between China and the English would have been front page news through much of his early childhood, with China ceding Hong Kong to the English at age 6. The first telegraph line message went from Washington DC to New York when he was 8, and Texas entered the Union at age 9, followed the next year by Iowa. He grew up in Illinois and/or Wisconsin we believe, and Wisconsin joined the Union when he was 12.

The third cholera pandemic ranged across North America from age 16 to 23, and likely he lost friends and family. At the time he would have been more than eligible for war, the Apache war started when he was 25, the same year Lincoln became president, followed by the start of the Civil War. If he fought n the Civil War, and we’re still researching that, he would have been 27 during the Battle of Gettysburg.

The dMarie Time Capsule by Ancestor Search is a favorite. Enter the date and it displays a custom page that lists consumer prices from that year, Academy Award winners, newspaper headlines, the music they listened to, and other news to help put your ancestors in the context of their time. It covers the years from 1800 to 2005.

DMarie Time Capsule for April 20 1937

It’s a fun journey through the years which might help you see the relevance of current events within the lifetime of an ancestor.

Genealogy Calculator Collections

One of the biggest collection of genealogy calculators is Ancestor Search, home of that time line generator above. This is a first stop for many genealogists wrangling dates and numbers.

The Age Calculator calculates the difference between any two dates and offers the age in the process.

The Perpetual Calendar allows you to enter the month and the year from 0000 to 9999 to display a calendar for that month.

The Day of the Week Calculator displays the day of the week for the date entered.

Parallax View offers a wide range of measurement tools and calculators that may help genealogists including a date formatting tool, conversion for lengths and weights, counting the days between two dates, calculating dates and lengths of time, calculation of possible birth dates given a specific age, and analyzing the overlap between multiple date ranges.

The Calculator Family History uses names and places to tap into their database and display information associated with that information. Skip the “Search for your family members” and type in a surname in the “Family Origin” section. It displays a map, usually of North America, that shows you the most areas where that surname was found. Use the timeline button below the map to show the change over the years. Scroll down and see occupations, then potential records. It’s a sales tool for, but it’s a helpful general information tool.

Ethnicity Calculator from GEDSite calculates the cultural ethnicity of the person researched. Genetic ethnicity is the DNA research. This is the national origin, tribe, or cultural ethnicity, the “group” your ancestors claimed heritage and association. For instance, my grandfather claimed more of his Norwegian heritage than American even though he was several generations from their immigration from Norway. To use this form, enter in the cultural ethnicity of any person in the form and it will calculate an estimate of the percentage of cultural ethnicity. It’s a fascinating way to explore heritage.

Share Your Favorite Online Genealogy Calculators

Well, that is just the tip of the genealogy calculator examples that are out there. Now it is your turn to share some goodies with us. What have you found?

Best DNA Kits in 2019

CNet’s Best DNA Tests for 2019 highlights some recommendations with good testing criteria to help you decide.

As with all DNA tests, check the regions and coverage they specialize in. After taking 5 tests, I found five answers, though most of the tests overlapped. Still, there were differences. When I dove into the regions and comparison tests they took to evaluate your DNA history, that explained the differences. So check.

Remember, this isn’t a one-test-final-answer process. At great expense we did my father’s DNA test in 2006. All these years later, the information has updated and the evaluations have improved, providing more pin-point information and improved regional findings. Same applies to my own DNA tests. They keep working on it and we keep finding new discoveries.

News continues to come out about privacy concerns and solving crimes based upon DNA and the fears associated with that, but in truth, DNA opens up one of the most fascinating doors to your family tree and heritage, answering questions and introducing new ones at the same time. Don’t hold back. Go for it.

17 Year Old Preservationist Wins Award for Lifetime of Protection

Townsville cameraman Paul Lyons awarded for rescuing historical film archive for saving decades of north Queensland, Australia, media history from the trash. The award came from the State Library of Queensland.

Lyons was working as a videotape operator for QTV in 1992 when he discovered these lost treasures. Age 17, he would watch them on his breaks. Knowing these were at risk of destruction, he would hide them away in the “quiet corners of the building to try to preserve them.” Later, he and some co-workers kept up the practice, even to the point of smuggling out old historic films destined for the dump. Today, among the miles and miles of footage saved, only 10 percent have been digitized and the work continues, though finding is scarce.

As I manage my own small historical archive of family media and treasures, I worry about what might be in your basement, your attic, your garage, and what might be lost to time if someone doesn’t take a chance to help you preserve it for the future. I’m doing my part, without an award. Let’s do our part to ensure our own legacy of 8mm films, VHS, video footage, photographs, negatives, and all the visual and audible media we own is digitized and preserved.

RootsWeb is Back Up and Ready for You To Back Up

Rootsweb was one of the most invaluable sites during the early days of the internet, so much so, this grassroots effort to present and preserve genealogical information and society collections is back online…sort of.

In 2000, RootsWeb was purchased by, causing many, including myself, to be wary of its future. Still, we like to believe that the commercial site, not associated directly with the LDS Church today, is trustworthy as we pay hundreds of dollars a year for access to their records, trees, and DNA. When a security hack brought down the site in December 2017, we felt that the power and vast resources of Ancestry would be able to restore the free sites and data quickly.

This past week it was announced that RootsWeb is back up and working, again, sort of. Mostly. Checking the calendar. End of August. Eight months later.

We can speculate on why it took so long…old servers, old tech, developers with little backwards compatibility expertise, the volume of data to repair, the damage done by the hack…but it is now up and it is time to ensure the information you need for your research, or your society’s data, is backed up and protected, and other strategies considered such as copying the information to another site under your control.

In the 1990s, I began to use RootsWeb to find genealogical societies with information about my personal research. They were beginning to share their databases, indexing projects, history, and record information via the wiki and society hosted free web pages. No longer did I need to pick up the phone, write letters, or get on a plane to find the information I needed to continue my research. There was still some of that, but those efforts were streamlined and made more efficient because of the online information.

From large genealogical societies to tiny family history groups, RootsWeb was an equal access platform to share information. Run mostly by volunteers, it became a passion for many, a frustration for just as many, I’m sure. Larger, more financially stable groups went on to create their own full-fledged sites, but others had a place to reach out to those seeking birth and death records in Shawano County, Wisconsin, or Raisin, Michigan. International family history groups and associations added to the wealth of information over time, and it soon became a first stop on your family history hunt.

As with all things online, the shuffle from owner to owner, host to host, and the ever-changing hands of control from the highest administration to the smallest web page manager took its toll. By the 2010s, there were calls to close RootsWeb or at least make changes to improve the quality of the material, or preserve it and walk away. I heard many rumors, opinions, suggestions, and assumptions over the years, but it kept hanging in there, and I kept reaping the rewards.

Today, it is back up and running. Groups around the world with information on their service should rush to check it, and update it if they can. And back it up.

This is what I’m going to do now that RootsWeb is back up.

How to Preserve Your Research Data on RootsWeb

While it is true that we can use the Wayback Machine to access many of the web pages found within RootsWeb dating back years, I found that some of the pages I relied upon for my research were hard to find through the Wayback Machine.

Here are a couple alternatives.

  • Saving Single Web Pages: If you have single web pages you wish to preserve for future reference and research, use the save web page as PDF method. Title the saved PDF file appropriately and store it where you can find it easily again.
  • Save Websites: Rootsweb is actually a collection of mini-sites, so to speak, called subdomains or sub-websites. They have a unique address, and using the techniques described in my article on how to save everything you find on the web, you can use the HTTrack web copier or an alternative to set the address for the specific address and download everything within that URL’s range.
    • An example of a sub-website is for the Michigan American Local History Network. Enter that as the starting URL.
    • Take care to set the options to download only to one or two levels, not everything, to minimize time and the number of files.
    • Save the results with a name you will recognize in the future and place the folder with your other research material.
    • An alternative is to open the downloaded web pages and save each as a PDF to keep things better organized.

I’m going to do a combination of both to ensure I have today the information I’ve used in the past and may in the future…just in case.

I hate “just in case” issues, but that’s the world we live in. If we learn anything from the RootsWeb experience, let it be to save our research to keep it under our control for those just in case moments.

Tech Tips: Download Absolutely Everything You Can Find on the Web

How to Download Absolutely Everything You Can Find on the Web by Field Guide is an invaluable resource for figuring out how to download most things from the internet.

There is a big caveat: While you can save and download everything and anything from the web, this does not give permission nor license for you to do whatever you want with it. Always check their copyright policy before using the image on your site, uploading to public genealogy sites and services, adding to a slide show, or any public usage. If they don’t offer an easily accessible copyright policy, assume it is copyrighted and treat it accordingly (limit usage to Fair Use limitations) or use their contact form to ask for permission. Most say yes, but you won’t know until you ask. I strongly believe in asking permission before instead of after. After could be costly.

Why would you want to download absolutely everything and anything on the web for your family history work?

There are so many reasons, where to start? Here are a few of the reasons I download things from the web.

  • Research: Find a web page with family history research associated with your research project? Knowing it could disappear at any moment from the web, you might be able to find it again through the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine. Don’t count on it. Save it to an appropriate folder on your computer so you may find it easily with related research material without being online. Remember, save web pages as PDF files, not web pages. Consider also saving images and video related to your research.
  • Studies and Education: There are amazing tutorials, webinars, videos, and web pages with educational and historical information to help you learn more about your ancestors. As long as the usage is within their copyright and proprietary limitations, consider downloading the material to your computer so you can revisit it as needed as you continue with your studies. This option also helps you view the material offline without an internet connection, accessible any time you need. This has saved me many times as I struggle to remember a specific point from a webinar or tutorial.
  • Teaching: Paying close attention to the copyrights for the web page, image, video, and audio files, and asking permission when in doubt, I often use what I find on the web in my lectures, teaching, and keynotes, introducing my audience to products, services, topics, and concepts to help them learn more and understand how all these work.
  • Offline Usage: Slow internet access speeds and extensive travel often makes it a struggle to keep up with online content. Sometimes we visit or live in places where internet access is a luxury. Downloading your online materials when you have access is critical for viewing when you don’t have access later. I often do this before a long flight, giving me something to read and work on while traveling. If it is worth saving for the future, download it, then delete when done. It saves times when online and expands the possibilities when you are offline.

Among the tips Field Guide offers is how to save a web page, to which I suggest again you not save it as a web page but save it as a PDF file using your computer’s PDF printer driver (select it from the print options).

HTTrack Website Downloader downloading a website.

The article offers tips for also saving more than a web page, saving a whole site using HTTrack, one of my can’t-work-without-it favorite tools. It has a slight learning curve if you aren’t familiar with how websites work under the hood, but there are many tutorials available to walk you through the process. One of the great features of HTTrack is the ability to expand the download to include web pages the site links to, and the ability to control how far those links go. I recommend only one level, maybe two, as this feature tend to take a long time and eats up a ton of bandwidth.

Other examples of saves from the internet include images, video, and audio are also included in the article.

Download All Professional Firefox Extension - downloading files from a CNN article.There are many web browser extensions and add-ons offering the ability to download video, images, and audio, but there are two web browser add-ons I use frequently to download literally everything from a web page including files, videos, images, and more. They include:

Again, the use of these tools is for your private and personal use, not for sharing with the world unless the usage complies with Copyright Fair Use and is in line with their copyright policy, or you receive written permission.

How to Read and Find Ebooks

Books - Genealogy Books for Sale on Rack - photo by Lorelle VanFossen

As an avid ebook and audio book reader, I’m often asked about ebooks. The question of how to read and find ebooks is more complex than it sounds. For me, it is combination of the following questions:

  1. What device should I use to read ebooks?
  2. If I find an ebook online, how to I read it in an ebook reader?
  3. Where do I find ebooks online (free and paid)?

Let’s take these one by one.

What device should you use to read ebooks?

In the good old early days of ebooks, there weren’t many choices. You either used a proprietary ebook reader device, or read them in a web browser. Today we have choices, so which should you choose?

Books - Ebooks - Kindle Library on Smartphone - photo by Lorelle VanFossen

As with most personal use items, you choose the system that works for you and your needs.

If you have a smartphone or tablet, start there. If you are an Amazon user, install the Kindle app and begin the process of searching and buying books and magazines. There are over a million titles to choose from with new ones coming out every day, and many magazines, including family history and genealogy magazines, you can subscribe to and read on Kindle apps and devices. Kindle can also read PDF, DOC, HTML, MOBI, and TEXT files by simply opening the file on your device from within Kindle’s app, or you can email files to your Kindle Library using a unique email set up by Amazon Kindle. Today’s apps make the process simple and easy – a little too easy for my pocketbook.

If you are a serious reader, then consider the Kindle Unlimited book program. For USD $9.99 a month you can read as much as you wish from among the more than a million titles and audiobooks on the Kindle Unlimited program. You can check out up to 9 books at any time and read them on any Kindle device or app.

Ebook Readers - Read Magazines in Kindle - Family Tree MagazineSome people prefer to have one device just for reading. There are small sized tablets (notes), Nook, and Kindle devices. While the Kindle devices have some added benefits such as read-out-loud included, I recommend that you invest in tablet as it offers more options and flexibility. Kindle’s app will install on just about every type of tablet or phone, even on your desktop computer.

If you are not a fan of Amazon, or wish to read on something not Kindle, there are many book reader apps to choose from. My favorites for Android are Aldiko Book Reader, Cool Reader, and Moon+ Reader. Remember, these ebook readers do not access nor read proprietary Amazon or Kindle books, only books either downloaded free or purchased elsewhere.

For reading on a PC or Mac, I like Calibre, a powerful ebook manager, reader, and file converter.

Check out the lists of recommended ebook readers on Lifehack, TechRadar, and Make Tech Easier’s recommendations for iOS.

Ebook Reader - Kindle - Research Like a Pro.Once you have chosen an ebook reader, set it up to match your needs. The more comfortable your reading environment, the more likely you are to use it.

As I get older, I prefer larger font sizes. Some people find reading serif fonts easier than sans serif or the other way around. I also prefer reading white text on a black screen.

When reading on Aldiko, Cool Reader, and Moon+Reader, I experiment with the settings for auto page turning and scrolling to match my reading speed.

Check with your ebook reader on how to customize your reading experience.

How to read an ebook file in an ebook reader?

You’ve downloaded an ebook file from one of the many free ebook sources I’ve listed below. Now what?

An ebook is a file that can be read by a computerized device such as an ebook reader, tablet, smartphone, computer, and web browser. The key to reading an ebook is matching the file type with the ebook reader.

The most common ebook file types are PDF, Daisy, Doc, EPUB, HTML (browser), MOBI, RTF, and TEXT, besides Kindle’s proprietary file formats. When you hunt for books online, match the file format with the ebook reader’s ability to read it. For example:

Ebook Reader File Formats
Aldiko PDF, TEXT, MOBI, HTML, RTF, FB2, PRC, ODT, DBR, CBZ, LIT (non-DRM book formats)

If a file isn’t in the right format for your ebook reader or device, Calibre and other tools are available online for converting ebook files from one format to another, except for copyright protected and proprietary files.

Check the following for more information on ebook reader readers and file formats.

Also, check out Kindlepreneur’s tips on how to get free ebooks legitimately. It takes a little tech savvy, but once set up, easy to reproduce.

Where to Find Ebooks to Read?

There are many free and paid ebook sources online.

For Kindle and Nook users, start with the store built right into your app or device. They list free and paid books as well as easy access to audiobooks.

For free books, here is a quick list to help you get started. Note, some sites require registration or offer a combination of free or paid books.

Some of the above sources of free and open source books include specific categories for genealogy such as the genealogy collection at, which includes Family Genealogy, New York Passenger and Crew Vessel Lists from 1897-1957, US Passport Applications from 1795-1905, and a variety of war records.

If you are seeking strictly genealogy books, start with Cyndi’s List of books, ebooks, and online books.

In 2015, FamilySearch announced they’d added their 200,000th book to their online collection called Working with the Allen County (Indiana) Public Library and other libraries and genealogical societies and libraries, the work of many volunteers continues. Today, you can find more than 350,000 digitized genealogy and family history books, collections, and publications from Allen County Public Library, American Fork Library, Arizona State Library, BYU, Houston Public Library, and more.

Here is a short list of other resources for books on genealogy and family history:

Don’t forget that your local library is a great starting point for finding free books, in print and via digital download or access through their apps. Check your library for specific instructions and guides.

Amazon’s Kindle Store includes tons of free books, but finding them is often a challenge. Family History Daily offers search tips to ensure you open those digital archives in Amazon in pursuit of free books.

LibriVox is a site offering free audiobooks, including classics and out-of-print books, easily listened to through any MP3 player app or audio book app.

Fairly regularly, I will be publishing posts on various public domain books and book sources for genealogy and family history research and studies. Stay tuned for updates!

On a person note: If you are a published author and you haven’t converted your book to an ebook or audiobook, so do now. Don’t wait. You are missing out on amazing sale opportunities. The decision to purchase a book today is often based upon availability of a digital and/or audio book as well as print. Many buy one of each format, including myself. This allows me to read the printed book in a comfortable space, take the ebook with me on the road to lighten the load, and listen while driving or doing something else. It’s a lifestyle.

Kindle’s CreateSpace makes it simple and easy, and the process and tools to shift the book from print to digital are free and easy to use. If you can use Microsoft Word or Pages, you can create a digital version of your book.

Taking Your Apps on the Road

Thumb and flash drives on key chain - Lorelle in the Past is a free site offering links to over 300 portable apps including freeware, software, mobile apps, and other platforms that allow you to take your work offline.

A portable app is a travel version, if you will, of a full-fledged application or software, or a version that allows you to work with files from a full-fledged application, either with full functionality or partial, such as Adobe PhotoShop files. These portable apps allow you to take your work or online project on the road by installing them in a synced cloud folder, on a local computer, or install them on a flash, thumb, or portable drive, and work offline.

Consider this situation. You arrive at an archive or library and are told that you cannot take your computer or smartphone into the special collections area where you wish to do your research. Even though you might be doing digital research, you must do it on their computers, not yours. With these portable applications, you can install them on a flash drive or on the cloud, if you have access, and run them without your laptop, taking notes, capturing screen shots, editing graphics, whatever you might need to do while there. Just plug your thumb drive into their computer after you log in, and your programs are waiting to help you work more efficiently, and in a familiar working environment.

In addition, there are many helpful, lightweight apps useful for those using what I call downsized or streamlined laptops like Chromebook or notebook laptops. When there isn’t much storage or power capabilities on the computer, and its key ability is to run applications on the web, these smaller apps work great whether installed on the notebook or on a thumb drive.

You may download the PortableApps software program that allows quick access to downloadable apps and programs, or use the website. With the software program you can easily keep your apps up to date and organize things with folders, favorites, and searches. The majority of these programs are free, but some may have a fee or timed testing use limit.

For genealogists, there are a variety of apps listed that may help you with your research efforts. I’m listing just a few that I think are useful, but your choices may vary depending upon your needs. Some of these may be familiar as you might be using their full versions.

To use these, either install the PortableApps software or download the individual files and follow the instructions to install them on a thumb drive, portable drive, or the cloud. This typically involves double clicking on the app file and ensuring the installation folder is on your portable destination. Label the thumb drive, or if you installed on the cloud, write a note to remind you of where they are and how to access them, and make sure these are with you on your next research adventure. is also available in multiple languages including English.

Tech Tools: Grandma’s Pie Chart

FamilySearch continues to offer and support a wide range of free and affordable genealogy apps. A simple but fun app is Grandma’s Pie, developed in BYU’s Family History Technology Lab and released in 2015. It is free, but does require FamilySearch account. You may upload a GEDCOM file or use your FamilySearch tree.

Grandma’s Pie is a novel name for the app that allows you to view your FamilySearch tree using various pie chart visuals. Also known as Pedigree Pie, the app requires you to authorize access to your FamilySearch account.

It begins by default with you and the geographic birth places of your grandparents, following a direct line up. As clear in my own tree, which is not as complete as it should be in FamilySearch, the majority of my recorded ancestors to 6x grandparents were born in the United States (83%).

Apps - Grandmas Pedigree Pie - FamilySearch Apps - Grandparents Generational View

You may change the starting person by using their FamilySearch Person ID number.

Switching to my favorite brickwall, Lula Bell Pinder, Grandma’s Pie chart shows her parentage as mostly Canada West. If I turn off “Extrapolate Unknowns,” as there are many, I see the gaps in my research on her part of the tree, mostly due to the brickwalls I’ve encountered.

Apps - Grandmas Pedigree Pie - FamilySearch Apps - Lula Bell Pinder - Grandparents Generational View

Click on one of the colored pie pieces to see who they represent. In this example, Lula Bell’s mother, Elizabeth Brunner is highlighted, helping you to see where people are on the chart and see who is missing.

Apps - Grandmas Pedigree Pie - FamilySearch Apps - Lula Bell Pinder mother Elizabeth Brunner - Grandparents Generational View

You then have the option to view that person in another pie chart or to visit their profile page on FamilySearch.

In an article on Grandma’s Pie by Jill R. Decker, the app shows countries up to seven generations. By turning the Extrapolating Unknowns, as I did above, it is easy to see where ancestors are and aren’t identified, and work needs to continue.

The app doesn’t do much else, and many online services offer such pie chart views with DNA results and other charting services, but FamilySearch doesn’t offer these. This app adds the fun visual functionality.

Whether to help you find the missing pieces of your genealogy research on FamilySearch or in a GEDCOM file exported from your genealogy program, or to provide a visual for friends and family or your website or social media, Grandma’s Pie is a fun additional to your tech toolbox.

Check out the other interesting and handy web apps and tools on FamilySearch.

Tech Tip: Save Web Page as PDF

Did you know you could save a web page like any document on your computer?

Records - Save Web Page As File Menu.In your web browser, when you click File > Save Page As to save a web page, the process generates an HTML file and an attached file folder containing the images and other code necessary to re-generate the web page in the web browser. This creates additional files you may not need, is confusing for some when they stumble upon this oddly named file and folder later, and isn’t very portable.

Let’s make this easier.

Save the web page as a PDF document instead.
Save Web Page As PDF - FamilySearch Shawano Wisconsin.

Save a Web Page as a PDF, the resulting PDF document of the Family Search Shawano County genealogy information.

Shawano County Wisconsin Genealogy Research Page – FamilySearch Wiki

On the web page you wish to save, click Print or Print Preview, or CTRL+P as the keyboard shortcut. NOTE: If using Print Preview, some browsers allow you to scale the printed result or make other modifications for a better printed version.

  1. In the Printer drop down menu, change to the default PDF printer.
    • For Windows switch to Microsoft Print to PDF.
    • In Mac, look for the PDF button in the lower left corner and click the pull-down menu and select Save as PDF.
  2. Click Print.
  3. A menu will pop-up asking you where to save the file. Put it where you can find it again, such as in a folder appropriate to the web page topic or your research.

This saves the entire web page as a single PDF document.

Print to PDF - Web Page with Record for Reference - Michigan Family History Network Schoolbook Records.

How to Save Existing Web Pages on Your Computer

The same technique works for web pages you’ve already saved to your computer that you would like to resave as PDF files, then deleting the original HTML file and folder of files to save space and better organize your filing system.

Records - Save Web Page As - File Results.

  1. Double click on the HTML file. It will load in your web browser.
  2. In the Printer drop down menu, change to the default PDF printer.
    • For Windows switch to Microsoft Print to PDF.
    • In Mac, look for the PDF button in the lower left corner and click the pull-down menu and select Save as PDF.
  3. Click Print.
  4. A menu will pop-up asking you where to save the file. Put it where you can find it again, such as in a folder appropriate to the web page topic or your research.
  5. Return to your file manager and delete the original HTML file. This will also delete the folder. If not, delete the folder manually after deleting the HTML file.

Records - Save Web Page As - Delete Web Page and Folder to delete after saving as a PDF..

Using this technique, I was able to save hundreds of megabytes of storage space on my hard drive, condensing all the HTML page attached files into a document and removing them. You will see similar results if you convert a couple decades of saved web pages to PDF document files.

And your organized family historian self will adore the cleaned up digital filing system.

Tech Tip: Renaming Files with File Preview

I love learning about family history research, attending as many conferences, genealogy society meetings, and workshops as possible every year, and speaking at a few as well. I love the incredible work and dedication that goes into many speakers’ handouts and class notes, basically giving us almost every word they say on the stage, allowing us to soak in their vast knowledge without the desperate nature of some note-taking efforts spend balancing a notepad or laptop on your lap.

Windows File Explorer - renaming files to organize them.

Unfortunately, many of the digital copies of these handouts come with odd names. RootsTech is notorious for this, bless their purple hearts. The digital files are named by the session number, day of the week of the session, then the speaker and, if we are lucky, a word or three of the title. If a presenter offers the same session multiple days, the class notes are the same, they are just labeled with a T, W, Th, F, or S for the day of week of the session. Same notes, different obscure file names. I delete the duplicates to save space. Some conferences offer digital handouts with the author last name and a squished abbreviation of the topic such as OYRA (Organizing Your Research Area). I have no idea what these things are, and after 10 speakers, or 50 at RootsTech, I’ve forgotten who said what when.

I shouldn’t blame conferences as many of these files are named by the presenters (please do a better job of it). I’m often perplexed by my own digital scans with photoscan873456.jpg or dcn42849567.jpg, or my own strange naming system from the past, Johnson Alex C-WI-GB-1964.jpg (Alex Johnson, cousin in Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1964 – yeah, dumb idea).

What we need is an easier way to rename these files quickly and efficiently without spending time opening and closing programs.

Yes, I could do it in a graphics software program, but I’m sorting through all my files to better organize them like a good genealogist should.

What could be simpler than just using the File Preview feature right in your file management program.

Using File Preview in File Manager

Whatever your operating system, you have a native program that helps you dig through your computer’s hard drive, thumb and portable drives, to find and organize your files. Every file manager comes with the ability to preview files.

If the files are photographs, the file manager previews them as part of the View settings for large or extra-large images right in the file list window. If the files are documents, audio files, etc., all you see is the logo thumbnail for the file’s associated program. Not much help.

The Preview in Windows is under View > Preview Pane. Use the Quick Look option for Mac (or hit the spacebar) for a popup preview image.

File organization - using File Preview in File Manager (Explorer) to rename files quickly.

With a glance, you can see the contents of pdf files, images, and documents to help you quickly rename them without opening them in their appropriate programs.

Fast and easy. My favorite flavor.