5 Free Tech Tools to Manage Genealogy Research

It might seem to be a bit early in the season for the dog days of summer, but they have arrived in Tucson with a predicted high this week of 110. That means it’s a great time to be inside, whether because of the pandemic or heat, and learn about some tools to help you manage your genealogy data and documents, aside from the regular software programs like Family Tree Maker and Roots Magic.

There are a number of computer programs available that may not have been specifically designed for genealogy researchers, but which are excellent tools to help manage the accumulation of information we find about our ancestors.

Today, I’d like to share several programs that I’ve tried out. Each piqued my interest, but I am the first to admit that I’m not an expert with any of them. All have free versions and four of the five have upgraded Pro versions that offer more options.

First – How many times have you struggled to read a land deed, will or some other document while transcribing or abstracting it?JacobBoerema.nl’s Transcript is the perfect solution. I always use this program when transcribing documents. It is freeware and downloadable. All you have to do is upload the file that you want to transcribe and you are ready to go. The text can be enlarged (a lot!), which really really helps when trying to figure out that old handwriting or even text that has faded. (Note that it doesn’t enhance faded text, just enlarges, which sometimes is enough.)

I will admit, though, that I don’t save files in Transcript. Instead, when I am finished, I copy and paste the file into Word and save that way.

The home page includes an image of what the program and text box look like (right bottom corner):

I am not a super techie person, so when I say this program is easy to use, that means it is super easy! Pro Version = $19 one user license.

Second – Do you have images to which you’d like to add captions? Canva might be just the program you are looking for. Canva actually does much more than captions, as it is a design program. However, the only feature I’ve tried out is captioning images.

After creating a free account, begin by clicking the turquoise button in the top right corner CREATE A DESIGN. Choose your format and you will be ready to go.If you are heavy into design, there is a  Pro Version = $9.95/month.

I just added a simple caption here to share with you, but if you click on the image, you will see that the text box is more than double the height of this postcard. If I had a photograph with multiple people in it to be identified, or I needed to create a source citation, there is space to do the task.

I learned about Canva from Alice Childs in her guest post last April, Using Canva to Add Source Citations, on Diana Elder’s and Nicole Dyer’s Family Locket blog. Her explanation of how to use the program is excellent! Be sure to visit to learn more about navigating Canva. Tutorials

Third – How do you create source citations and how do you store them? Some genealogy software programs include templates for creating source citations. I will be the first to admit that I find those templates cumbersome and I still haven’t mastered the art of creating them correctly. I’ve made due using my old college paper bibliography style of citing sources and typing the citations in the notes section of my software program.

Zotero, described as a research assistant, is an alternative that might appeal to you if (1) you aren’t hung up on using those software templates and (2) you are comfortable with my belief that a citation is correct if there is an appropriate amount of information in its details to allow other researchers to find the same book, document, or whatever.

Zotero was created for the college/university community so citations don’t always adhere to Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained format. However, the citations can be manually tweaked to match EE. Tutorials

However, I would also recommend Donna Cox Baker’s book (paper version, not ebook), Zotero for Genealogy if you decide to go full in with Zotero.

Fourth – How do you keep track of the books you own? Have you ever purchased a second copy of a book you forgot you had? LibraryThing is my choice to solve that problem. Catalogue your book collection online so you don’t have to wonder if you already own that one! This is also a social media site to share with other book lovers. There was some great news in March 2020 – LibraryThing now offers users the ability to catalogue an unlimited number of books. There used to be a free limit of 200. Tutorial

FifthCenturial is a unique program that I recently learned about and have been playing with. It is a source-based genealogy software program that is used to build your family tree. Never again will you wonder where you found a piece of information, whether in a document, a book, an online image or a family letter. That is because you CAN’T enter a person without first adding a source of some kind. Tutorial

I decided that this is my summer learning project. Right now, I’ve only just taken the first steps of downloading and entering a source. I am using the trial version (Pro version = 20 or 24 euros per year, depending on whether you use continuous renewal), which limits me to 20 sources. However, that is plenty to give me a taste of what Centurial can do. I will be writing a post or two, sharing as I’m learning!

I hope I’ve given you new ways to enlarge your genealogy resource toolbox. If you are like me, whether or not I find a new resource a “good fit” with my research habits, I enjoy learning about what’s out there. 

Have fun and, please, stay safe and healthy!


4 thoughts on “5 Free Tech Tools to Manage Genealogy Research”

  1. Thanks for this roundup 🙂 I use Canva at work (our library has a non-profit Pro subscription) and can definitely second your recommendation! I’m also curious about your adventures with Centurial. I might play around with the free version too, though I refuse to do subscriptions for software.

    Zotero is my go-to research organizer and now I’m going to try to find that tutorial re EE citations. That would be cool!

  2. Thank you for sharing all of these great genealogy tools. I will have to check a couple of them out.

  3. Canva sounds like it could be really helpful, Linda. I haven’t used it. I like the idea of being able to easily add captions and citation information to an image. I’ll have to give Canva a try.

    I’ve also heard Irfanview is good. I used it before I knew much about scanning or digital files, but not recently.

  4. I happen to like to read interesting articles in print. I wish to bring to your attention that when I printed this article, the part from after the ‘LibraryThing’ tutorial until “. . . wonder where you found a piece of information [on ‘Centurial, a total of three lines] were missing

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