Designed to encourage innovative technology tools in the family history industry, FamilySearch’s Innovator Showdown is a highlight of its annual RootsTech genealogy conference in Salt Lake City each winter. This year, more than 40 applicants from the United States and Europe vied for nearly $200,000 in cash and prizes sponsored by Amazon Web Services, the Kickstarter Seed Fund, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation and others.
In the 2017 showdown, each of the five finalists had three minutes to present his or her innovation and win over a panel of judges and a live audience, and four minutes to answer judges’ questions. Prizes went to the judges’ top three picks as well as the audience-chosen People’s Choice Award recipient. We’ll introduce these award-winning tech tools and websites that will change how you do genealogy research.
The first-place winner and recipient of $95,000 in cash and prizes, OldNews USA is the first app that lets you search historical newspaper databases on mobile devices. Frustrated with all the tedious steps required to search online news archives, genealogist and software developer Bill Nelson decided there had to be a better way. In developing the app for mobile devices, he had to overcome a major challenge—how to display large newspaper images on a mobile phone while maintaining good performance and without running out of memory.
OldNews USA searches the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America website, a collection of more than 11 million newspaper pages dating from 1789 to 1924. To find articles about someone, just enter a name, a date range and a location. OldNews USA automatically suggests newspapers published nearby at that time as well as variations on the person’s name. Just choose from the suggestions and run the search. When you view a newspaper page, tap the screen to go from one highlighted search term to the next. Searches are saved, so you can easily rerun and modify them. The app creates source citations for articles you find, too.
The OldNews USA app for Android is free to try and costs $2.99 after a few searches. An iOS version is coming this year. Apps that work with other historical newspaper websites are in development.
The second-place winner and recipient of $44,000 in cash and prizes, the QromaTag mobile app lets you use your voice to embed a date, place and names in your photos. The app can embed up to 2,000 characters of searchable text into a photo, so you can add a story, too. It creates standard photo metadata that works with any device or web service now and in the future. By far the biggest challenge facing the app’s developers was voice recognition, especially for proper names. To solve that problem, the app lets you import your GEDCOM file. Then you can tag anyone in a photo just by saying the person’s name.
Designed for iPhone and iPad, QromaTag costs $12.99 at the Apple Store. An Android version is expected this year. QromaScan, from the same company, combines an iOS app with a light box so you can scan from your smartphone and use your voice to embed dates, places and names in your photos as you scan them.
The third-place winner and recipient of $26,000 in cash and prizes, Double Match Triangulator (DMT) is an app for sorting DNA matches into groups of relatives. Developer Louis Kessler cautions that it’s not a program for newcomers to genetic genealogy. Users should have experience analyzing DNA segments.
Using two or more individuals’ chromosome browser results from Family Tree DNA, DMT employs advanced techniques to find matches and then loads them into an Excel file. To help you visualize and compare the matches, it also produces a colorful map showing all the matching segments and a list of everyone who matches. This may enable you to find people who share a common ancestor. Eventually, this method might even be able to determine the ancestral line that is the source of a DNA segment. The app’s cutting-edge technology hints at exciting possibilities in DNA analysis.
DMT requires Windows. A commercial version of the program that also reads files from 23andMe was scheduled for release at press time.
The People’s Choice winner and recipient of $25,000 in cash and prizes, Kindex lets you gather family letters, photos and other papers into a digital archive. Then you can transcribe them with help from optical character recognition software and tag them to make them easily searchable, and share the whole archive with family and friends. You can also invite others to collaborate with you to create a family archive to give everyone access to photos and papers that otherwise might be at risk of being lost, damaged or forgotten.
It’s free to create your private archive with up to 50 records you add or import via the FamilySearch Memories app. Paid options include more features, such as unlimited records in your archive, a unique URL for a family archive and a customizable indexing tool for historical and genealogical societies, libraries and archives.
Created by Karen, Kyle and Sam Nelson, Emberall lets you record, store and share your life history or that of a loved one. The smartphone app guides you through the process of creating an album, selecting interview questions and recording the responses. Then upload your pictures and videos to an Emberall album. You can view the whole album or play back individual clips, share them with family and friends, and post them to social media. Multiple people can record videos to the same album. For instance, cousins could record interviews with their grandmother and upload them all to her album.
A $79 gift card lets you use Emberall for video recording and entitles you to a copy of an album on a DVD stored in a faux leather case. Emberall runs on any Android or iOS smartphone.
From the May/June 2017 Family Tree Magazine