App reviews

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Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

Aboriginal Sydney | AU$5.49 | iOS, Android compatible
Drawing on history, archaeology, biography, culture and architecture, this app is a pocket-sized version of Melinda Hinkson’s detailed book Aboriginal Sydney: A guide to important places of the past and present (Aboriginal Studies Press, AU$29.95). Using the app’s audio tracks and in-depth visitor information, you can tour 35 sites around Sydney — from Bennelong Point to Blacktown, ancient rock art and middens through to modern Aboriginal cultural hubs. Informative and enthralling, Aboriginal Sydney showcases the rich, diverse stories of Aboriginal communities past and present. It’s well worth the money.

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

Find A Grave | FREE | iOS compatible
This handy app is designed to help you access the extensive Find A Grave database directly from your iPhone. It’s surprisingly sophisticated search mechanism offers options such as birth name, birth year and death year to help you narrow down results. You can also search by cemetery. Unlike the similar, better-known Billion Graves app, on Find Grave you don’t have to log in to search, although you do if you want to create a new memorial listing. Another difference is that there is no in-app camera option for users to quickly add a photograph of a memorial or headstone.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

Heritage Highway Tourism Tasmania | FREE | iOS, Android compatible
The informative Heritage Highway is a handy app for pre-departure research and on-the-go information. Following the colonial village trail along the convict-built road crossing the midlands of Tasmania, Heritage Highway offers users the best of the region. Accommodation, events, shopping, dining and tour options are all available, along with a map and contact details for each. Much like a portable information centre, you can pick and choose things to add to your itinerary list. There is also the occasional discount voucher to be found! Allow the app to use your location to find the nearest ATM, petrol station or public toilet — a great feature on the road!

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

History Map Australia | AU$0.99 | iOS compatible
History Map Australia has a great premise. The app features an easy-to-navigate map of Australia, giving you the opportunity to identify and annotate historical sites and points of interest to share with other users. Although it’s easy to upload your own entry of a historical event, pinpoint its location using your device’s GPS and even add a matching photograph, unfortunately the app is tricky to use when it comes to browsing other users entries of historical sites. With improved user-friendliness, this app could become a great resource for history lovers and travellers alike.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

GedStar Pro Genealogy Viewer | FREE | Android compatible
This is a clever tool — with a catch. It transfers unlimited data from genealogy programs on your PC (like Master Genealogist, Legacy and GEDCOM files) onto your smartphone or tablet. It allows you to see your family history from four perspectives: an individual ancestor; family grouping; ancestor tree; and descendant tree. You can add images and text, plus there’s a relationship calculator and ‘On This Day’ reminders of your ancestors’ important events.
So what’s the catch? To convert your PC genealogy files, you need to purchase a separate program from the developers’ website (gedstarpro.com), which costs US$9.95 after a 28-day free trial.

Download for Android

Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

Sound of Buildings Vol. 1 & 2 | FREE | iOS compatible
Sound of Buildings is an ongoing resource that offers a tailored, self guided tour of Melbourne’s architectural heritage. Download both volumes for a complete audio guide of 20 buildings that make Melbourne an architectural hub in Australia. With a minimalist design, it’s easy to navigate and provides an introduction, map, photo gallery and an audio guide for each building. Altogether, this app features more than 40 interviews with architects, builders, historians, writers and children for a diverse insight into landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Flinders Street Station and the Shrine of Remembrance.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

China Heart | FREE | iOS compatible
China Heart features a historical walking tour of Sydney’s Chinatown with a fictional mystery surrounding a woman named Lian, who upon her engagement receives a mysterious package of historical artefacts. China Heart was inspired by the Powerhouse Museum’s collection of Chinese artefacts. The app takes the user on a tour of seven landmarks in Chinatown, with accompanying videos and historical titbits that follow Lian’s journey to unearth secrets from the past.
At each location unlock a clue before moving on to the next landmark. There is also extra oral and video content, which can be downloaded (just use free wifi to avoid extra data costs).

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

Cook | FREE | iOScompatible
Use Cook to record all those family recipes stuffed away into a kitchen drawer. Cook allows you to create your own ‘cookbooks’ with customisable graphics, colours and captions that are easy on the eye. Multiple cookbooks can be created and categorised according to style or genre, and the search option is handy for seeking out specific recipes. Expand your cooking repertoire by adding other users’ cookbooks to your ‘bench’ for easy access later. Recipes can also be shared with friends via Facebook, Twitter, email or iMessage. This app is a satisfying way to organise and streamline personal recipe collections into
a slick-looking package!

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

Trust Trees – Register of Significant Trees of Victoria | FREE | iOS
Trust Trees brings the National Trust Victoria’s extensive Register of Significant Trees of Victoria straight to your fingertips.

Native, exotic, remnants and rare specimens alike are among the 24,000-plus trees listed, each entry recording their location, measurements, and estimated age. Historians and genealogists, take note: some even contain details on surrounding properties and families! The entry of a 300-year-old Blakely’s Red Gum in Wodonga, for instance, includes information about local families on the property back to 1869. Easy to use and search, this app opens up an underrated aspect of Australia’s living heritage.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

New Zealand’s Great Walks | FREE | Android compatible
Trek or, as New Zealanders say, ‘tramp’ your way through Aotearoa’s most iconic landscapes with this useful app. Featuring nine of New Zealand’s great walks, from Tongariro Northern Circuit to the famous Milford Track, this app is first and foremost a practical travel guide. It outlines each walk’s separate stops and potential route options. (Note that each separate circuit and trek must be individually downloaded.) More insightfully, the app provides comprehensive details on each region’s history and natural history, allowing travellers to envision how the landscape around them has changed over time.

Download for Android

Reviewed by
Cassie Mercer

For the Term of His Natural Life | A$10.49/NZ$13.99 | iOS compatible
Bringing history to life is an appropriate expression when it comes to this app. It’s based on the 1870s novel by Marcus Clarke, For the Term of His Natural Life, an adventure that sees Londoner Rufus Dawes falsely accused of murder and transported to Australia. The app combines the book and segments of the 1983 mini series of the same name to produce an interactive experience on the iPad. See timelines of the events, view maps and photos, jump between the text and the mini-series and read the historical documents to understand more about convict lives in Australia.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

Cairns Heritage Tour | FREE | iOS, Android compatible
Explore Cairns’ history with a knowledgeable guide in your own pocket. This app, the result of collaboration between Cairns Historical Society, Cairns Regional Council, and Acoustiguide, provides an audiovisual tour through 20 of Cairns’ heritage hotspots. Landmarks are profiled alongside the city’s lesser-known features. Stories of the Lovers Bower, Koch Monument, Red Light District and Floating Sea Baths, among others, all reveal something of Cairns’ social fabric. The app is easy to navigate, with four maps marking historical sites of interest. Plus, you can search and share the material, and explore additional images and audio.

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Ilaro: Research Note & Citation Database | A$10.49/NZ$13.99 | iOS
Ever wanted to keep your research notes and family history leads across various branches all in the one place?

This handy little app is a research note-taking database that combines note cards, research journals and databases into one interface. Ilaro allows you to organise your research notes, track citations, develop new ideas and it’s also helpful for preparing and writing research reports.

It’s universal (it works on both iPhone and iPad) and is ideal for students, academics, authors, historians and other professionals conducting research, since it is designed to save time and improve the research and writing process.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

Wikimedia Commons | FREE | iOS, Android compatible
This nifty little app enables users to easily upload images to Wikimedia Commons, the Wikimedia Foundation’s online repository of free media files. A sign-in is necessary, meaning you must have an account on Wikimedia Commons — the normal, non-app version — in order to use the app. But once you’re in, the app is simple to use, enabling you to upload images directly from your device’s image gallery, or activate the camera to contribute photographs on the go. Add a title, description and, on Android devices only, categories to help identify your images. Multiple file uploads are possible as is GPS tagging, with the right camera settings.

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Day One | A$5.49/NZ$6.49 | iOS compatible
Designed as a journal that lets you gather notes, sources and images into it as you write, this forms an effective way to create a life story.

The ability to sync to the cloud (such as iCloud or Dropbox) and to other Macs, iPhone and iPad apps lets you back up your data as you move. Plus, Day One uses GPS location services; handy for those travelling a historic path. It also adds weather and temperature data, has a calendar view, can be passcode-locked and even lets you tweet out your memories and discoveries as you
go. No wonder the App Store recently included it in its top five landmarks apps.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

HistoryWise | A$5.49/NZ$6.49 | iOS compatible
HistoryWise contains 3,500 multiple choice questions on 5,000 years of world history. It’s no kid’s game, this — my first few questions ranged from the Visigoths (AD 504) to a Papal council (1200s) to India’s reaction to Britain’s declaration of war in 1939.

I liked this a lot, partly because it was fun trying to better my scores and partly because of the depth and breadth of the questions. You can also choose to have one or two players, in case you want to try and out-quiz someone, and a theme that equals your interest, from Ancient Egypt and Greece to the 20th century. It was well worth the money, and it’s nicely designed, too

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

SepiaScape | A$1.99 | iOS compatible
Using the SepiaScape apps profiling three Tasmanian destinations — Longford, Richmond and Cataract Gorge — you can almost travel back in time! Each app features a satellite map marked by white pointers. Clicking on a pointer reveals a ‘then and now’ juxtaposition of images depicting this particular spot from its past (back to 1837 on the Longford app) and present. You can fade between the before-and-after photographs to watch the site evolve before your very eyes.

Historic information, references and a handy link to the LINC catalogue accompany every marked site, making the app the perfect companion for exploring Tasmania and its past.

Download for Richmond | Download for Longford | Download for Cataract Gorge

Reviewed by
Jill Ball

Kinship | FREE | Android compatible
Downloading this free app to my Android phone and tablet from Google Play was a painless process. On opening this simple app with its clean interface I envisaged uses at weddings, funerals and family reunions. The ability to enter two persons’ relationships to a common relative and instantly determine that connection was appealing. But alas, the relationships the app allows are limited to direct-line relatives from child through to eighth great grandchild; it does not cater for more tricky aunt, uncle and cousin relationships. Hopefully more options will be added as this worthwhile product is developed.

Download for Android

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

StoryPress | FREE | iOS, Android compatible
Oral histories often touch on events and experiences yet to make it into print. StoryPress is an app that allows you to create and keep those more personalised records. Its library can be filled with audio tracks you’ve recorded: collections of family stories, spoken diaries, interviews and anecdotes.

The resulting collection can be saved in the Cloud and shared, since StoryPress connects via email, Facebook and Twitter. Imagine sharing a grandparent’s stories in their own words with your grandchildren one day. (Of course, that presupposes the iPad and the software are exactly the same in a few years, or at least that the audio format is still readable.)

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Forte by National Library of Australia | FREE | iOS compatible
Learn more about the music your ancestors may have listened to with Forte, an app by the National Library of Australia that presents the Library’s collection of digitised sheet music in a browsable, portable and practical music book.

With more than 13,000 items, the scores date from the 1800s to the 1950s, from the Federation Waltz, to the words only Dame Nellie Melba could sing (‘Melba Toast has the most’), sporty cricket chants, and tunes such as It’s Hot In Brisbane But It’s Coolangatta, which have become part of our more recent social history. The scores are browsable by decade or composer, and also feature fascinating artwork and adverts from the time.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

State Library of SA walking tours | FREE | iOS, Android compatible
This app presents the State Library of South Australia’s new self-guided walking tours of Adelaide. The Lost Adelaide Tour allows you to compare photographs of the city’s demolished buildings from the Library’s rich collections with the streetscapes of today. Also included are a tour of Adelaide’s War Memorials and a tour of sites associated with significant South Australians, as well as library orientation tours. It’s a terrific package for visitors to Adelaide as well as for locals wanting to delve into their city’s history.

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Ben Mercer

Curio at State Library of NSW | FREE | iOS, Android compatible
Amaze is the State Library of NSW’s first new gallery since 1929, and it seems fitting that it has a brand new app to accompany it. Curio not only explains the exhibition but shows you where you fit with it.

What do I mean? Well, like an audio tour you can listen to more about the object you’re looking at but unlike the old headphones, Curio finds the objects nearest you and saves what you’ve seen during your visit. When you get home you can continue to enjoy the collection by viewing your tour again. It even shows what you missed, so you can see it next time you visit. Plus, all this costs you nothing; Curio has its own WiFi you can access while you’re at the Library.

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Mark Pearce

The Peerage | FREE/AU$2.99/NZ$4.19 | iOS compatible
Peerage is an easily searchable, ever-growing database of royal and noble genealogy containing more than 600,000 names. The free version comes with discrete ads, or pay $2.99 for the ad-free version. I was amazed to find distant cousins in both sides of my family listed here, even though they are both many generations removed from the member of the peerage. The site is kept well up-to-date, and includes recent noble births and marriages.

Certainly worth checking out by anyone who has English ancestry with the possibility of finding nobility in the family tree, and a good tool for anyone interested in the Royals’ family tree.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Name Maps | AU99c/NZ$1.29 | iOS compatible
Name Maps shows surname distribution across the US and may be useful for anyone wanting to find other branches of your own immigrant family. This could offer leads, given there was considerable US immigration to New Zealand and Australia, particularly of miners, in the mid-to-late 1800s. See the states in the US where your surname is represented on a map, displayed in absolute or relative distribution. Absolute distribution gives an approximate number of people with the last name living in certain states, while relative distribution indicates the proportion of people with that last name in a certain state in relation to the total population.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Mobile Family Tree Pro | AU$7.49/NZ$9.99 | iOS & Desktop compatible
MobileFamilyTree Pro was recently rewritten from the ground up, and it’s now based on the same architecture as the excellent MacFamilyTree by Synium Software (www.syniumsoftware.com). This means you can sync the data between the two platforms and use a fully featured genealogy software program while away from home.

But MobileFamilyTree Pro also works without any desktop computer as a standalone solution. It’s reasonably expensive, but this mobile version allows you to work with a much more portable format out in the field or even use just your iPad as your only family tree device.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

iAnnotate PDF | AU$10.49/NZ$13.99 | iOS, Android compatible
PDF (Portable Document Format) was invented by Adobe so documents that contain both text and images could be exchanged between platforms. However, PDFs are “locked” — you might be able to copy text, but you can’t change the content. However, you can mark it up — Apple’s free Preview application, for example, lets you draw arrows, circles, speech bubbles and more onto a PDF. But what about on iPad?

iAnnotate PDF has a good reputation and is an app you can customise to your needs with a pen, highlighter, notes, underline, strikethrough, photo, voice recording and date stamp functions. You can also customise it and import new stamps (such as your signature).

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

CousinCalc | AU$0.99/NZ$1.29 | iOS compatible
“He married my great, great grandmother’s aunt’s son’s daughter…” When it comes to describing how a distant relative fits into the complex branches of your family tree, the terminology itself is sometimes confusing. CousinCalc makes it easy, allowing you to simply choose from the family roles listed (for example, mother, brother or niece) and flick through the relationships and generations, until the proper term appears.

For instance, in the above example, this mysterious relation is my second cousin three times removed. The app is simple in design and intuitive to use.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Dropbox | FREE | iOS, Android & Desktop compatible
For carting your files around, it’s hard to beat Dropbox. It’s an off-site folder in which you can store data, accessible from your computer, smartphone and tablet. It’s a great way to store images and documents you gather while travelling, and it can even keep them all in sync — update a document on an iPad and it’s automatically updated in the Dropbox folder on your desktop.

It’s also a good way of sharing documents, as you can grant others access to specific folders. It’s free, too, for up to 5GB, and you can buy more space if you need it. Get the app for each device, put in the same details for each and there you have it — easy storage in ‘the cloud’ securely accessible from anywhere.

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Instapaper | AU$4.49/NZ$5.29 | IOS & Android compatible
This app is designed to save web pages for later offline reading, optimised for readability on iPhone or iPod touch screens and with most images stripped out. When you’re researching, you sometimes find long articles and blog posts you don’t have the time to read on discovery. You can save them with Instapaper, then read them later when you have the time.

You can browse articles your friends post on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. What’s more, sending to Instapaper is supported by more than 150 other iPhone and iPad apps. Everything you download is then available offline, so you can read whenever you want.

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Genealogy Gems | AU$2.99/NZ$4.19 | IOS compatible
Genealogy Gems is a podcast that’s available free on the iTunes Store. If you’ve never used podcasts before, open iTunes on your Mac or PC and click on the Podcasts tab — there are thousands available covering almost every subject imaginable.Some of the history ones are terrific, and several fall directly under the ‘Genealogy’ heading, such as Genealogy Gems. And now there’s an app for it.

This brings the Genealogy Gems podcasts to your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad along with bonus material including PDFs of tips and ideas from the show, extra audio and video content, and the ability to follow the show on Twitter.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Last Name Origin | AU$5.49/NZ $6.49 | IOS compatible
This is a real hobby horse of mine. A friend of mine had his arm and shoulder covered in Celtic tattoos, explaining he was rediscovering his Celtic past. I pointed out his surname was Anglo-Saxon. So was his mother’s… and every name he mentioned from his tree was either Anglo-Saxon or Norman. Ouch.
How much do you know about your family name? And what happens if your family has more mixed origins than just the British Isles? Luckily, this app lists more than one million surnames, and for English, Italian, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. Yay!

You get unlimited access for unlimited numbers of surnames, plus access to more than 50,000 coats of arms.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Evernote | FREE | IOS & Android compatible
At first glance this very capable note-taker doesn’t look like an app for the dedicated historian, but it’s so generally handy. It’s a bit hard to believe it’s free, actually: Evernote is designed to help you remember everything across all the devices you use, including your Mac (or via a browser from other computers).

It lets you take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists and record voice reminders, but importantly then keeps those notes searchable, whether you are at home, work, or on the go, synching all of these notes across all the computers and devices you use. You can even share notes with friends and colleagues via Facebook and Twitter.

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Irish Heraldry | AU99c / NZ$1.29 | IOS compatible
Irish settlement was a significant factor in the establishment of Australia and New Zealand. The Irish Heraldry app is a resource of Irish Coats of Arms or family crests with a list that’s constantly expanding. Already more than 1,400 Irish family Coats of Arms are listed, and can be shared by email or posted to Facebook. It has a searchable alphabetical surname menu and contains hand drawn images.

Brief descriptions of the most common symbols used in heraldry assist your understanding and a Refresh Button means new names and cards can be added without the need to update from the App store.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Sarah Trevor

Family History – NSW Registry of BDMs | FREE | IOS & Android compatible
Offering free BDM searches, this app brings the 18 million records held by the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages straight to your fingertips. A straightforward and user-friendly design, combined with a step-by-step guide for first-time users, means you can’t go wrong.

The app’s detailed tips for historical index searches will help maximise your results. The explanation of how to use metacharacters is particularly helpful. And, at the tap of a button, you can proceed to the BDM website to learn more about its collection, request help, or purchase certificates. Overall, it’s a simple, and very useful app. .

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Zite | FREE | IOS & Android compatible
Magazines are an increasingly important part of the allure of tablets like the iPad. Zite acts as an aggregator for your favourite online reading, putting your collection together into a master interface like a magazine that you tailor.

Zite automatically learns what you like and gets smarter each time you use it, delivering the news, articles, blogs and videos you want while helping you discover new sources of information. It can also reference your Twitter and Google Reader accounts to further refine your reading choices, so if you’re an avid reader of online sources for history, for example, this is for you.

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Lost! | FREE | IOS compatible
Bringing historic Melbourne back to life is Lost! 100 Lost Buildings of Melbourne. It’s an interactive app that uses augmented reality to show a visual overlay of historic buildings of the past over the reality of the present.

You can experience Melbourne in a new way, discovering the grand (or otherwise) lost and hidden buildings of this great city. Users can interact with buildings in real time by ‘ghosting’ pictures of what was there over what is currently standing. Historical information, photos and stories of these often long demolished buildings is available, plus information on buildings currently at risk in the city – all for free.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Skype WiFi | FREE | IOS & Android compatible
Travelling to find research sources can be an expensive business – not least because of data roaming charges on your smart device. And despite the growth of public WiFi access points (hotspots) there never seems to be one where you need it.

Now Skype has an app that offers access to one million WiFi hotspots around the world. Just download the free Skype WiFi app, sign in with your Skype account, tap an access point to connect, then browse the internet at will. You only pay for the time you’re connected, with no limits to the amount of data you can upload or download. You’ll need to have some Skype credit in your account, and remember to tap “Go offline” when you’re finished!

Download for Apple | Download for Android

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

Indicommons | FREE | IOS compatible
Indicommons represents a shared visual heritage, one that encourages public participation in the collection of historical information. The Commons was launched in 2008 by Flickr with the release of nearly 3,000 images from two popular US Library of Congress collections. The project aims to increase access to publicly held photography collections in civic institutions around the world and to provide a way for the public to contribute historical data.

Now more than 50,000 images can be accessed via a free app. You can browse through the collections, or search for items of interest. And if you have a Flickr account, you can tag and add comments to items no matter where you are.

Download for Apple

Reviewed by
Mark Webster

MyMemoir | A$1.99 / NZ$2.59 | IOS compatible
If you want to keep a journal, for example to chronicle your historical project, myMemoir is a great option. It supports multiple journals that can be saved as ePub, PDF or TXT documents. (An ePub allows you to open the document with almost any eBook reader).

But its true power lies in the fact that you can add photos and videos to your journal to document your latest trip, load photos of the ancestors you are tracing, and much more. The possibilities are endless!

Download for Apple

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