Using Screenshots With Genealogy

Updated on February 7, 2018
Virginia Allain profile image

I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.

Screenshots to Explain Family History

It's difficult explaining a complex family history. Genealogists struggle trying to share their research results with family members who don't understand genealogy.

Sometimes there are confusing census forms that need explaining or a mix-up of 2 families with similar names. How do you make it clear what the truth is when research turns up contradictory information?

Using screenshots with vintage photos or with a family tree lets you add notes, arrows and boxes to make your results clear and understandable. It's a great way to feature family history information on a blog or to add it on Ancestry or Family Search.

Here are examples and tips for using screenshots effectively with genealogy.

Explain a Family Tree

Here I used 2 different colors of arrows to show our family line and then how we linked to some distant cousins through my grandfather's brother.

I blog about our family history and my sister asked me to show how the ancestors I write about are related to us. For non-genealogists, it helps to have a graphic showing the relationships.

Here's a Simple Example with a Family Tree

My sister asked how Robert Martin was related to us. Using a screenshot of our family tree on ancestry, I could show her our line back to our great-grandparents and then connect that to Robert.
My sister asked how Robert Martin was related to us. Using a screenshot of our family tree on ancestry, I could show her our line back to our great-grandparents and then connect that to Robert. | Source

The Screenshot Program That I Use

You can choose any screenshot program that is convenient for you. I added Awesome Screenshot as an extension to my Chrome browser toolbar. It's also available for Firefox and Safari browsers. The extension is free to use.

For those who want to read reviews before downloading anything, you can check out CNET's review and download from there. I trust that site.

All my examples shown here are created using the tools Awesome Screenshot provides.

How Do You Use It? Video Tutorial for Awesome Screenshot

I Correct Census Records and Post Them as a Graphic on Ancestry

In the record below, the location, first names and the name of the mother-in-law matched our family records. The transcribers misread the handwriting of the census taker and listed the family name as Sowers. The fancy "T" confused them, but the name was really Tower.

This correction was then posted to the profiles of Nancy, Sarah and Abraham Tower. Anyone visiting my tree will get the corrected information and can save it to their own tree.

I have one I need to work on today. The name is Alfred Williams and many trees show him married 3 times and having about 27 children. The reality is there are 2 Alfred Williams who lived in Indiana and then in Missouri in the mid-1800s. They need to be separated out with the 1870 census showing them side-by-side. That should help people straighten out their family tree.

Use a Screenshot to Correct a Census Error

I had a terrible time finding this census record. Notice the badly spelled name. By putting this as a photo on this ancestor's profile online, others are easily alerted to the problem and can add it to their family tree.
I had a terrible time finding this census record. Notice the badly spelled name. By putting this as a photo on this ancestor's profile online, others are easily alerted to the problem and can add it to their family tree. | Source

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Label Digital Copies of Old Photos

First scan in your vintage family pictures or bring up ones that you've already digitized. (The original copy is not altered, the screenshot creates a new image.)

I take a screenshot of that photo and add names and relationships, so future generations can see both the original and the annotated one. Add the date and place if you know that information.

The example shown here includes 3 generations of the Vining family. It was a bit tricky showing the family groupings since the children were not all standing by their parents. Using the boxes, arrows and labeling capability of the screenshot program makes it quite clear how everyone is related.

Use Labels to Identify Vintage Family Photos

My very distant cousin identified the people in this old photo. To clarify their relationship to each other, I used a screenshot.
My very distant cousin identified the people in this old photo. To clarify their relationship to each other, I used a screenshot. | Source

Use the Screenshots on Blogs or in Tutorials

I have several blogs on genealogy topics. One is family history and another is called Finding Your Civil War Ancestor. The examples I showed above were posted to these sites to clarify family relationships or to explain search techniques.

I also give talks to our local genealogy club with tips on using Ancestry or various online databases. Being able to add arrows and circles makes it easy for people to understand the features of a website.

You can use these screenshots in a Powerpoint presentation.

Example for Explaining a Land Records Database


Step-By-Step Creating the Screenshot

  • Brought up the information in my computer that I wanted to make notes on.
  • Clicked on the Awesome Screenshots icon on my browser toolbar.
  • Clicked on "capture visible part of page."
  • Used the crop to cut off excess parts of the screen so could focus on most important elements
  • Clicked on the text option and typed in my explanations.
  • Clicked on the arrow option to connect explanation to the right person on the tree.
  • Saved it to my photo folders on my computer to use later.

Another Example of a Complex Family - Explained Using Screenshots


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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Virginia Allain

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      • delia-delia profile image


        3 years ago

        Very informative tutorial Virginia! I've been using for years screenshots for my genealogy finds with my computers snipped and my iPad screenshot...but no annotations though.

      • ecogranny profile image

        Kathryn Grace 

        3 years ago from San Francisco

        This is most helpful! I'm a total newbie to this genealogical thing, and only get back to it every couple of months, when I will usually become obsessed for 2-3 days until I'm dizzy from searching records and trying to find enough clues to verify or disprove a connection.

        Then I go back to work and life and start fixing supper again and cleaning the bathroom--until the next time!.

      • seraphic profile image


        4 years ago from Canada

        I am having a hard time with my French genealogy, it is so hard to trace the female line due to lack of records. What I ended up doing is a DNA study which revealed some surprising results and has opened new doors to others who have a paper trail. I never thought of using screen shots to see the similar connections. Thanks a bunch for the tip! Excellent Hub, voted up!

      • Elsie Hagley profile image

        Elsie Hagley 

        4 years ago from New Zealand

        Thanks for sharing this with us.

        I have been doing genealogy for about 15 years now and have everything on bits of paper.

        I have just started to add it to My quite a challenge, I will be back to review this article again.

        Is that Awesome Screenshot available for iMac?

        Had a quick look at the link, need to take a better look at it when I have more time.

        All the best for 2015.

      • lollyj lm profile image

        Laurel Johnson 

        4 years ago from Washington KS

        I'm so impressed with the details you've incorporated into your family tree. Just keeping a chronological list is a daunting task for me. Excellent info.

      • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

        William Leverne Smith 

        4 years ago from Hollister, MO

        Great lesson, Virginia. Thanks, so much, for creating and sharing! I've wanted to do this, a number of times, especially for blogs, etc. I'll certainly give it a try. ;-)

      • Millionaire Tips profile image

        Shasta Matova 

        4 years ago from USA

        This is really interesting. I have been thinking about creating a family book through one of the photo printing services, and will be adding images of genealogy records. I have been trying to figure out how to keep them interesting and understandable. I like this idea of labeling the parts of the image that helps show important points.


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