Looking for an easy to use genealogy software program to create a family tree?
You’ve come to the right place.
Genealogy software makes it easy to compile details about your ancestors and map your family tree.
You can create an extensive family tree, add details such as dates, relationships, and locations, attach media including pictures, videos, and document scans, and add information from other online genealogy databases.
While the goal of genealogy programs is similar – compiling and organizing ancestry information into a family tree – they differ in how they go about it.
Some are easier to use than others. You can get certain features only in some programs. There’s also the difference in pricing ranging from free software to those that require an ongoing subscription.
What’s in This Buying Guide?
In this buying guide, we will help you to choose the right genealogy software for your needs. Whether you are an amateur or a professional genealogist, we have some great recommendations.
Best Genealogy Software: Comparison Table Access
|Software||Best For||Compatibility||Integrations||Free Trial||Smartphone Access
|Family Tree Maker 2019|
|Best all-round genealogy software||Mac (OS X 10.10 and later) and Windows (7 and later)||Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.com||No||Yes (separate subscription)
|Best charts and reports||Windows 7 and later (Mac and Linux computers need an emulator)||FamilySearch, FindAGrave, MyHeritage, FindMyPast, GenealogyBank||Yes||No
|Family Historian 6|
|Easiest to use||Windows 7 and later (Mac and Linux computers need an emulator)||FindMyPast and MyHeritage||Yes||No
|Best for on the go research||Windows Vista, XP, 2000 and 7-10. MacOS 10.8-10.14||Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, and MyHeritage||Yes||No
|Family Tree Heritage 9|
|Best budget||Windows 7-10 and Windows XP (Mac and Linux computers need an emulator)||Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, and WorldVitalRecords||No||No
|Best for serious/professional genealogists||All operating systems||Ancestry.com||Yes||Yes
What You Need to Know About Genealogy Software
Let’s start with the basics for those who are not familiar with genealogy software.
Firstly, you need some basic computer literacy to use genealogy software. If you know how to open a computer and fire up a program like a web browser or Word, you’ll do just fine. Your genealogy software will come with a user guide to help you get started with your family tree.
Here are the main things you can expect to accomplish with genealogy software.
- Create a family tree. Many programs allow you to create multiple family trees.
- Create an expansive ancestry database and back it up for security. Many programs allow you to create multiple databases, one for each family tree.
- Add details like important dates, locations, names, and relationships.
- Add information for specific family members, including pictures, videos, and document scans.
- Print out reports and charts.
- Share your family tree with others. Some programs also let you invite other family members to view the family tree.
- Pull information from online Ancestry and DNA databases such as Ancestry and FamilySearch. Access to these databases provides a wealth of ancestry information that will help you fill out your family tree.
- Export your genealogy information to another program, typically by creating a GEDCOM file.
Depending on which software you buy, you’ll also enjoy features such as a family website, book-creation tools, and shareable CDs and DVDs.
Best Genealogy Software: Reviews
Because of its relative ease of use, broad compatibility, and range of features, we think Family Tree Maker 2019 is the best all-round genealogy software for most people.
Family Tree Maker (FTM) is more expensive than other programs, and it doesn’t have a free trial version. But most users say it’s worth it.
- Lots of features to help you compile and organize family information.
- Mac and Windows compatibility – no need to struggle with an emulator.
- Easy to reverse mistakes.
- Access to your family tree on the go via smartphone or tablet (new feature).
- Integrates with online genealogical databases.
- Friendly and intuitive interface.
- Supports same-sex marriages.
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- No trial version.
- On the go cloud services require separate subscription.
FTM has been around for decades. The brand has passed through several owners, including Ancestry.com. The current owner is MacKiev.
FTM provides all-round functionality and is an excellent choice for casual family researchers as well as advanced genealogists.
The latest version – Family Tree Maker 2019 – is full of new features and upgrades. It’s now easier to roll back mistakes, you can access your family tree on the go, and you can pass on your tree to a relative.
Here are the best features of this advanced family tree software.
1. Easy interface
Most users can dive into the program without having to spend hours going through the tutorials. The tutorials are useful in case you hit a snag, but the interface is easy enough that you can get started right away.
2. Integration with Ancestry.com and FamilySearch
You can upload your family tree to Ancestry.com and sync it to your FTM tree. You can also search Ancestry’s massive database for historical records and possible relatives.
FTM also integrates with FamilySearch, letting you search through more than a billion names around the world as well as historical records.
3. Easy undo
In genealogy, a single mistake can ruin months of work and send you down the wrong paths. The ability to undo errors is essential.
FTM 2019 lets you roll back up to 1,000 steps, a new feature in the program’s latest release. A detailed log makes it easy to roll back to the exact point before the mistake.
4. Color coding
Even with genealogy software to help you organize information, it can still be challenging to keep track of different details such as specific lineages, descendants of a second wife, and so on.
FTM 2019 has built-in color-coding that you can use to identify similar sets of information. For example, you can use the same color to identify family members born in a specific location or those who were enrolled in the military.
You can also identify specific lines, such as your father’s maternal line, with unique colors for easy identification.
5. Built-in photo editor
With the built-in photo editor (Photo Darkroom®), you can touch up old and faded photos without leaving the program.
6. Charts and reports
Though not as detailed as those of other genealogy programs like Legacy 9, FTM 2019 provides a good variety of printable charts and reports.
You can customize the charts depending on what information you want to include. Options include pedigree charts, bowtie charts (where maternal and paternal lines are shown on separate sides with the subject at the center), and fan charts (where individual generations are shown on a single semi-circle line).
You can easily and quickly add media to your family tree, including scans, photos, and videos. You can also create a slideshow.
8. TreeVault®Cloud Services
TreeVault® Cloud Services is a new feature in FTM 2019. It combines several services into one subscription package. Here’s what you get.
- Tree backup and emergency restore (for now, you can only backup a single tree)
- Family Tree Maker Connect app that gives you access to your tree wherever you are on your smartphone.
- Historical Weather. This one is interesting, but it’s a gimmick. It tells you what the weather was on a specific historic date.
- Next of Kin. You can designate a family member to take over your account and family tree when you pass on. You’ll even get a certificate that you can include with your will.
The main downside with TreeVault is that it requires an ongoing subscription. The first year is free when you buy FTM, but after that, you pay $1.99 a month or $20 a year.
Most FTM users didn’t think that TreeVault is beneficial enough to warrant paying extra for it. If you don’t think you’ll need it, remember to turn off auto-renew. Otherwise, you’ll be charged after a year.
FTM 2019 is compatible with both Windows and Mac computers. Here’s the compatibility information from the company’s website.
OS X 10.10 or later, 900MB hard disk space, 2GB RAM (4GB recommended), 1280 x 800 screen resolution.
Windows 7 or later, 900MB hard disk space, 2GB RAM (4GB recommended), 1024 x 768 screen resolution.
Pricing & Where to Buy FTM 2019
FTM 2019 is available at the maker’s official website Mackiev.com.
A downloadable copy of FTM 2019 currently costs $79.95. A DVD copy costs $89.95, and a USB copy (16GB) costs $99.95.
The DVD and USB options also include a download link sent to your email. So, if the DVD or USB doesn’t work for some reason, you can still download the program.
Note that Mackiev doesn’t offer a free trial version or a trial period.
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2. Best Charts and Reports: Legacy 9
Legacy 9 is best known for its comprehensive and helpful charts.
The program can generate a cause of death chart, helping you track the cause of death of your family members.
It’s not just the versatile charts that we like. Legacy 9 is easy to use and provides myriad ways to discover and organize information.
The best part: they offer a free standard version for those who want to test the waters before they dive into the full program.
- Wide range of charts and reports.
- Easy to use interface.
- Integrations with several genealogy databases.
- Easy identification and organization using color coding, hashtags, and tags.
- Side by side comparisons.
- Free version available.
- Supports same-sex marriages.
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- No smartphone access.
- The interface is a bit outdated in terms of design, but it’s still easy to navigate.
- Windows version only. Requires an emulator to run in Mac.
For a quick recap of the main features in Legacy 9, watch this video.
Legacy Family Tree, the official name of the software, has been around since 1997. It is one of the most popular genealogy programs, and it’s available in multiple languages.
The latest version of the program was released in January 2019. It’s called Legacy 9. They added several helpful features, including hints indicating matching records on other databases, a new FindAGrave.com integration, and several new charts.
1. Intuitive interface
The Legacy 9 interface is not as sleek and modern as that of other programs, but it’s still easy to navigate.
Tools and options are arranged neatly at the top of the page. The program provides easy access to all settings and menus without overwhelming and cluttering your workspace.
2. Hints and integrations
Legacy 9 provides in-program access to various genealogical databases, including MyHeritage, FamilySearch, FindMyPast, and GenealogyBank.
In the latest release, they also added FindAGrave.com.
With these databases, you get access to tons of genealogical and historical records, including names, obituaries, graves, census data, and family records.
You can pull information from all these databases and organize it within your Legacy 9 family tree.
Legacy 9 doesn’t wait for you to carry out a specific search. As you fill out your family tree, it works in the background to search these databases for you. It’ll then show you hints, indicating there may be matching records for a particular name.
For example, it can display FindAGrave.com records it found for one of your ancestors.
This makes your search so much easier. Instead of searching through each database one at a time, Legacy 9 searches through all of them for you.
3. Charts and reports
This is one area where Legacy 9 does very well, better than any genealogy program we’ve seen.
You can generate a wide variety of charts, print, and share them with your family. The best ones include;
- X-DNA, Y-DNA and mtDNA charts – useful for tracking your lineages
- Cause of death chart – pulls causes of death from individual records and displays them in a pedigree chart
- Ancestor charts, available in different styles
- Descendant charts, also available in different styles
- Fan, hourglass, and bowtie charts.
You can also generate different reports depending on the information you want to see. For instance, you can create a report of all names that have records on FindAGrave.com.
You can also use hashtags (we’ll explain shortly) to pull records of people with certain similarities in things like occupation, location and so on, and create a custom report.
In Legacy 9, there’s a new type of report called Family Dictionary Report. It lists all family members, dictionary-style, with an alphabetic arrangement and basic details for each name.
The Family Dictionary Report is an easy way for family members to search for a specific name.
Another addition is the Family Tree BINGO Report that prints out a report with pictures of specific family members.
You can create a Cousins Bingo report, an immediate family Bingo report, and so on.
The Bingo report is great for family reunions and sharing with family members.
4. Chronology Comparison
This is a new feature in Legacy 9. With previous versions, it was difficult to compare two people with similar names.
Say you have two John Smiths in your family tree. You need to be sure they are not the same person. Instead of doing it manually using a spreadsheet or pen and paper, Legacy 9 creates an automatic side-by-side comparison report (yes, yet another type of report).
Just select the two names you need to compare and let the program do the rest. The report displays details of each person side by side and highlights major similarities and differences.
5. Color coding
Similar to most genealogy software programs, Legacy 9 has a color-coding system you can use to differentiate different groups of ancestors easily. For example, you can use blue for your father’s maternal side and red for your father’s paternal line.
Hashtags provide another way to glean more information from your family tree. Let’s say you want to find out all family members who were farmers.
You create a farmer hashtag then use it to generate a report of everyone who matches that occupation.
You can use hashtags to group people by occupations, dates, relationships, lineages, and events.
Legacy 9 is designed primarily for Windows computers. It is compatible with Windows 7, 8, and 10. But you can also use it on a Mac or Linux computer using an emulator.
Pricing & Where to Buy Legacy 9
Legacy 9 is available at the official website, LegacyFamilyTree.com.
You can download a free version with restricted features if you want to feel it out first. For access to all the features, order the full version for $34.95. If you are upgrading from an older version of the program, it’ll cost you $26.95.
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Genealogy software can be overwhelming to use, especially for first-time users. You often have to go through a thick user guide or watch several videos before you can get started.
Not so with Family Historian 6. It’s the most straightforward genealogy program to create a family tree with.
It has most of the powerful features of other programs such as FTM and Legacy 9, but they are much easier to use in Family Historian.
As soon as you install the program, you can get started right away without going through any tutorials.
After you’ve created your family tree, use the built-in tools to create a shareable book, DVD, CD, or a family website (no coding required).
- Easy to use.
- Affordable pricing + a free trial period.
- Plenty of charts and reports.
- Built-in FindMyPast and MyHeritage database searches.
- Tools to create books, DVDs, and family websites.
- Easy import and export of data using GEDCOM files.
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- Not as many integrations as other genealogy programs.
Family Historian is developed and owned by Calico Pie Limited, a UK software company launched in 1995.
Family Historian 6 is the latest iteration of the program. It was released in 2015. The latest upgrade (6.2.7) was in 2018.
In Family Historian 6, the company added several new features, including integrations to genealogy databases, a built-in web browser, and the ability to record family witnesses.
1. Easy to use
Family Historian 6 is designed for anyone who is using a genealogy program for the first time to create a family tree.
Everything is laid out intuitively, and navigating through various menus, settings, and windows is easy.
Family Historian packs powerful family tree features just like other programs, but they’ve made them much easier to use.
On the main window, the focus window, you can see a quick snapshot of someone and their relatives as well as their records (name, location, date of birth, etc.).
The property box (the one that lists an individual’s record) can be opened at any time, no matter which window you are using. You can see and edit someone’s records without going back to the focus window.
One thing we like about the property box is that you can configure it however you want in terms of size, position, and font. You can also choose which records you want to be displayed in the box or even create custom records (e.g., cause of death, occupation, etc.)
We also love the interactive family tree. You can drag and drop relatives and multimedia onto the family tree, browse someone’s records, and create charts without leaving the family tree.
And if the tree becomes too big to navigate, you can close some branches to focus on those you need.
2. Web clipping with citations
Web clipping, a new feature in Family Historian 6, makes it easy and quick to copy and paste data, including text and images, from websites.
Simply drag and drop data onto the property box, and the program will create an automatic citation to help you keep track of the data source.
Integrations are one area where Family Historian is weak. While many genealogy programs boast 3-5 integrations, Family Historian has only two: FindMyPast and MyHeritage.
Even worse, it lacks two that most genealogists consider the most helpful: FamilySearch and Ancestry. Granted, you can create an account on either service’s websites and search for records manually, but it is not as convenient as an integrated search.
As you fill out records, the program will show you hints for any matches it found. Hover on the hints to see more details and visit the link.
The page opens up within the program. Then you can use web clipping to transfer data to the property box.
4. Reports and charts
While Legacy 9 has more charts and reports than Family Historian, the number and versatility of Family Historian charts and reports are nevertheless impressive.
What we love most is the level of customizability.
You can create standard charts and reports. You can also create a customized chart or report using a standard template. You can change what information to include, what media to add, and even customize the aesthetics and overall design.
Charts include the usual ancestor charts, descendant charts, fan charts, everyone charts, and so on. As for reports, there are 32 standard ones to choose from, including narrative reports, summary reports, and so on.
You can also create a custom report by performing a query. For example, you can query all men on your father’s side who died from heart disease and generate a list report.
Reports can be saved as web pages, word documents, or PDF documents for easy printing and sharing.
5. Expanded marriage records
Family Historian 6 has a new feature they call Witnesses. In addition to the bride and groom, you can also record other people who played an important role in the ceremony.
There are standard roles for which you can fill out as many people as you want. You can also create custom roles. So, if you want to add a priest or Rabbi to the marriage record, you can.
Witnesses are a feature unique to Family Historian 7, as far as we can tell.
6. Books, DVDs, CDs, and Websites
Want to compile your ancestry information into something more comprehensive than a report or chart?
Family Historian 6 lets you create a book or booklet, a DVD, a CD, or a family website. These are handy for sharing your research with family members.
Family Historian 6 is a Windows program. It is compatible with Windows 7 to 10, as well as Windows Vista.
You can run it on a Mac computer using a Windows emulator.
Pricing & Where to Buy Family Historian 6
Family Historian 6 is available on the official website for $46.50.
You can also download a 30-day free trial.
The free trial gives you access to all features in Family Historian but only for 30 days.
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4. Best for Research on the Go: RootsMagic 7
Ever wished you could work on your genealogy research away from home, but carrying your laptop with you is inconvenient or impossible?
RootsMagic 7 is the only portable genealogy software we know of. Copy the program and data onto a USB flash drive, which you can then plug into any computer and pick up where you left off.
This is useful if you want to work on your family tree during a work break or when on vacation (or work trip) at the hotel business center.
In addition to portability, there are plenty of other reasons to choose RootsMagic. It’s easy to use, you can create a wide range of charts and reports, and it integrates with Ancestry.com, one of the largest genealogical databases.
- Easy switching from FTM or Personal Ancestral File (PAF).
- Very affordable pricing. There’s also a free basic version.
- Plenty of charts and reports.
- Ancestry.com family matching.
- Available for both Windows and Mac.
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- Fewer charts than other genealogy programs.
- The interface looks a bit outdated.
RootsMagic is developed by a US software company of the same name launched in 1987. The first release of RootsMagic was in 2003.
RootsMagic 7 is the latest version of the program. The last update was in 2019.
RootsMagic 7 is not as well-known as other programs, but its powerful features make it worth considering.
The ‘to-go’ feature is our favorite, but there are several others worth mentioning.
1. Easy to navigate screens
RootsMagic 7 has six screens that you can select from the tab bar.
The main ones include an edit screen where you enter and modify an individual’s records, an Explorer search screen (like a file explorer), and a WebSearch screen for finding and opening records in other databases.
The RootsMagic 7 interface looks a bit outdated, but it is well laid out. It’s easy to navigate through various options and menus.
Whichever screen you are on, you can double click on a name to bring up the data entry box where you can view and edit their records.
RootsMagic 7 has one of the most powerful and useful search capabilities we’ve seen in any genealogy program. When you have a family tree with hundreds of people, being able to find a specific person makes your work easy.
Helpful search features include an intuitive explorer to find specific people, the ability to search using different kinds of data (name, location, dates, nickname, etc.), the ability to search text in notes, research logs and media and the ability to search using mtDNA and Y-STR genetic lines.
2. Open multiple databases
One feature that makes your work easier is the ability to open multiple databases at the same time. You can compare two databases side by side and even drag people from one database to the other.
3. Charts and reports
There’s a decent number of charts you can generate and print. They include pedigree charts, box charts, relationship charts (for two people), and several others.
You can customize the size, color, font, and placement of individual boxes on the chart. You can also change the background and add your text and media.
As for reports, you can choose from the standard reports or generate your custom report using queries and filters.
In the latest update, RootsMagic 7 added integration to Ancestry.com. This integration lets you do two things.
The first is the ability to move data between your Ancestry.com trees and your RootsMagic database. These include people, pictures, notes, citations, and events.
The second is Ancestry Hints. When RootsMagic finds possible matches on Ancestry.com, it displays hints you can explore without leaving the program.
Considering Ancestry.com is a massive genealogical database, this integration will prove invaluable for your research.
Other integrations are FamilySearch and MyHeritage.
5. RootsMagic To-Go
Want to keep working on your family tree when you are away?
You can copy your RootsMagic program and databases onto a USB flash drive, then plug it into another computer and pick up from where you left off.
6. CDs and Family Websites
RootsMagic provides an easy way to share your family tree with family and friends using a CD. You can customize the information by adding your text, images, contacts, and descriptions.
If your family members are scattered far and wide, a family website is an easier way to share your family tree.
RootsMagic lets you create a website right from the program, no coding required. Here’s a sample RootsMagic family website.
RootsMagic 7 is compatible with more computer operating systems than any other genealogy software.
RootsMagic 7 runs onWindows Vista, XP, 2000, 7, 8 and 10. On Mac computers, RootsMagic 7 is compatible with macOS10.8 to 10.14.
Pricing & Where to Buy RootsMagic 7
RootsMagic 7 is available on the official webstore for $29.95 for first-time users and $19.95 for those upgrading from previous versions.
If you want to try RootsMagicfor free, download RootsMagic Essentials, though you won’t access all features available on the paid program.
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Family Tree Heritage 9 is the cheapest of our picks. It offers a decent variety of powerful features, but it’s no match for the other programs.
We recommend Family Tree Heritage 9 for amateur genealogists looking for basic and affordable genealogy software.
- Low price.
- Integrations with various genealogy databases, including Ancestry.com.
- Built-in tool to create a family website.
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- Clunky and unintuitive interface.
- No free trial.
- No built-in browser.
- Limited charts.
Family Tree Heritage 9 is not as feature-rich as other programs. It’s still a good choice for those who don’t need all the bells and whistles available in FTM, Legacy 9, and other genealogy software.
1. Multiple View Options
You can choose what you want to see by selecting a specific type of view. The individual view displays details on a specific person, including relatives, notes, locations, and events. It’s easy to add or modify these details.
The family view displays a single family, while the pedigree view shows you a family tree of all ancestors.
There’s also a simpler name list view that displays a list of names of ancestors. You can sort the list by name, location, dates, and other filters.
Finally, there’s a timeline screen. It displays significant events that happened during a person’s timeline, giving you ideas on where you can do additional research.
For instance, the timeline screen might show that the Civil War happened within one of your relative’s timeline. If your relative served in the army, you could use civil war records to find more information about them.
2. Color Coding and Tags
To easily identify ancestors from different family lines, use the built-in four-color coding system.
Once you assign a specific color to an ancestry line, say your mother’s paternal side, members from that line will be displayed in that color on other screens as well as in charts.
This makes it easy to identify who belong where regardless of which screen you are looking at.
Another way to organize your ancestors is by using tags. You can assign up to three tags per person and then use them to group people by occupation, location, dates, etc.
As with color-coding, tags will appear on other screens as well as on charts.
Family Tree Heritage lets you search Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, WorldVitalRecords, and several others.
Unlike other genealogy programs, Family Tree Heritage does not display hints when it finds matches. You have to navigate to a dropdown menu where you can select which database you want to search in.
4. Quick webpage
Use the built-in webpage tool to pull specific data from your family tree and turn it into a simple family website you can share with other family members.
5. Charts and reports
Family Tree Heritage doesn’t have as many chart options as other programs. But what they offer is adequate for most amateur genealogists.
Options include family charts, descendant charts, pedigree fan charts, large charts for wall display, and box charts. For each type of chart, you can choose from several styles and design options.
As for reports, Family Tree Heritage offers as many as other programs. You can create a birthday calendar/report, a marriage list, a summary report, a relationship report, and so on.
Family Tree Heritage is compatible with Windows 7 to 10, as well as Windows XP.
If you want to use it on a Mac computer, you’ll need a Windows emulator.
Price & Where to Buy Family Tree Heritage 9
Family Tree Heritage 9 is available at the official website for $24.99. You can also get it from IndividualSoftware.com for $19.99.
It’s also available on Amazon.
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6. Best for Serious/Professional Genealogists: Ancestry.com
Ancestry is hands down the best genealogy software for mapping your family tree. It goes far and beyond what any of the other programs offer.
Unlike other programs that only organize the information you already have, Ancestry also gives you access to billions of records you can use to research your Ancestry.
Ancestry is essentially a combined family tree maker and genealogy research platform.
If it’s so good, why didn’t we recommend it as the top all-around genealogy software that most people should get?
Because it’s expensive and it’s not for everyone.
Other programs have a one-time cost. Ancestry requires a monthly subscription starting at $19.99 for a basic plan. It gets expensive, fast.
Considering the financial investment required and the massive amount of resources Ancestry offers, we recommend it for serious and professional genealogists that want to dig deep into ancestral lines.
It’s also a great choice for those who’d like to use DNA as part of their research. Through AncestryDNA (separate package), you can compare your DNA to millions of others to find possible family matches.
- Extensive genealogical records.
- Option to find family members via DNA.
- No downloads – Ancestry works via a browser.
- Smartphone apps are available.
- Easy to use interface.
- Easy collaboration with other family members.
- Easy export and import of family trees.
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Though it is expensive compared to other genealogy programs, we think (and most Ancestry users agree), that it’s worth it.
Not only will you be able to create a family tree, but you’ll also enjoy vast resources at your fingertips to expand your research and find more ancestors.
1. Easy to get started
No downloads, no CDs, and no USB drive. Launch your computer browser and log into your Ancestry.com account to get started (assuming you’ve already paid for a subscription – see further below for prices).
The interface is modern, well laid out, and very easy to use. There are plenty of tips and advice to help you along the way.
The beauty of Ancestry.com is that you don’t need to know much to start a family tree. Just fill in what you know, and Ancestry will help you fill the blanks.
The program searches the vast database to find matches of names you’ve already filled. When you see a shaking leaf, it indicates a possible match. Click on a leaf to see the records and add those you deem relevant.
You’ll be surprised at how much you can grow your family tree just from these hints. You’ll discover new ancestors and find records to complement what you already know about your family members.
Similar to other genealogy software, you can add your images, video, and audio files as well as text.
Note: You don’t always need to start a family tree from scratch. You can also upload a GEDCOM file from any genealogy software.
To organize your ancestors and research, Ancestry recently introduced MyTreeTags. You can apply tags to different people based on occupation, relationship, and other details, then use these tags to filter your family tree.
You can also use tags to indicate the research status of a particular person, e.g., verified or actively researching.
If you have other family members on Ancestry, you can invite them to collaborate on your family tree. And with the recently improved internal messaging feature, it’s super easy to exchange ideas and suggestions with your collaborators.
5. DNA testing
For serious genealogists, DNA testing is an essential part of the research. Ancestry conveniently combines genealogy software with DNA testing on a single platform.
However, you’ll have to pay separately for a DNA test. Thankfully, it’s a one-time cost, not a subscription.
Once you’ve taken a DNA test, you can compare it against that of more than 15 million other DNA samples in Ancestry’s database to find possible matches.
You can then link your matches to your family tree.
To learn more about the DNA testing aspect of Ancestry, read our in-depth AncestryDNA review.
For other DNA testing options other than AncestryDNA, see our reviews of the best DNA test kits, including 23andMe and Family Tree DNA.
Because it is browser-based, Ancestry works on any kind of computer, be it a Windows, Mac, or Linux system.
For the best experience, Ancestry recommends using Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari browsers.
You can also access your family tree via Ancestry’s Android or iOS smartphone app.
Price & Where to Buy Ancestry.com
Visit Ancestry.com to see the various packages and choose a subscription.
The cheapest subscription starts at $24.99 per month or $99 per six months. It gives you access only to US records and Ancestry.
A World Explorer subscription (the US and international records), is $39.99 per month or $149 per six months.
An All Access subscription (all records plus access to Newspapers.com and Fold3.com) is $49.99 per month and $199 per six months.
Ancestry offers a 14-day free trial for those who want to go on a test drive before committing. Remember to cancel the subscription before the end of the trial period if you don’t intend to pay for any of the packages.
Tip: You don’t have to pay for a subscription forever. When you feel you’ve completed the family tree to the best of your ability (may take months or years depending on how extensive your family is and how much information you uncover), you can download your family tree and view it at any time using a free GEDCOM program or viewer.
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Buying Guide: What To Look For When Choosing Genealogy Software
Here’s what to look for when comparing different genealogy programs.
Before you even check any other feature, make sure the software is compatible with your computer system, especially if you have a Mac computer.
Most genealogy software programs are designed to run on Windows, usually Windows 7 to 10 though there are a few that can still run on earlier versions such as XP, Vista, and 2000.
For macOS users, Family Tree Maker 2019, RootsMagic 7, and Ancestry are the only programs among our picks that you can use on your computer without having to use a Windows emulator.
2. Ease of Use
You should be able to start creating a family tree without having to spend hours reading tutorials or watching videos.
Look for genealogy software developed for amateur genealogists, rather than professionals. These have the easiest to use interfaces and navigation.
After getting started on your family tree, you may need to consult the user guide for things like searching for other databases, generating charts and reports, and rectifying errors.
But these tasks should still be fairly easy to do so that you can spend more time building your family tree rather than wondering where to start.
3. Access to Genealogy Databases
Genealogy software is, primarily, computer programs for organizing information. You enter your family information, and the program organizes it into a family tree and beautiful ancestry charts.
But the best programs go beyond organization; they also help you fill in missing blanks.
When you create a family tree, there’s a lot you probably still don’t know about your ancestors, including important dates, events, and locations. Heck, you probably don’t know the names of half your ancestors.
Look for a genealogy program that helps you further your research by providing access to genealogy databases such as Ancestry, FamilySearch, and MyHeritage.
As you fill out your family tree, the program will display hints when it finds a possible match in one of these databases. It could be a sibling to one of your relatives, a record such as a birth certificate, or something else that may help you connect the dots.
The more databases the program is integrated with, the more helpful it’s going to be for your research.
4. GEDCOM Import and Export
This is a must-have feature.
Almost all genealogy programs allow you to upload a family tree from another program, saving you the trouble of starting from scratch.
You can also download your family tree and transfer it to another program.
Most genealogy software uses GEDCOM files for these imports and exports. GEDCOM (GEnealogical Data COMmunications)is a standard file format for family trees that allows compatibility between genealogy programs.
5. Customizable Charts and Reports
All genealogy programs allow you to generate charts and reports. What varies is the number of charts and reports you can create with each program.
Basic low-cost software provides a limited variety of charts and reports, but they are adequate for most amateur genealogists.
Pricier programs like Legacy 9 and FTM 2019 have a much wider range of charts and reports to choose from. They also provide more customizability, allowing you to modify the color, font, size, and style of charts.
6. Smartphone Access
Most genealogy programs tend to lag when it comes to modern software development. Their interfaces look like they are from the 90s, and most don’t offer smartphone access.
Only two programs among our picks have smartphone apps: FTM 2019 and Ancestry.
For most people, the ability to create and access their family tree on a smartphone is not a major requirement. In any case, it’s much easier to work on a family tree on the large screen of a desktop computer or laptop.
The only people who’ll appreciate smartphone or tablet access are those who’d like to work on their tree while on the go.
7. Shareable CDs, DVDs, Books and Websites
It’s nice to share your family tree with your family members. Reports and charts are great, but they are not enough if you want to share all the research and work you’ve done in one go.
For that, you’ll need a genealogy program that provides tools to create sharable CDs and DVDs that you can then send to family members.
Some programs also let you create books and booklets. They automatically compile various charts and reports into a book you can share as a PDF or turn into a printed scrapbook.
Our favorite way of sharing family trees is by creating a family website. Look for a program that lets you create a simple website with just a few clicks.
The advantage of a website is that it is interactive (e.g., people can click on names to learn more about a particular person), and it’s super easy to share with other family members. You just need to send them a link.
It’s also the most effective way to get your kids to learn more about their family, certainly better than giving them a book or a CD (where will they even play it?).
8. Price and Free Trial
Finally, determine how much you are willing to spend on a genealogy program.
Thankfully, most genealogy programs require a one-off payment (though you may need to pay a small price for future upgrades), so you may be able to afford to spend more on a richer program with more features.
The cheapest programs cost about $20, while expensive ones can cost close to $100. For most people, a program costing between $20 and $50 is good enough.
Note: Direct downloads are typically the cheapest. If you order a CD or USB drive, it’ll cost you more because of the shipping and the physical product.
If you’d like to try several genealogy programs before committing to one of them, look for those that offer free time-limited trials or free feature-limited versions of their main programs.
A Note on Ancestry
Ancestry is the only genealogy program in our picks that requires an ongoing subscription, either monthly or every six months.
Because of that, it’s the most expensive way to map your family tree.
How To Use Genealogy Software: Tips and Tricks
This is not a tutorial for using genealogy software. Each program works differently. Consult the user guide that came with your program for specific advice and guidance.
These are general tips to help you get the most out of your money.
The genealogy program should not be your first step in genealogical research. By the time you are buying the program, you should be knee-deep in family records, historical resources, genealogical databases, and other sources of information.
Remember that genealogy programs are mainly good for organizing the information you already have. And if you don’t have any, you won’t find it all that useful. After all, you can easily sketch a two or 3-generation family tree on a piece of paper.
But if you’ve already collected information of five or more generations, genealogy software will help you make sense of it all.
It can also provide a little more help with your research by providing access to genealogical databases.
Before you download a genealogy program, you should have done the following, at the very least:
- Written down all the information you know about your family, including names, relationships, dates, events, and locations.
- Ask your family members for any additional information and records they may have.
- Consulted records such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, business licenses, and land titles to gather more information on your ancestors.
- Gone through historical and genealogical records such as court records, military records, and Censuses (read our guide on how to find your ancestors in the US Census).
- Taken a DNA test to find possible family matches. You don’t have to take a DNA test if you are concerned about your privacy, but it can expand your research and uncover relatives you never knew about.
Many genealogy programs offer hints when they find matching records on specific genealogical databases like FamilySearch or Ancestry.
These hints can make a big difference in the outcome of your family tree, allowing you to flesh it out with extra details and names.
Whenever you see a hint, explore it to see what you’ll find.
Be Careful about Errors
A single mistake when creating a family tree can be devastating, leading you down the wrong path. You may find yourself adding people who are not your relatives.
Though most genealogy programs allow you to undo errors, it is tedious and a waste of time.
Be very careful when adding new names and creating new records (such as dates and locations). Double-check everything you write to make sure you have the correct details.
Be especially careful when copying information from genealogical databases. Hints can be invaluable but also misleading.
Before you add a relative or a record, confirm that it is correct. Without knowing, you may be adding someone else with a similar name.
Forget your favorite Haloween movies. Losing months or years’ worth of work on your family tree; now, that’s horrifying.
Back up your work as often as possible. Ideally, every day you make any changes. Most programs offer built-in backup options either to their cloud service or a third-party service such as Dropbox or Google Drive.
We recommend having at least two online backups.
If it’s possible, also backup your data on a USB drive or an external hard disk.
Our final tip is to share your work with family members. Not only is it fun to help your relatives learn about their family, but they might also have helpful input you can use to build the family tree.
You can share your family tree via charts and reports, CDs or DVDs, a book, or a family tree website. Most programs have built-in tools for sharing using these methods.
Also, check if the program allows collaboration. If it does, you can invite a family member to work on a family tree with you.
Genealogy Software: FAQs
Which genealogy software works with Ancestry?
The following genealogy programs provide direct access to Ancestry’s vast database: Family Tree Maker 2019, Family Tree Heritage 9, and RootsMagic 7.
With some of these programs, you can even transfer data such as records and pictures from Ancestry to the program.
Is Family Tree Maker still available?
Ancestry sold off FTM (Family Tree Maker) to the software company, MacKiev. With FTM 2019 still offers integration with Ancestry.com. You can sync your FTM and Ancestry family trees and access Ancestry’s database from FTM.
What is GEDCOM?
GEDCOM is a file format standard that allows the transfer of family trees between programs. Most genealogy programs accept GEDCOM files.
Can I use genealogy software on my smartphone or tablet?
Most genealogy programs are designed for use only on laptops and desktop computers. Only a few programs like FTM 2019 and Ancestry can be used on a smartphone app, and even then, you may not have access to all features.
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