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How to Select the Right Family Tree Software

How to Select the Right Family Tree Software

When you start researching your family tree, you are going to need an easy and convenient way to keep all of the information organized and accessible in one place. Family tree software makes this possible, allowing you to add information and sources with ease, delete information you later discover is incorrect, and look up people with a simple use of the index (rather than sorting through untold generations on a family tree chart). Let’s face it, you can’t keep track of everything on note cards… family tree software is a must.

But, there are a lot of different types of family tree software programs out there. How do you decide which one is the best one for you? Here are some of the most important things you must consider when choosing the family tree program you will use to organize and keep accurate track of your research.

1. Do You Use a PC or a Mac?

This is the most important question, as some programs are made specifically for one type of computer or another. Make sure you get one that is compatible with your computer.

2. Do You Need Your Software to Have Mobile Capabilities?

If you do a lot of genealogy work in the field, you may need a program that can be loaded and operated on a mobile device. Not all of them are mobile compatible, so be sure to read the box thoroughly for the software’s mobile features, if any, before you purchase it.

3. Do You Want to Print Out Large Family Tree Charts?

Some people really enjoy printing out family tree charts as gifts or for themselves. There are programs that do this and programs that do not do this. Other things you may want to consider are whether the program allows you to attach photos, audio, and/or video to the family tree charts. It all depends on what you want your tree charts to do, and how high tech you want them to be. Choose the program that has the capabilities you want so you won’t be disappointed.

4. Do You Want to Share Your Research With Others?

While most genealogists want to share their research openly with other researchers, others prefer to keep their research secret, especially if they are planning on publishing it as a book. If sharing is important to you, choose a program that allows you to publish your research online. If not, it doesn’t matter if the software has this capability, as you will not be using it.

5. Do You Want to Print a Book of Your Research?

If so, you will want to select software that has this capability. If you want your book to look really professional, whether it is for publication or for gifts, you should choose a program that prints your source citations as footnotes and/or a bibliography.

6. Do You Need to Read Genealogy Information from Other Programs?

If you collaborate with other genealogists around the world (or even just in the United States), you may be sent files generated in different programs. If this is the case, you need your genealogy software to be able to read that information without losing any data. Be sure to choose a program that is compatible with most other programs, so you can always read the files you are sent.

Once you know what you want your family tree software to do, you should have no trouble comparing the various types online or in an electronics store to find the perfect program for you. Just remember, there is always a bit of a learning curve when using any new software for the first time, even if it’s highly intuitive, as most genealogy programs are these days. Be patient, give yourself time to learn it, and you will be happy with your selection.


Will founded Ancestral Findings back in 1995. He has been involved in genealogy research for over 20 years. The thrill of the hunt, the adventure, and the excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his Moneymaker surname. Why I Love Genealogy (And You Should, Too!)

4 Comments

  • Which program does all of the above and also works on Linux. I am trying to use Roots Magic and Gramps and still miss my Family Treemaker 2006 and my Windows XP, so I am mostly saving my info in Word docs and Spreadsheets.

  • This is good for a start, but it would be extremely helpful if we knew which programs provide which features. Just the major features would be enough to start looking. Thanks.

  • I need all of the above. I used Family Treemaker from 1998 until my Windows XP made version 2006 obsolete. Newer versions made it harder to produce and share a concise single page text file of multiple generations that I could cut and paste to a query page or email. So, I am floudering.

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