How to choose the best family tree software
What are the best family tree programs? Should I use genealogy freeware?
Home → A – Z of Irish family history → Choosing genealogy software
There are many family tree programs available and all aim to make it easy to add details of individuals, organise your family relationships, record your sources, add photographs, and print family tree charts. Some also help you to create websites so that you can share your Irish genealogy research with others.
GEDCOM: Means 'Genealogical Data Communication'. This is a file-sharing system which allows you to automatically move data from one genealogy program to another.
All the best family tree software packages support GEDCOM.
Trouble is, there are so many different packages and each seems to have its own loyal band of followers. They also all seem to have their own features and limitations. How do you know which one is the most suited to your needs?
Before you rush out and part with your your hard-earned cash on the first family tree program you come across, it's a good idea to be clear on what you want and expect from the package.
Here are some issues to consider:
Storage and charts
How will you use the information you input to your database?
Sharing your data
Do you want to share your database with other researchers? (If so, you'll want a program with GEDCOM compatibility.)
What kind of reports would you like to be able to produce?
How technical/geeky are you?
Test run a few options
Best family tree software – Straw poll recommendations
After using Family Tree Maker for the past three years, I've decided new family tree software ought to be on my Christmas list. So I carried out a straw poll among some of the more technologically-aware members of my local genealogy society to find out which packages they would choose.
In alpha order these are the five family tree programs mentioned (each received two or more votes):
Family Historian 3.1
When trying to find the best genealogy software for you, look for a company that's been trading for a while, offers great support and fixes bugs.
Most of the top manufacturers offer a 30-day free trial period in which you can try out their program. This is an excellent way of finding out if a family history program suits you and will help you pinpoint the features that you want or need and those you can do without. I would certainly recommend doing this to anyone who has not used any family tree software before. Just be sure you don't spend loads of time inputting all your genealogy findings before deciding!
You could also ask around for recommendations. If, for example, you choose a program that a member of your family history group recommends, you might find that person is happy to offer some guidance if you get stuck.
Be cautious with genealogy freeware
Print magazines often have cds attached to their covers and these nearly always contain some kind of free genealogy software. This is usually a perfectly legitimate way of letting genealogists try out certain features of programs in the hope that they will subsequently upgrade to the full or latest version of the package.
But exercise some caution. There's no such thing as a free lunch and some of these genealogy freeware programs may run spyware ie they record your activities on your computer, or damage your computer (and you'll have no claim against the supplier).
Another thing to watch out for with free or 'demo' programs is that they are often time limited.
Be certain this isn't the case before you spend loads of time inputting all your genealogy findings.