Tracing Your Genealogy

Family Tree Software Options

Whether you are a beginner or a professional in genealogy, some form of family tree maker software will be your most valuable tool. The features will vary from software to software, but the most common software packages will provide similar features to store and view your research, link individuals together based on their relationship and merge individuals into family groups. They should also identify and merge duplicate entries and print your research out in a variety of formats. Many of these products will also link to the internet to aid your search for individuals and entire families.

There are two types of genealogy software to consider, the first, those that are downloaded from the internet or CD to your computer, and the second is web or online based. Each of these can further be divided in to free and paid options, with paid being a one-time payment or a monthly recurring charge.

There are many types of family tree maker software available and a few of the more popular software products are mentioned here, in no particular order.

Free Software

When starting out, free genealogy software is a good way to go if you stay with the popular names. Some of the free versions are in fact the full paid version with some of the features locked. This means that you are getting a stable and supported product that will be professional, reliable and have a good level of support from the makers and online forums. The free options mentioned here, also have a full featured paid option. There are many other free options but there will be a big variation in the quality and features available, and the support for the product. The three mentioned here, have the option to upgrade to the paid version for the full set of features.

Legacy Family Tree – Standard Edition

For those new to genealogy software, this is a good starting point and a top level product. It has the benefit that it can be easily upgraded to the Legacy Family Tree Deluxe Edition (a paid version) when you require more options and features. There are a total of 98 advanced features not found in the Standard Edition, but this does not mean it is a poor relation. Many of these features will not be required by the beginner, but will become useful as your knowledge and experience grows.

Key features of this software are the tips on start-up, the creation of research and correspondence logs and you can bookmark individuals you wish to return to. Notes and sources are catered for with the ability to add location, general, research and medical notes to individuals. The source assistant is helpful when recording reference numbers for documents and attaching sources to notes.

Legacy Family Tree now has the capability to connect with and exchange data with the FamilySearch database to assist with your research.

Legacy Family Tree standard edition is a stable and respected option and would have to be one of the top contenders for free genealogy software. It can also be upgraded to the Deluxe version if you require the added features.

See full details on the Legacy Family Tree website.

Family Tree Builder

This is the free version of the genealogy software developed by, and has a clean look with easy navigation toolbar and buttons for the beginner, and many features for the intermediate user. It has some powerful features such as Face Recognition, SmartMatching and Online Family Tree Publishing. If you want to publish your data on web and share it with others, you can publish to your private space with a single click. The software allows 1000 tree names, and 15 family members to join and share your research.

The software has a component called “The Complete Genealogy Reporter” built in that creates a book report in PDF format. This includes a photo for each individual, indexes of dates and places, and paternal and maternal ancestry charts. The flexibility of what to include is limited, and if you want the full control feature, you will need to register the “Complete Genealogy Reporter” for around $25.

Two niggling features are that the software regularly asks if you want to publish your data to the web, and as you seek more features you will get a message to say that the selected feature is only available in the Premium version. The ability to add Word, PDF, or text files is limited, but the limitation is resolved again by the paid version.

A good and well respected software product for the beginner.

See full details on the Family Tree Builder website.


Genpro has been noted here as there is a 30-day free trial. However this does not provide you with the full feature set, and this is in line with the “free” versions available with other software options. The full feature set can only be accessed on the purchase of a single user license.

More detail of this product can be found in the “Paid Software” section below, or on the Genopro website.

Paid Software

Of the may paid software options available on the internet, a selection of those that are generally considered to be the best available are highlighted here.

Legacy Family Tree – Deluxe Edition

This is the full feature version of Legacy Family Tree and has nearly 100 advanced features that are not found in the Standard Edition. Most of these features would be used primarily by the intermediate and advanced researcher but can still be very useful for the beginner. There are many recently added features to the deluxe edition, and some worthy of special note.

The first is the set-up wizard that has been added to make the starting of a Legacy tree an easy to understand process. Legacy now uses of Microsoft Virtual Earth to automatically plot the origins of your ancestors with 3-D, satellite and bird’s eye images of where they lived, making it easy to track your ancestor’s migration. There is now an extended selection of wall charts available so that you can now produce full-color wall charts – ancestor, descendant, fan, hourglass, bow tie, and a variety of DNA charts.

SourceWriter makes it easy to select the correct format to match the genealogy standards for source citations when printing footnotes, endnotes and bibliographies. The new Standardization Tips feature alerts you if something questionable has been entered for an Individual to help you keep the data in a standardized format, and the Relationship Calculator allows you to see how any two people are connected, through direct blood relationships and also by marriage.

There are over 1,200 pre-written interview questions and memory triggers to help you plan your discussions with family to identify information and memories. Attaching pictures, audios and videos has always been there, but now you can attach any other kind of document, including PDF and Word files to individuals. The Standardization Tips feature alerts you if something questionable has been entered for an Individual to help you keep the data in a standardized format, and the Relationship Calculator allows you to see how any two people are connected, through direct blood relationships and also by marriage.

Based on features and ease of use, Legacy Family Tree is a prime candidate for the title of #1 Genealogy software.

See the full details on the Legacy Family Tree website.

Family Tree Builder Premium

This software is produced by and is certainly one of the most downloaded options with over 6 million worldwide. There is a 30-day free trial but you will then be required to upgrade to the full version that will provide the additional features of SmartMatch, SmartResearch, All in One Charting, and the online publishing of audios, videos and documents. It also provides a subscription to a premium family research site, similar to ancestry.coms access to 100 databases it owns or shares.

The easy to use, friendly wizard allows you to create a family tree simply, adding new individuals with ease using the templates for births, deaths, marriages and so on. Even when hundreds of individuals have been found in other databases, these can be added with just a few clicks, as can photos, videos, audio files and documents. As an international site, it supports over 35 languages, with the ability to produce charts in two or more languages and provides spell checking in any one of the supported languages.

A useful and easy to use feature is SmartMatch that matches your tree against millions of others and automatically identifies new relatives to extend their research. SmartResearch allows you to research your family tree automatically in over 100 of the top genealogy databases online.

Like most top genealogy software, Family Tree Builder features some face recognition technology to identify individuals in your photos that you may not have been aware of. Automatic Photo Tagging technology is also included to make it easier to label, organize and search for your photos. Again, like most of the top software, a Maps feature is included to plot where your ancestors come from and to enhance your family tree.

If you want to publish your research to the web to share or collaborate with others then is a leading online source for families. Members can publish their family tree plus any related media – photos, videos, audio files and documents from Family Tree Builder to their own personal web site, for sharing with family members and others. Family Tree Builder is certainly one of the top software products in this field and has good online FAQs and Technical Support.

See full details on the Family Tree Builder website.

Family Tree Maker

Family Tree Maker is one of the top family tree building software products around and is ideal for the beginner and the experienced genealogist. This software includes a Getting Started Guide, a tips booklet and a tutorial. The seven workspaces are logically organized and easy to navigate, and wall charts would have to be some of the best around.

This software now has integrated scanner support that allows users to add images directly from the scanner to their family tree. It also uses a GPS/Latitude-Longitude system to mark the origins of ancestors on a digital map to show the geographical distribution of your ancestry. From this you can create timelines to plot their migration, as well as their education, occupation and marriage and they can include images, maps and data.

The Web Search workspace allows you to search,, and from the search engines from within Family Tree Maker. This integration with sites, allows users to automatically source data using an account with them. There is usually a month free subscription when you purchase Family Tree maker, but will cost you around $25 per month after that.

Charts and reports are basic with some including only core facts. The Pedigree chart doesn’t automatically show baptism and burial information if the birth and death dates are not known, and you are not able to include pictures or an index in the Genealogy Reports.

One particular aspect that may concern users relates to creating a family history book that requires you to upload a GEDCOM file to To do this you have to agree that “Ancestry may compile, reproduce, and distribute, all information about nonliving individuals in your submitted GEDCOM file.
The makers of Family Tree Maker claim to be #1 for Genealogy software, they are certainly a prime candidate.

See full details on the Family Tree Maker website.


GenoPro is a very user-friendly genealogy software program with a relatively short learning curve for the beginner. The Wizard makes adding family members easy, and you can upload an unlimited number of photos to each family member. Visual presentation is excellent and you can publish your work on the Web with the click of a mouse. The family reports are published to the GenoPro hosted webpage. This allows you to share your genealogy research with family and friends while creating an online backup of your research.

GenoPro uses a system of genogram symbols to create your family tree that makes it easy to understand the relationships and family dynamics. Some genealogy software available doesn’t allow for same-sex relationships, GenoPro does. You can also describe how family members family felt about one another, perhaps a family feud between them.

Genopro’s has good customer support, free online hosting. If there are any drawbacks for this software, it may be that the features may not be sufficiently comprehensive enough for the advanced genealogist, and it is a little more expensive than the other genealogy software available. Having said that, it is still a very good software option.

For full details of this product go to the Genopro website.

Ancestral Quest

Ancestral Quest is a great piece of software that is ideal for the beginner and experienced genealogist with an intuitive layout that is ideal for new users of family history software. The collaboration wizard allows users to import family history data from other software programs and websites using an integrated importing wizard. This tool will compare your existing data with that on the imported files and allows you to select which data is to be retained where there are overlaps. A feature that is becoming common in other software options is the called AQ2GO, which allows users to run Ancestral Quest on any machine running windows from a flash drive that can be carried around. This can be useful for those who perform a lot of in places like public libraries as you can run a version of Ancestral Quest without a new installation.

A few of the other key features of this software are you can record DNA tests against each individual, store names and places in any language, use the options to link with online genealogy databases such as to help with your research. There is an individual summary screen for any individual in your tree and a nice feature to Scrapbook information that you aren’t sure of for a later date.

Although the publishing options are a little difficult to find initially, they are simple to use and provide users with a range of publishing options to create professional looking charts, family group sheets, ancestry charts, descendant charts, genealogy book reports, fan charts and more. Although these options are available, they are not the nicest looking documents and could be viewed more as technical documents, rather than publications to share with friends and family.

There is a good level of help and support from the FAQs for solving common problems, and from the phone or email support for more specific issues. Ancestral Quest has a good collection of features that are ideal for both the novice and the advanced genealogist, however, the software lacks the completeness and finesse, not does it have a free version that some of the other top software options have.

See full details on the Ancestral Quest website.


Documenting Your Family History is easy with the intuitive interface and multiple navigation views and a Source Wizard to help the beginner include the necessary information in the correct format. The search function makes it easy to find any individual in your family tree and sources can be created and reused multiple times, and applied to multiple individuals at once. Like all top genealogy software you can add photos, audio, video and documents to any person, place, source or event.

The updated SourceWizard now allows you to cite your sources that follow recognised standards and notes or stories can be added to any fact or person. There are 60 predefined fact types (birth, death, marriage, occupation etc) and you can also create your own user defined fact types and has a customizable sentence structure so you are not limited to the built-in source types.

A few of the tools worthy of note are the powerful merge capability including SmartMerge and ShareMerge that streamline the merging of data. Marking of possible duplicates as “not a match” and possible problems as “not a problem” can be done directly from the problem list and the Geo-coding feature provides a worldwide database of over 3.5 million places for mapping people and places.
Color coding of groups of individuals in your database has been extended to the printing of charts and reports and timelines. RootsMagic was the first to let you track both the Y-Chromosome (paternal-line) and Mitochondrial (maternal-line DNA) tests.

To assist your research there are excellent research planning and tracking tools in RootsMagic that include a correspondence log, interactive problem list, missing information list, and “to do” lists for specific individuals or families. The correspondence log will keep track of all your incoming and outgoing correspondence. There is an integrated WebSearch feature to connect directly to selected sights available to you with you subscription, and it is a fairly simple process automatically create a website that will include photos, audios, notes, sources, index and surname list.

Publishing your family history has been made easier by the Make Shareable CDs, to create a CD to give to others that has a custom menu and a read-only version of RootsMagic. The RootsMagic Publisher lets you create a complete book that includes narrative, notes, charts, photos and index title pages, table of contents, free form text pages and many other features. Wall chart printing is impressive with Ancestor, Descendant, Hourglass Charts and Timeline Charts in any orientation, and charts printed on regular size paper or on large format printer up to 57 feet wide.

By all accounts, the support is excellent on the RootsMagic Web site with one of the software authors being an active participant. A couple of points on the negative side for this product would have to be the limitation of supporting only Windows and English.

For full details of this product go to the RootsMagic website.

Generations Family Tree

This software is not as common as it once was but has been included here because it has been around for a number of years and was held in high regard.

See Generations Family Tree for more details.

Web Based Software

What about Web based Genealogy Software & Collaboration Tools

This is a free service from that allows you to record and share your family tree on the internet in your own password-protected Online Family Tree area without any additional software. You can start from scratch or upload a GEDCOM file and then invite family members to join you in researching, editing and adding new information.

To create your Online Family Tree you will be required to register as a guest or be a paid subscriber. If you wish to search the databases for family details, you will have to signup for one of their plans.

To check it out, visit the Ancestry website.

MyHeritage allows you to create a free family tree online, print a family tree chart and perform an online family tree search. The search will require you to signup to one of their database search plans.
They provide information to help you learn how to make a family tree online.

To check it out, visit MyHeritage Online website.


Geni claims to have over 70 Million profiles stored and allows you to build your family tree, share family photos and videos and invite relatives to collaborate in a private and secure area.

To check it out, visit the Geni website.

Choosing suitable family tree maker software will be a decision based on cost, the features you may need, whether or not you wish to collaborate online with others. If you do wish to collaborate with others, read the terms and conditions carefully to be sure that you are comfortable with them and for your research to be on the internet.

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