Choosing a Genealogical Software Program

When you are first beginning to research your family tree, it seems easy enough to remember who you are researching and what you have accomplished. However, quickly you discover that you have a number of individuals and are beginning to compile a list of research tasks that you need to accomplish. Before you get too many names and records, you will want to consider acquiring a genealogy software package. The alphabetically-arranged chart below gives a highlight of features to consider and costs of different programs. You may want to start with one of the free programs for your system (or see if the program you are interested in has a “trial” version) before committing money to a specific program. When you are just beginning you may not yet know how you feel about the different entry screen interfaces or if you want to have multiple source citations or be able to create a Web page. Using one of the free, or trial, versions of software allows you to learn what you like and don’t like about the software you think you may be interested in purchasing.

The chart below identifies some of the most popular genealogical software programs, however, there are many more that exist. Print friendly version. To find a comprehensive list and links to their web sites, please consult Cyndi’s List Software and Computer.

Choosing a Genealogical Software Program
Live broadcast: January 25, 2016
Presented by: Rhonda R. McClure
Level: Beginner - Intermediate Running Time: 1:00:12
Description:Genealogical software can help you organize your family history research, generate charts and reports, correct entry mistakes, and visualize your progress. Join Rhonda R. McClure to learn how to select software that’s right for you and how to transfer your files from an old program to a new one.

ProgramOperating SystemEntry Screen
Access to Online SitesSource Citation TemplatesResearch Log AbilityCreate a Web PagePortable Options/SynchronizationSpecial Notes
Ancestral Quest
Cost: Free (Basics); $29.95 (Ancestral Quest 14)
WindowsTabs (Pedigree, Family, Name, List, Individual, Timeline)FamilySearch, Ancestry ($), World Vital Records ($)multipleTo Do Items, Research LogYesFamViewer (iOS - $9.99), GedView (iOS - $3.99), Family Bee (Android - $10.00), GedStar Pro (Android - $9.95)Putting the famiy on a phone or tablet is done using a GEDCOM file and is not done directly through the Ancestral Quest program
Brother’s Keeper
Cost: Free (no manual or support); $45.00 (BK 7.1)
WindowsTabs (Events/Facts, Children, Notes, Pictures, Media, Address, Names, Siblings, To Do)NonesingleTo Do TabNoNoneOffers a variety of alternate languages for the reports and interface
Family Tree Builder
Cost: Free (Basic), 60.00€ (includes Premium Membership)
WindowsPedigree ViewMyHeritage (Free/$)singleTo Do TasksNoMyHeritage (iOS, Android - Free)Tree displayed on the App is through the Web site
Family Tree Maker
Cost: $39.99 (Windows); $69.99 (Mac)
All-in-One (adjustable)Ancestry ($)singleTo-Do List (individualsNoAncestry App (iOS, Android - Free)Ancestry App accesses your tree via
Cost: $39.90 (Windows); $59.99 (Mac)
Offers a Trial Version in both format
All-in-One (smaller windows for different items)NonemultipleTo DoYesHeredis App (iOS, Android - Free)Program can synch across PC-Mac Apps. Can link witnesses and other non-family related individuals via events.
Cost: Demo (free, runs for 16 days), $29.95
MacCombination view and Tabs (Individual, Family, Ext. Family, Relatives, Events, Notes, Comments, Sources, Pictures, Story, Ancestors, Descendants)NonesingleTo Do ItemsYesNoneCan link witnesses and other non-family related individuals via “Associated Person”
Legacy Family Tree
Cost: Free (Standard); $29.95 (Deluxe)
WindowsTabs (Home, Family, Pedigree, Descendant, Chronology, Index, Research Guidance)FamilySearch, Ancestry ($)multipleTo Do List (Individual, General)YesFamilies (iOS, Android - $15.00), Pocket Genealogist (Windows Mobile - $20/$35)The Research Guidance feature suggests resources, extremely helpful for beginners

Cost: $59.99
MacAll-in-One (adjustable)FamilySearchmultipleTo Do Items, Research LogYesMobileFamilyTree (iOS - $14.99)MobileFamilyTree is a completely stand-alone program that can be synched via Apple's iCloud or Dropbox if also using the desktop version of the software.
Cost: $99.00
Offers a Demo Mode Version
MacAll-in-One (adjustable)NonemultipleLogs (General - not attached to individuals)YesReunion (iOS - $14.99)Synching warns you if you have changes on device when synching from computer
Cost: Free (RootsMagic Essentials)/$29.95
Offers a Trial Version
Tabs (Pedigree, Family, Descendants, People, WebSearch, Timeline)FamilySearch, Ancestry ($), Fold3 ($)multipleTo Do (Person, Family), Research Log (Person, Family, Event, Place)YesRootsMagic to Go (included w/ Program), RootsMagic App (iOS - free)RootsMagic App is just a reader
The Master Genealogist
WindowsAll-in-One (adjustable)NonemultipleTo Do ListsYesPocket Genealogist (Windows Mobile - $20/$35), GedStar Pro (Android - $9.95)Allows researchers to link non-family individuals through events

$ indicates a subscription Web site

RootsMagic 5

Example of a Tabbed interface
RootsMagic screenshot