The top performers in our review are Family Tree Maker, the Gold Award winner; Legacy Family Tree, the Silver Award winner; and Family Historian, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 programs.
Whether online or with a CD-ROM, genealogy software is a useful tool that navigates, publishes and organizes data about generations of family members. At its most basic, genealogy software can handle thousands of names and facts about the ancestors you have already found. All the programs we reviewed follow a basic pedigree format for entering names in a visually organized way. With the information you enter into the software, the program can create charts and reports about statistics and patterns seen throughout your family. As you research, you can attach images and sources to each individual, creating a virtual library of your family history.
The best genealogy software has these features plus close connections with online genealogy searches. This results in common features such as an in-app browser, web hints and synchronizing abilities. Any of these features make research faster and easier by combining the abilities of genealogy websites with genealogy software. Depending on the kind of genealogy software, you may find extra features such as instruction manuals, genealogy books or memberships to genealogy web searches.
To be the best, these programs must be able to accommodate thousands of individuals, create charts and site sources. The best of the best allow you to conduct the same work online through genealogy searches as well as within the software. Genealogy software is available for Mac and PC users, but the products we selected here focus on PC users. If you're an Apple user, check out our lineup and reviews for Mac Genealogy software. Many of the programs we found have close associations with genealogy websites, but we based our lineup around traditional software that requires a CD-ROM or online download to acquire. To learn more, check out our articles about genealogy software.
The best genealogy software is speedy, social and has plenty of storage capacity to hold data about your family. When you add generations of names, images, facts about individuals, sources and other data, genealogy databases grow quickly. It's common to see programs with thousands of individuals listed.
The best programs are more than a genealogical database. They also double as a research tool. More and more, internet connectivity is becoming a crucial feature in the tools genealogists use. Our Gold Award Winner has features that connect you to popular genealogy searches, sync with online tree makers and import any sources you find online. When you're conducting research on hundreds of people at once, speed becomes important. According to the genealogists we spoke with, web enablement and easy sourcing features are high on the list of priorities. These features allow you to research quickly, import what you find and attach them to the correct person.
Easy sourcing features like auto-formatting allow you to keep correctly formatted citations of all the materials you gather for your database. Correct formatting is important for organizing giant batches of data and helps professionals share their sources within the correct guidelines.
Selecting Genealogy Software: Other Considerations
All the genealogy software we reviewed can generate charts and reports from the information you gather. Creating charts is more of a side feature for most genealogists, but if you plan to create publications with genealogy software, consider who will see them. Most programs have charting capabilities for basic publications like ancestor and descendants trees, suitable for personal records or sharing with other researchers. The best programs have templates and clean, modern backgrounds available to apply to your charts if you want to create heirlooms and gifts for family members. Among these programs, some allow you to upload your own backgrounds to the charts. This means you can add treasured family photos into the design of anything you create. Even the most basic chart designing features allow you to adjust the nodes and information contained in the chart and report based on what you find most important.
Verdict and Recommendations
Our top contenders for our Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards go to programs that exemplify the best and most essential features. Legacy Family Tree, Family Tree Maker and RootsMagic all have outstanding charting features to create family tree charts and reports. They also make creating detailed family profiles easy with customizable data fields, so you can focus on details important to you.
They also all connect to web searches like Ancestry and FamilySearch. Web capabilities allow you to search through online genealogy databases without leaving the software. Top picks like Family Tree Maker sync your tree to these websites so you can work with your most current drafts online and within the software. These programs can also sync sources you find online into your own database. So when you find information on your family, you can immediately store it in the software.