Best Genealogy Software for Family Tree Building

If you are a budding family tree builder, you may be wondering which genealogy software to use. In this article, we will discuss the best genealogy software available for family tree building and what the paid and free options are for you.

For many people, researching their family history can be an exciting adventure, especially when they can find out things they did not know about before. Knowing how to get started in genealogy can seem like a daunting task, however, if you figure it out it can be satisfying.

With all of the advancements in technology, there are so many options today that did not exist even 10-20 years ago. Along with the websites that you can use to trace your heritage, there is also genealogy software that allows you to work offline as well as online.

Our Top Picks

  • Legacy Family Tree is the most well-rounded genealogy software, offering an interface that's easy for beginners to use with powerful indexing capabilities that keep it useful even to experienced genealogists
  • Family Historian is the perfect software for someone who'd rather focus on genealogy than technology; it's simple to use, and links up with Family Search to make importing and exporting findings easy
  • RootsMagic is popular among legitimate genealogists for its functionality, portability, and versatility -- it allows you to work from more than one family database at a time, and Windows, Mac, phone, and tablet versions all exist

Comparison Table

Legacy Family Tree

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: No
  • Can be used on mobile: Yes
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

Family Historian

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: No
  • Can be used on mobile: No
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: No

Gramps

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: Yes
  • Can be used on mobile: App exists, but is not updated and no longer works
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

Family Tree Builder

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: Yes
  • Can be used on mobile: Yes
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

RootsMagic

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: Yes
  • Can be used on mobile: Yes
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

What is Genealogy Software?

Genealogy software is a program you can purchase, or get for free from some companies, that is used to help you with your family history search. This is software that is typically installed on your computer to allow you to complete your work offline.

There are certain things that this type of software can provide you with on your journey to finding out more about your heritage. While some software options will have more to offer than others, most of them provide you with the ability to create certain records.

Take a look at some of the basics that genealogy software can help you create:

  • Develop your family tree
  • Keep files on your ancestors and record things like their relationship to you, specific dates, and where they may have lived.
  • Create a list of resources that you used or can use to find valuable information
  • Develop several databases for family trees if you are keeping track of more than one
  • The ability to share with others either by printing or sending it electronically
  • Keeps your information protected and the software updated regularly
  • Allows you to store various documents and photos for safekeeping and family tree usage.
  • Helps you to find additional sources of information
  • The ability to upload your information into other genealogy databases and programs online

While this is not an exhaustive list of the various things you can do with genealogy software, this should give you an idea of the many advantages you may want to consider.

Why Do You Need Genealogy Software?

To make it simple, you do not need genealogy software, that is unless you run into a situation where your internet connection goes out, or the website goes down. This is the risk you take with keeping all of your data on an online program.

With genealogy software, the program is always there and does not require you to have an internet connection to access it. While the online programs are great, you may want to consider using genealogy software also.

Most genealogists use multiple sources of information to do their research and store the information for their clients. This is because you may be able to find out additional information through the different sources this way.

Additionally, keeping both your online records and the records offline in the software can help prevent loss of data if something happens. Experts even recommend that you back your software records up to a flash drive just in case your computer crashes.

What Types of Software Exists?

When it comes to searching your family history, there are many different types of sources that you can use. This is because technology has advanced so much that many companies are creating new ways to search for ancestors.

Most everyone is familiar with online software such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch that allows you to subscribe and then build your family tree. These sites have additional services that are offered to customers to gain more information about their heritage.

For example, with websites like Ancestry, you also have the option to submit your DNA for testing and then have it tied to your family tree, which is most commonly known as a Public Member Tree. This allows you to make connections with other people that may be related to you down the line.

Other types of genealogical software are the type that is downloaded on your computer as software. This gives you access to your records whether you are on the internet or not.

Many people use both types of software in conjunction with each other so they can form an all-around ancestry record. Additionally, this allows you to export information back and forth between software.

What Features Should You Look For in Genealogy Software?

Finding the right genealogy software can seem confusing at first, but once you know what to expect, you should be able to make your choice. It is important to do your research before you decide on which software you want to invest in.

As you are deciding, there are several features that you should consider to ensure that you get the best possible software to fit your needs. Check out the list of features below that you should look for before you purchase your genealogy software.

  • Are there methods of printing or exporting reports? This could come in handy especially if you are keeping documentation somewhere other than your computer.
  • Does the program have GEDCOM capabilities that allow you to export information from your online software to your desktop software?
  • Is there a help center available for the onboarding process or just in case you have questions at some point?
  • What does the company say about updates? It is important in any software for regular updates to be performed so that everything stays working properly.
  • Is there an option to try out the genealogy software before you purchase it? Some companies offer a trial period so you can take a look around before you buy it. This allows you to see if it has everything you need.

Depending on your circumstances and preferences, there may be other features that you would like the software to include. If this is the case, then you may need to do a bit more research to see if you can find something that fits your needs.

Best Genealogy Software

The best genealogy software depends more on what your expectations are and what you are looking for. If you are looking for a basic program that will help to create a family tree, then you may end up paying a smaller cost. However, if you want more, you will have to pay more.

Since there are online programs and desktop applications that can be used for your family history search, it is important to decide which is best for you. As stated previously, you will want to ensure that you have done your research to determine what features they have and if they will suit you and your family.

Read on below to learn more about the 5 best genealogy software that you can purchase for your desktop.

Family Historian

Family Historian is genealogy software that is perfect for those just beginning to dive into their family history. The user interface is easy to use and does not dive deep into the technology side of things, making it a great choice for those who are not technologically savvy.

Once you have everything set up with the software, you are ready to start entering your information and creating your records and family tree. As you are working on your family tree, the sections are expandable and collapsable to show you only what you are currently working on.

The downside to this software is that they do not currently have DNA integration so if you have done that somewhere else, you will not be able to export it in. Additionally, this software may be better suited for those who are of British descent and is compatible with both MyHeritage and FindMyPast online options.

Legacy Family Tree

There should be no surprise that the Legacy genealogy software made it to the list of one of the best programs on the market. This is because the Legacy name has built a reputation for genealogical studies and has offered their services for quite some time.

Legacy is considered one of the best mostly because it comes with the bells and whistles you would expect to find with a genealogy company. In addition to extensive charts that are available and reporting and exporting capabilities, the program can also track your DNA using state-of-the-art software.

With a backup system in place within the software, there is no need to worry about your information disappearing if something goes wrong. The system also offers a variety of online training for those who need a little extra help.

Key Features

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: No
  • Can be used on mobile: Yes
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

Pros

  • The interface is very simple to use, which makes inputting data a quick and easy process
  • Legacy provides highly accurate GEDCOM files, even including notations for same-sex and polygamous unions for historical accuracy where other programs do not

Cons

  • Though it's easy to use, both the interface of Legacy and the charts it creates have a distinct "vintage" appearance mirroring the tech of the Windows XP/Vista era
  • If you want to use Legacy on a Mac, you'll need to use a Virtual Machine

Where to buy: legacyfamilytree.com

Family Tree Maker

Family Tree Maker is another genealogy software that has been around for more than 10 years and has a reputation for being a great product. They also offer some of the best features that you would want to see in reputable genealogy software.

One of the newer features is the ability to link a limited number of family trees to your own so that you can have a wider view of the extended family history. They also offer a feature that allows you to make minor edits to photos if you have a need.

The software is compatible with Ancestry and FamilySearch websites which makes it easy to export data back and forth to keep a more accurate record of your heritage. While Family Tree Maker is now owned and operated by Mackiev, they have continued to make limited changes to give customers more flexibility.

MyHeritage Family Tree Builder

While MyHeritage Family Tree Builder is listed as one of the best genealogy software options on the market, it does not have all of the features that other programs have. It does however have many options that some of the other software programs do not have.

For example, Family Tree Builder provides the ability to include various other websites that allow customers to do a more thorough search on their family history. This means that instead of just focusing a search on one country, there is the ability to incorporate others as well.

One of the great features Family Tree Builder offers is the ability to integrate with website programs like Ancestry, RootsWeb, and FamilySearch. This gives customers the ability to have access to quite a bit of records, documents, and other information.

Key Features

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: Yes
  • Can be used on mobile: Yes
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

Pros

  • It features an attractive, modern drag-and-drop interface that's easy for beginners to grasp
  • Thanks to a partnership with Generations Maps, you can order or download a copy of a customized genealogy chart

Cons

  • Although the software itself is free, many of the most desirable features require Family Tree Heritage Platinum subscription or other similar premium membership
  • There's no way to apply one source to multiple entries, nor do customized source forms exist, so entering the information can become repetitive

Where to download: myheritage.com

Gramps

There's plenty of great genealogy software out there for Windows users, but if you use Linux or are on a Mac, it's not as easy to come by. For many, Gramps is something of a holy grail -- not only is it highly functional genealogy software, but it's available on Windows, Linux, and Mac, and it's free! The open-source, Python-based application is available for download at no cost whatsoever.

There's one downside, which is that it's not the easiest possible choice for beginners. You may face a bit of a learning curve when it comes to inputting data, but as you gain experience, the program feels more intuitive. The larger issue is that to get the most out of the program, the installation of third-party plugins is required, which can be a bit complex for those who aren't tech-savvy.

That said, if you know your way around open source software and plugins, you'll certainly be able to mold Gramps into a program that meets your needs. Plugins, which are cutely referred to as 'Gramplets', add dynamic changes and interactivity to the base software; if you're an expert at Python, you might even consider coding an add-on that will create the exact functionality you desire.

Another benefit to Gramps being open source? You're never locked into a client relationship with anyone genealogy company, nor does any company have access or ownership to any part of your genealogical records.

Key Features

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: Yes
  • Can be used on mobile: App exists, but is not updated and no longer works
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

Pros

  • The program is open source, which means it's totally free genealogy software and always will be
  • It's compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux, which can't be said about other genealogy software

Cons

  • There's a learning curve to entry, and it can feel rather complicated when you're starting out
  • The base program itself isn't very novel, so you'll need to install plugins called Gramplets to unlock more functionality -- this may be difficult for someone who isn't tech-savvy

Where to download: gramps-project.org/blog/download

RootsMagic

RootsMagic is another genealogy software that is not as popular as others on this list, however, they offer many features that compete well and even outperform other software programs. For example, with RootsMagic, you can work across several different databases at the same time and even transfer some of the information back and forth.

RootsMagic offers a variety of methods to create reports to share with others in quite a few different formats. This makes up for the fact that they do not have as many charts or other features as some of the other software options available.

This software program can interact easily with websites such as FamilySearch, Ancestry, and MyHeritage. This provides a phenomenal amount of information that can be used to create your family history.

Key Features

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: Yes
  • Can be used on mobile: Yes
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

Pros

  • RootsMagic relies on Family Search, which means access to one of the world's largest genealogical databases to research your family's history without any hidden charges
  • The learning curve is limited, so new users can usually pick the program up without too much of an issue

Cons

  • Though you can create charts, customization options are few and far between and the results aren't that attractive
  • The software sometimes produces errors when importing GEDCOM files

Where to buy: rootsmagic.com

How Much Does Genealogy Software Cost?

The wide variety of genealogy software on the market can range in costs from pretty reasonable to super expensive depending on what features you are looking for. Like most other things, the more features you have access to, the higher the price, in most cases.

Here is a rundown of the current prices for the various pieces of genealogy software featured above:

  • Family Historian - $64.95
  • Legacy - $34.95
  • Family Tree Maker - $79.95
  • RootsMagic - $39.95

It is important to keep in mind that the prices are current as of this publication and are subject to change at any time. Additionally, each of these different software programs offers upgrades that can be purchased for varying prices.

The advantage of purchasing the upgrades is that you gain access to a wide variety of newer features that the basic program does not offer.

Is There Free Genealogy Software?

Although a majority of the featured genealogy software options above cost a range of different prices, others on the market are offered free of charge or at least with a free trial.

MyHeritage Family Tree Builder is one of the free genealogy software programs that is offered for free to everyone. As seen above, even though this software can be accessed for free, does not mean that it is lacking in capabilities that might fit what you are looking for.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it is important to keep in mind that while the best genealogy software depends on the features you are looking for, it also depends heavily on your pocketbook. You must do your research to find which one will suit you and your family best.

Keep in mind that you can also connect with your history by using websites like the Statue of Liberty Foundation which allows you to search passenger manifests that you can use as a resource in your family history search.

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