Which is the best family history software?

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16 December 2020
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With so many genealogy software options, how do you decide which is right for you? Read on for our guide to choosing the best family tree software for your needs.

Why use family history software?

Millions of people house their family history research in online family trees, so why might you want to use family history software as well? Read on for an explanation of the different genealogy software options and see the tools they provide to enhance your family history research.

A good family tree programme can help you:

  • Grow an extensive family tree with direct and indirect family members shown. You can also create, share and print a wide range of family tree charts
  • Search for your ancestors in the record collections of many of the key genealogy sites, from within your software, and import those new details right away (note: you may need a subscription to the relevant genealogy site to gain the full benefits)
  • Keep really organised research – for instance adding in source citations and notes about your discoveries
  • Write reports using the automatically-generated templates based on the data you’ve entered to your family tree
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How much does genealogy software cost?

Before we go any further let’s look at the cost, as the thought of additional spending may put some people off. Some of the programs do provide free versions, however, and you can upgrade should you decide you want the full range of functions.

At the time of writing (December 2020), prices range from £19.95 for the RootsMagic Basic Edition, £35.99 for the download version of Family Historian and £89 for Family Tree Maker on disc. These are one-off purchase prices, and while you will need to continue to update to later versions once you’ve found a program you like, the update fees are just a fraction of the price of buying the software initially.

Free versions of family history software

RootsMagic Essentials, TreeView Lite and Legacy Family Tree Standard are all reputable free versions that may be used free permanently and allow you to grow a tree with an unlimited number of ancestors. Other family history programs may offer trial versions, which may put a limit on the number of ancestors entered, or a time period after which the trial will expire.

Which is the best family history program?

People tend to have very strong feelings when it comes to family history software – at times a little frustrated, but very often extremely loyal, long-standing users too. Any of the programs will entail a learning curve, so it’s a really good idea to experiment with them and try out those trial versions and see which appeals to you most.

Which family tree software should I use?

Above we’ve outlined the main tasks that you’re likely to use your family history for, so go through each program in turn and see how intuitive you find it to:

• start a brand new family tree

• import a GEDCOM

• add notes

• and cite sources.

Does it meet your needs?

  • Consider – do you like the look of the reports and charts created by the program?
  • If you subscribe to a website does the software allow you to search directly?
  • Do you want to create a family history website? If so, does the program have functionality to help you?
  • We all get stuck sometimes, so what does the software provide in the way of help? Is there an integral help button in the software? Does it come with a user manual, or can you buy that additionally? Does it have a user group where you can ask for and share advice?

Buying a family history program does require finanical outlay and, very often, a little perseverance to get the most out of it. However, it will also enable you to create thoroughly researched, recorded, organised and analysed family history, which you can export with pride to share on the web and with family today, and on into the future.

QUICK LINK: The 50 best websites for family history