The Best Genealogy Software

genealogy software programs

A screenshot of Rootsmagic for my own family tree. Click to enlarge for more detail.

I know that some people prefer the traditional paper format to keep track of their genealogy research, but the practice of using software has become a little more the norm. But if you are new to the field or are looking to make a change, how do you know which programs are worth looking into?

I’m not going to do full reviews on all of these, but there is a quick intro into the main genealogy software programs that are popular right now. Just remember that they all basically offer the same fundamental features and are going to have a lot in common. But it can be the style of interface or certain extras that makes one better for you than another. Take advantage of any free trials to get the idea of what each program offers before you take the plunge.

I personally use RootsMagic, in case you were curious. I’m pretty happy with it but I will be writing up a fuller review later on.

RootsMagic – As I said, this is the software that I use. There are lots of chart and report options so you can change up how you organize or view your tree, and you can also create a book with your data. I found it easy to alternate between pedigree and family group views, and the tools for logging your work and keeping a to-do list are very handy. There is a free trial, and the main package is around $30 but you can bundle that up with other products if you want additional features (like their Family Atlas or Personal Historian).

Legacy Family Tree – I like that you can get the basic version of Legacy Family Tree for free, though it is really a bare-bones version. You can present your tree in several ways, and keep track of up to 6 pedigree windows at once. There is a research tool to help you keep track of which parts of your tree need more work. If you want to go beyond the free version, the deluxe package is $40.

The Master Genealogist – Maybe not for the novice, but this is a really thorough program that offers a wide range of detailed features if you have the time to learn them all. It’s extremely customizable so you can tweak it to suit your genealogy needs, and it comes in a gold or silver edition. The gold one is $60 and the silver is $34. They are both more if you choose to have a CD delivered with your purchase. You can try a free trial first.

Family Tree Maker – This genealogy program is best known as an extension of the Ancestry.com website. It integrates fully with the site which gives it excellent search and research capabilities. You can also use its tools for creating good charts or even a book to be published. Though it’s main claim-to-fame is the connection with Ancestry.com, this is a fully features program on its own. The basic version is $30 and the complete package is $60.

Personal Ancestral File – I wanted to toss out one more free option. Personal Ancestral File is put out by the LDS Church and is designed to work with their documentation formats. But it is a great entry-level program for anyone, so you don’t actually have to be a Mormon to make use of it. No fancy features, but it does give you flexible tools to maintain and organize your family tree. There isn’t really a page for it, so follow this link and scroll down the products on the left.