Disclaimer: These hints are all my opinion based on my experiences. What works best for me may not be what is best for you! Read these for information and opinion, but when you make choices, do what feels right to you! And if you have advice, please feel free to leave a comment. Genealogy works best when we all share and learn from each other!
You can build a family tree online many places, but most experienced genealogists recommend that you build your family tree in a database on your own computer and then export a gedcom file to be imported to one or more online sites that let you build a family tree. (I will be discussing these sites in a coming post) There are many reasons for keeping your tree on your own computer. Here are a couple.
- Some sites let anyone make changes to the family tree so if someone who is not as meticulous in their research as you are comes to a different conclusion, they can also your family structure!
- Online site have been know to be sold or go out of business. If the site disappears and your only copy of your tree is on the site, all of your hours of research is lost! If the site is instead sold to another company, the new company may require a subscription for you to access your data.
- Online site have been know tor crash. Just like when a company goes out of business, you may lose access to your tree and all of your hard work.
There are many family tree programs available. Some are Windows only and some are Mac only. All offer free versions or trial versions that allow you to try the program out and upgrade to a paid version later if you like it. Here are some of the most popular.
- Reunion - this is Mac only and the one I’ve be using for over a decade! There is also a companion app, ReunionTouch, for your iPhone that lets you sync over dropbox so you can make changes on the go
- Legacy - this is Windows only. There is a free version and a paid version. Click on the download link to see the differences. Most beginning genealogist will probably not need anything more than the free version gives you, but you may well want to upgrade as you become more experienced!
- Family Tree Builder from My Heritage - this is a free program for building a family tree. I have not used it, so I’m not sure how much functionality there is without a My Heritage subscription. There is also a companion My Heritage mobile app for both iOS and Android, but again, I do not know if it is dependent on a subscription to My Heritage.
- Roots Magic - There is a free version, Roots Magic Essentials, which is probably all a beginning genealogist needs. Again, you may want to upgrade to the paid version as you gain experience. Click on the ‘Features’ link to see the differences. There is a companion app for your mobile devices, however, at least in the case of the iOS app, it has not been updated in almost 18 months. I suspect it may be one of the apps that will not work on the iPhone after the next iOS update in the fall.
- Heredis - I just discovered this one and I’m impressed. I probably won’t switch because I’ve been using Reunion forever, and I’m used to the way it works, but I’d give it serious consideration if I was just starting out. I particularly like that there is a mobile app and it looks good! You can sync with the desktop apparently, but can also use it as a stand-alone or import a gedcom from your software — which I’ve already done! It looks great on my iPad!
Some things people like to consider when making a choice
- Features available
- Syncing with Ancestry (not something I find useful or smart, but you might)
- Mobile app companion and ability to sync your tree on all of your devices. (through the cloud, over your network, through gedcom import, etc)
- Access to support (Reunion has a message board with participation by both users and developers who jump in to answer questions and offer)
- How frequent are the updates
- Are there built in search abilities (these allow you to search Ancestry and other sites directly from your database
- Report & Chart generation -
- Source templates - this is VERY important and one of the things you need to commit to doing right from the beginning!
The best way to make your decision is to download the free version of a couple of different apps and decide which works best for you.