Monday, December 14, 2015

A Genealogy Decision - Post 3 ... Alternative Genealogy Database Software

Note: This article was originally posted at 11:35 a.m. ET on December 14, 2015.

Our "A Genealogy Decision - Post 2 ... Current Sales on Alternative Genealogy Software" summarized the various sales currently going on this month. With this post we will continue our decision by providing an overview and links to some of the alternatives to make further investigation of your options easier.

In our A Genealogy Decision - Post 2, we started out by learning what alternative genealogy software is out there; how these software programs have been rated; and making a list of which ones looked interesting to you. We paused to learn what is currently on sale and now it is time to investigate some of these programs further.

But before you jump into researching each software program, think about what your Must-Haves are in a genealogy program and make a list of them -- a Must-Have List. Then use your Must-Have List as you are investigating and comparing the various alternatives and wading through feature after feature to determine which genealogy software program has what you seek.

What features do you like in Family Tree Maker that you really want to see in your next program. (Aside from being able to search/merge from within the program.) Or what feature is not in Family Tree Maker that you really wished had been there. Maybe it's a powerful sourcing and citation feature; maybe it's a particular type of report or chart or how you can customize them;, maybe it's how the interface works; maybe it is something else.

Remember your Must-Have List will likely be different than the next person's Must-Have List. And your Must-Have List might even change a little as you are doing your comparisons.

Here's one example of how one blogger did a comparison of three programs using her Must-Have features from one of them. The review is a couple years old but it still works as an example.

To investigate the alternative genealogy software that made your list, it helps that almost all genealogy software have a website devoted to providing information about the program, sales and customer service. Take a look at these to see the various features of the program, and screen captures of the program's interface and how it works. Does it make sense with how you work and your needs?

Some companies have video tours for a more interactive feel of the program. Look for these on the website and look to see if the genealogy software company has a YouTube channel with overview, feature and how-to videos. Watch them to learn more about each software program. Also, see if the company has a FaceBook page for its software and take a look at it's customer interactions. Does the company seem supportive and responsive? Do customers seem happy or upset? 

The impressions you get will likely weigh into your decision.

Taking it a step further some genealogy database software have free versions. These free versions allow you to really investigate to see if you like the way that program works for you. We strongly suggest "test driving" a program if possible. We know installing new software can be a little scary sometimes for some people. But being able to "test drive" the program can be very helpful. Be aware that sometimes free versions have set limitations like how many individuals can be entered or printing/saving is disabled. But sometimes the free version has no limitations because the pay version provides even more features for the user. Don't be afraid to try a program out to see if its interface and how it operates works for you.

Here are some of the alternatives out there. We've provided an overview of sorts along with links.

Legacy Family Tree
Legacy Family Tree 8.0
Legacy Family Tree 8.0 is the product of Millennia company, which also produces the Legacy Family Webinars. Legacy is a PC only program that comes in a free Standard version and a pay Deluxe version.

The Standard version is a full-feature program that has no limitations on how many individuals can be entered. Purchasing the Deluxe version unlocks almost one hundred advanced features, like mapping, a Source Writer, interview reports, and powerful search capabilities for within your tree file. See the Holiday Sale pricing mentioned in our Post 2.

There is a features overview and both a webpage tour (click on any screen image to enlarge it) and a video tour of the program. Also, at Legacy Family Webinars there are additional free videos on various Legacy features.

Legacy has put together a How to Import from Family Tree Maker page which includes a video. There is also a comparison guide to other programs but it is a little out of date because the comparison is to older versions of its competitors rather than up-to-date versions.

Reviews of the program can be found at Family Tree Magazine, Budding Genealogist, Dick Eastman's blog, The Legal Genealogist, and elsewhere.

RootsMagic 7
RootsMagic is another alternative genealogy database program company that has both a free version, RootsMagic Essentials, and a pay version, RootsMagic 7, of its product. The company also has a Mac version of the RootsMagic 7 software.

According to its blog, the company has set up a special website that includes training videos and more. It is also where you go to access the "because FTM is retiring sale" offer mentioned in our Post 2. (You will not find the special sale in the RootsMagic Store front.)

RootsMagic has also created "Magic Guides" on a variety of topics like importing data from Family Tree Maker 2008 and later, importing data from Family Tree Maker 2006 and older as well as media import from Family Tree Maker.

RootsMagic Essentials is promoted as containing many of the core features of the pay version. The RootsMagic 7 product page gives an overview of the pay versions features and includes a link to new features as well.

Reviews of RootsMagic can be found at Family Tree Magazine, Genealogy GemsThe Legal Genealogist, as well as other places.

MyHeritage's Family Tree Builder 7.0
Family Tree Builder 7.0
Family Tree Builder (FTB) is the free genealogy database program of the website. Its current version, 7.0, has a limitation of 100,000 individuals on your computer but the company plans to release version 8.0 in early 2016 and it will support up to 500,000 individuals.

MyHeritage's current offer to Family Tree Maker users was mentioned in our prior post. The company also created a step by step guide to exporting a GEDCOM from Family Tree Maker and importing it into Family Tree Builder.

According to its overview, Family Tree Builder (FTB) supports over 40 languages; has a PC and Mac version; creates charts; has a maps feature; can be linked to a private family site (free and pay site); has SmartMatches Technology, Record Matching Technology and Instant Discoveries (when used with a MyHeritage data subscription); and more.

More details can be learned on version 7's initial announcement page. And you can watch an overview video and videos on other features over at the MyHeritage YouTube channel.

One thing the company does not mention is the program's sourcing and citation features which are really important if you are serious about your genealogy. Reviews can be found online by non-company sources like at Genealogy and Genomics, TransylvanianDutch, and Nutfield Genealogy, etc.

Family Historian
Family Historian 6
Calico Pie Ltd., the makers of Family Historian 6 hail from the United Kingdom. The company is welcoming current Family Tree Maker users with 20 percent off a Family Historian license.

Several webpages have been created with Family Tree Maker users in mind. There is a welcome page, user questions page, a discount verification page, as well as a guide to migrating from FTM to FH.

There is also a screenshot tour as well as a video tour of the program. Videos are also available on the software's YouTube channel.

Family Historian does offer a 30-day trail of the program after which a license to the program must be purchased to continue using it. We are not sure if there are customer service issues with the time difference between the United States and United Kingdom.

Ancestral Quest 14
Incline Software are the makers of  Ancestral Quest 14 which has a Windows and Mac version of the program. The program has a variety of features and has been described by some as an alternative to the old, discontinued Personal Ancestral File (PAF) software. There are a variety of tutorials on the website also.

The company has setup a special page for Family Tree Maker users moving to Ancestral Quest. Details of its FTM competitive upgrade sale are in our Post 2. There is also a video of how to bring your FTM file into Ancestral Quest on the software's YouTube channel.

There is also an Ancestral Quest Basics version that is free. It is fully functioning but does not contain all the "bells and whistles" of Ancestral Quest 14.

Heredis 2015
Heredis 2015 is the product of a European company and the program is available for Windows and Mac. Details of its holiday sale are included in or Post 2. 

The website, which feels more like an app, details the software's features and includes a video on the program's new features.The video and others can also be seen on the company's YouTube channel.

Reviews of Heredis can be found at Family Tree Magazine and the Why Are My Ancestors Hiding from Me? blog as well as an announcement on Dick Eastman's blog. Reviews of earlier versions can be found by doing a web search.

Brother's Keeper
Brother's Keeper 7.
Brother's Keeper 7.1 is a stand alone genealogy program that is actually shareware. According to its website, the program works on a variety of windows operating systems, but there is no Mac version. Brother's Keeper has 18 foreign language versions as well as many features.

The program's reports capabilities have been described as highly customizable and the program easy to use. 

Because Brother's Keeper is shareware you can download a trial version and try it before you buy it. The trial version is not limited by size or time but purchasing the program unlocks a lot more features. Though not on sale, pricing details are included in our Post 2.

Reviews of earlier versions can be found at Family Tree Magazine, and elsewhere.

MacFamilyTree 7
Synium, a company in Germany, is the maker of MacFamilyTree 7.6.2 which is available in 16 languages. The software's current pricing sale is detailed on our Post 2. The company does not make a Windows version of the software.

For version 7 the user interface and navigation has been updated. These features and other have been detailed on its website and a variety of screen shots can seen at the website. On overview and a support tutorial videos are on the company's Youtube channel.

MacFamilyTree has also produced a migration guide to help users migrate from Family Tree Maker. There is also a demo version of the program so you can try the program out but it does not allow you to save or export your entries.

Reunion (for Mac only)
Reunion 11
Leister Pro. is the maker of Reunion 11 software for Mac. The company does not make a windows version of the program.

The program has many features/capabilities and website has many tutorial videos. Though Reunion is not on sale at this time, pricing details are in our Post 2. Reunion has created a special page to walk users through the transition from Family Tree Maker.

There is a demo version that let's you play around with the program a little bit. You are limited to entering 50 individuals; import/export is locked; charts and slideshows can not be saved; and printed output contains a watermark. Purchasing a license unlocks the full features of the program.

Reviews for Reunion can be found online (some to an earlier version) like at Sassy Jane Genealogy and elsewhere.

Lastly, with any company's genealogy software you investigate, do not be afraid to contact the company and ask your questions about their software and its capabilities.

We hope this overview of the main genealogy database software options helps you to make your decision. If you have questions, remember you can always ask at one of our meetings. By the number of hands raised at just our Wednesday night meeting, you are definitely not alone in having to make this genealogy decision.

See you soon at Mt. Clemens Public Library!

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