Saturday, January 14, 2017

Open House Follow Up: Options to Keep Track of Your Genealogy Discoveries

One question was heard quite a bit at the recent MCGG Open House. What can I use to keep track of all of this?

For anyone that does not use a computer, the answer is the various genealogy forms in the MCGG Beginner's Packet.

For anyone with computer access, the answer to that is an online genealogy tree and/or a genealogy software/program for your computer. Several options exist and which one to use depends on how you work and think, and how you feel about sharing/privacy.

We suggest investigating your options. If a program looks like a possibility for you and it has a free option then try the free version out. If you decide you like it, then decide if the pay version is worthwhile for you or not. Ask a variety of our MCGG members what they use when you attend one of our meetings. If they have their laptop with them, they might even demonstrate the program they've chosen to use.

So what is out there for keeping track of things?

Online trees come in two forms.
  • Personal trees which you control (add/delete/edit) often have privacy settings that can be set to public (anyone can see it) or private (only you or those you invite can see it) depending on how you feel about sharing/privacy. Online trees at websites like, FindMyPast websites, and are examples of this.
  • Collaborative trees which are an online shared tree meaning everyone works on the same tree that allows anyone to add/delete/edit any person. Online trees at and are examples of this.

Most websites with online trees have some privacy controls that keep information on living persons private. Generally online trees have fewer charting and reporting options than those in genealogy software. Additionally there are sometimes fewer events/fact fields to chose from and fewer source citing options. The advantage is that you often can access an online tree from a variety of devices not just a specific device. The disadvantage is that you have to have internet access to access an online tree.

Desktop genealogy software is made by a variety of software publishers.

Generally desktop genealogy software has more charting and reporting options than online trees. There is often more event/fact fields to use and more source citing options. By having your tree on your computer you control access, adds, deletes, and changes to the information in it. Another advantage is that you can see and work on your tree without the internet if needed.

Almost all genealogy software has a website devoted to providing information about the program, sales and customer service. Take a look at them to learn of each program's features and how the program's interface looks/works. Some companies have overview, feature and how-to videos on their websites or a YouTube channel and these are good ways to get the feel of how a program works.

Most genealogy software is distributed by online download but some offer the option to purchase the software on a CD or USB drive for an extra fee. Also, printed software manual books are usually an option for a fee though most are e-books/PDF files now. Remember, genealogy software (downloaded or on a physical device) is a one-time purchase not a subscription with annual costs. Only when a major update to a program (i.e. version 7 to version 8) is released by a software company is there an additional update cost. Minor updates (i.e. version 7.2 to version 7.4) to a program are usually free. And always remember to make sure your computer meets the minimum system requirements to run the software you are considering purchasing.

Here are some of the current desktop genealogy software that we have talked about in other posts back (1, 2, 3, 4) at the end of 2015 when genealogy software choices were the hot topic of the day due to announced changes to come at the website. The "loud" voices of genealogists were heard and a popular product was saved. We have updated this information where needed (like new version released since then) and added the starting cost of each program. Generally a download of a program costs less than a program on CD or USB drive which has to be physically delivered.

Family Tree Maker
Family Tree Maker is not dead in case you had not heard. It is now a product of The Software MacKiev Company. There is a Windows version Family Tree Maker 2014.1 and a Mac version Family Tree Maker 3.1 of the program which costs $69.95 for one computer license. If you want the program on a CD or USB drive there is an extra charge. If you have an earlier version of Family Tree Maker, you can get an upgrade to the new versions for just $39.95 by signing up for the FTM mailing list.

Currently, Family Tree Maker is still the only genealogy program that syncs with the online trees, and the only program that lets you merge records by searching from within the program. It also works with the Ancestry Hints (Shaky Leaves) feature. It has a variety of charts and reports and has an interactive location map. MacKiev has a Frequently Asked Questions page regarding and support pages for Family Tree Maker.

MacKiev has said it is working on updating Family Tree Maker to continue the TreeSync, search/merge and hints features when makes its planned website update.

A review of Family Tree Maker 2014 can be found at TamuraJones. One FTM user has a whole blog devoted to using and helping others use Family Tree Maker so there are many screen captures to get an idea of how the program looks. Another third-party article talks about the latest MacKiev FTM update and how to get it can be found here.

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 currently still a Windows only program that comes in a free Standard version and a pay (starting at $29.95 for a download) Deluxe version. Legacy is working on releasing version 9.0 of its software. And we understand a Mac version might be in the works too.

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.

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.

Legacy has indicated it is working on updating Legacy Family Tree to add the Ancestry Sync feature when makes its planned website update.

RootsMagic 7
RootsMagic has both a free version, RootsMagic Essentials, and a pay ($29.95) 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.

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.

RootsMagic was the first company to announce it is working on updating its software to add the Ancestry Sync, search and download features when makes its planned website update.

MyHeritage's Family Tree Builder 8.0
Family Tree Builder 7.0
Family Tree Builder (FTB) is the free genealogy database program of the website. Its latest version 8 supports up to hundreds of thousands individuals. A few features from version 7 are temporarily disabled while they are being worked on.

The company 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 8's initial announcement page. 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.

Family Historian
Family Historian 6
Calico Pie Ltd., the makers of Family Historian 6 hail from the United Kingdom.

Several webpages have been created with Family Tree Maker users in mind. There is a welcome page, user questions 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 ($46.50 USD) 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 15 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. Some tutorials are for older versions but the basics of them still apply to the current version.

The company has setup a special page for Family Tree Maker users moving to Ancestral Quest. 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 15 which begins at $29.95 for the download version.

Heredis 2015
Heredis is the product of a European company and the program is available for Windows and Mac. We last highlighted Heredis 2015 when exploring alternative genealogy programs but it appears there is a new version Heredis 2017.

However, it appears the website for Heredis 2017 is only in French unlike the website for the 2015 version so the website is of little help to those who do not speak French.

Brother's Keeper
Brother's Keeper 7.
Brother's Keeper 7.2 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 for $45.00 with printed manual and CD or USB drive. The trial version is not limited by size or time but purchasing the program unlocks a lot more features.

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 8.1 which is available in 16 languages. The company does not make a Windows version of the software.

For version 8.1, which costs $59.99 in the Mac App Store,  is the largest update the company has released. 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, which costs $99.00,  has many features/capabilities and website has many tutorial videos. 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.

At the website, Keith Riggles has written a multi-part series on genealogy software that provides another look at the software we have mentioned as well as some others. Riggles has taken a look at the tech aspect of dealing with GEDCOMs into and out of each program. GEDCOM is a specification that allows different genealogy software to share information, hopefully without loss of data. Scroll to the bottom of the article to see the complete list of all the articles in the series.

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.

See you soon at Mt. Clemens Public Library!

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