Genealogy Computer Programs

There are a number of genealogy programs available to make your research easier.  Before you begin to choose, you should know some basic differences…

  • Personal software programs are software you download to your computer and your tree is saved to your computer.
  • Online family tree programs are accessed online and are saved through the website.  You can download your family tree to a GEDCOM file (“Genealogical Data Communication” extension like a a JPEG extension indicated an image).  This saves it to your computer as a backup (recommended).
  • World tree programs build a world tree. This is a collaborative effort and can be very rewarding, but anyone can change information and if this is your only record, it is possible to loose your work.

There are many more options than I will list, I’m just including some of my favorites:

1.  Personal software:

Rootsmagic found at  There is a free version of this program.  The full version is currently $29.95.  It gives you hints and works very well with  It will also sync with

Legacy Family Tree found at  There is also a free version of this program.  The full version is currently $34.95.  It has lots of printable forms and works well with  It does not provide hints though.

Family Tree Maker found at  This is a more expensive program, currently $79.95, but it sync’s well with Ancestry trees and is my favorite program.  It also has some pretty nifty DNA features.  It does go on sale at genealogy conferences.

2.  Online family trees: is the leading online tree site.  They have a huge database including billions of records that provide “hints” and are available to search.  You also have access to many other’s trees.  It is easy to understand and has lots of help available.  It is my favorite, but it is not a cheap, $ 19.99 a month or $99 a year.  You can access for free in many public libraries as well as the family history centers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  (Click here for more information on those locations.) is a well respected site as well.  It allows you to build a family tree for free.  They have a millions of international trees and many international records exclusively.  This is a good site to visit even if you do not build your tree there. is another good site.  Again, you can build a tree there.  FindMyPast has a great many records of Great Britain and New York as they hold the New York Genealogical & Biographical Association records. is a free site and a favorite of many users.

3.  World trees: is the absolute leader here.  It is run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the site is free to anyone, you just need to create an account.  There are hints available.  They have billions of records to search as well.

My preferences:

I primarily work on and use Family Tree Maker.  I do have Rootsmagic as well, but am not actively using it.  I quit focusing on personal software because my grown kids were wanting to see what I was doing and didn’t have the program. I think Ancestry is very easy to use,  very clear and user-friendly.  I regularly download my GEDCOM file for a backup and sync my trees on Family Tree Maker should something happen to my tree on Ancestry.