This is a question asked often by those just starting out and those who’ve been at it a while and find limitations in their current software. The answer, as the great Judy Russell often says, “It depends.” While all genealogy software is mostly the same, allowing you to enter the biographical information, cite where that information came from and write notes, some have extended features worth noting.
This article does not cover every available software on the market. Wikipedia has a great comparison chart of the different types of genealogy software.
Family Tree Maker® 2019 – $79.95
FTM has been around for 30 years and in that time, has seen some massive upgrades from its original version. FTM 2017 included the ability to sync from your computer to an Ancestry® tree or to a FamilySearch tree. This also gave you the ability to receive hints, merge, and search on Ancestry® and FamilySearch.
New to FTM 2019:
- Hints in the Index – FTM 2019 now links to FamilySearch’s six billion historical records in addition to Ancestry® tree hints.
- Turn Back Time® – A change log has now been included and the software keeps track of the last 1,000 changes, giving you the ability to roll back before the mistake was made
- TreeVault® Cloud Services – This new service takes your tree to the cloud, allowing it to synch with FTM 2019 on your mobile devices. Included in TreeVault® is a link to Historical Weather, allowing you to add context to your ancestor’s life. Another great feature of TreeVault® is the Next of Kin designation, passing your files on to the next generation.
- Rich Color Coding – This enhances the 2017 version of color-coding, allowing you to mark your ancestors or filtered lists with colors to visually see links between ancestors.
- Charts & Reports – Includes colorful tree charts, such as pedigree, descendant, bowtie, and fan charts, and create reports that provide a snapshot of your family tree and help you plan what to research next.
- Media – Organize your photos, historical records, audio, and video files, within your family tree. Included is the Photo Dark Room, for restoring old photos.
Operating Systems – Mac OSX 10.10 or newer and Windows 7 or newer.
Heredis® 2020 – $69.99
Many American genealogists are becoming familiar with Heredis, the leading family tree software program in Europe made in France. According to the developer, each new version is conceived based on input from users who are best able to tell us what is truly needed. Here are some reasons to consider Heredis:
- Trial – Full free trial, up to 50 people added.
- Dashboard – This powerful tool lets genealogists know where they are in their research, all in one place. It’s fully customizable with widgets, making it truly your centralized workspace.
- Smart Search – You can search major genealogy databases, including FamilySearch and online archive websites. Smart Search allows you to search your own data with multiple criteria and save those search models for later.
- Midnight Blue Theme – There are 10 different color themes with the newest being midnight blue. Easier on the eyes and helps you avoid visual fatigue.
- Custom Reports – Generate fully-customizable Reports and export them to Microsoft Excel or CSV formats. Six templates are available: Ancestors, Descendants, Persons, Events, Sources, and Places.
- Geolocating Place Subdivisions – You can search for a specific subdivision on a map in OpenStreetMap, cut and paste it from a toponym, complete/replace it, and drag-and-drop it on the map.
- Zoom in on the World – Using OpenStreetMap, you can now find all the details on a place, a list of the towns, hamlets, topographical information, and extend your search to bordering places.
- Family Tree Mapping – Visualize your family tree on a map and navigate to an area.
Operating Systems – Mac OSX 10.12 or newer and Windows 8 or newer.
Mobile App – iOS 7 or later and Android 5.0 or newer.
Legacy Family Tree 9 Deluxe Edition – $79.95
Legacy Family Tree 9 is a fully-featured program that has been very popular in the genealogy world for more than 20 years. Purchased by MyHeritage in 2017, they plan to release version 10 with an optional family tree sync feature.
- Free to Use – Legacy Family Tree Standard Edition is an unlimited free to use with the basic functionality of the deluxe edition.
- Hints – LegacyFamilyTree connects with GenealogyBank, FindAGrave, FindMyPast, FamilySearch and MyHeritage to search these sites simultaneously, right from the software.
- Color Coding – Color coding is available in the index view and name list, for easy visual sorting.
- Hashtags – There is an unlimited number of hashtags to assign to people within a tree, for easy sorting and searching.
- Chronology Comparison Chart – A great tool for viewing two people side-by-side. The fields are color-coded, so you can see at a glance the difference between two people.
- X-DNA Chart – Besides all of the standard charts that come with Legacy, new to version 9 is a color-coded X-DNA chart, to track genetic inheritance.
- Legacy Cloud – This is a free service that allows you to keep one backup of your file on the Legacy Cloud system. This is a great way to add another layer of backup security to your hard work!
Operating Systems –Windows 7 or newer. It is not compatible with Macs unless installed with Bootcamp, Parallels, or Fusion.
MacFamilyTree 9 – $59.99
MacFamilyTree 9 was the largest version upgrade in the software’s 21-year history. As the name suggests, it’s only available for Apple computers and integrates with the companion MobileFamilyTree app, available for iPhone and iPad.
- Demo – MacFamilyTree does offer a fully functional demo of their software but you cannot save, print, or export.
- New User Interface – The new interface has a modern look with a more logical structure, which is easier and more comfortable to use.
- New Charts – The improved charts include nearly unlimited configuration options, new themes and templates, text-only themes, improved PDF exporting along with a new distribution chart, double ancestor chart, fan chart, and tree chart.
- New Reports – The new reports include themes and styles ranging from plain text to colorful designs with easy configuration. This includes a new status report, timeline report, changelog report, fact list, and a new person list. Source citations are completely configurable, and each report can be exported as plain text or an RTF file.
- Images – Included with this update is a vintage photo colorizer and enhanced image and editing features.
- DNA Test Results – Add DNA test results to each person in your family tree, with support for Y-DNA, mtDNA, and autosomal tests.
- CloudTree Sync & Share – Sync any size tree to the cloud and share it with friends, family, and between your devices.
Operating System – macOSX 10.13 High Sierra or newer.
Reunion 12 – $99.99
Reunion 12 helps you to document, store, and display information about your family – your ancestors, descendants, cousins, etc. It records names, dates, places, facts, plenty of notes, sources of information, pictures, sounds, and videos. It shows family relationships in an elegant, graphic form – people and families are linked in an easy-to-understand fashion. The companion software ReunionTouch for mobile devices sync with Reunion 12 for genealogy work on the go!
- Demo – Reunion offers a fully functional demo of their software, up to 50 people, without import or export functions.
- Duplicate Check – This new feature checks for duplicates, alerting you when adding new people to your tree.
- Citations List – A powerful and flexible tool for reviewing, searching, managing citations, and citation details.
- Improved Fan Charts – Charts now include fans from 150° to 360°, with the ability to exclude empty cells, color code, and control the display of how each fan looks.
- Color Tags – These provide visual clues to distinguish different groups of people in your family file.
- Citation Search – Three new powerful searches in the find panel include the Number of Citations, Cited Source Number, and Citation detail. These allow you to search for text within the citation detail, searching for people with a particular field with no citation, cite a certain source, and more.
Operating System – macOSX 10.7 or newer.
RootsMagic 7 – $29.95
RootsMagic 7 is an award-winning software making researching, organizing, and sharing family history easy. Navigating your family tree through the Pedigree, Descendants, and People tabs is a breeze.
- Free to Use – RootsMagic Essentials contains the core features of RootsMagic, with unlimited capacity.
- CountyCheck – Alerts you to counties, states, and provinces that didn’t exist for the date entered.
- NameClean & PlaceClean Tools – These two tools are very helpful in correcting problems with names and places in your tree.
- Charts & Multimedia – RootsMagic allows you to create customizable timelines, charts, and photo trees. The drag and drop feature allows you to quickly add photos to any person’s media gallery.
- Searching – The powerful multi-criteria search is an asset to RootsMagic. You can search by a name or date and if using the Everywhere search, it will also search sources, the research log, and notes. Also included in version 7 is the ability to search FamilySearch and MyHeritage directly from the software.
With RootsMagic 8 in the works, it appears it will be a major overhaul of the look and feel of RootsMagic 7. There are some new features that will be coming with the next version: color-coding, mapping, updated edit screen, with new reports and charts.
Operating Systems – Mac OSX 10.08 – 10.15 and Windows 2000 or newer.