Which is the best family tree program?

I am often asked this question, and it is a difficult one to answer. This is an expanded version of my most recent answer.

The answer depends on what you want to get out of the program. There are some things you need to think about:

  • Ease of use – is the layout easy to understand, and is it easy to work out what you are supposed to do to enter and change your data?
  • Output – what do you want to do with the data once you’ve entered it? Reports, charts, websites and screen display are all ways of seeing the data you have spent all that time entering, and if one is more important to you than others you should look for a program that offers more in this area
  • Flexibility – will you want to change it to suit your own requirements – how it looks, what types of data it can handle

Trees and clouds

All programs will do the basics – allow you to enter and change data, and give you basic reports and perhaps charts. I personally prefer the more fully featured programs that have many different options and are flexible enough to cater to whatever you want to do with it.

I also prefer programs that allow you to download a trial version for free. You never really know how a program will suit you until you try it out, and many programs allow you to do this. I have used Family Tree Maker in the past and found that it was limited in many ways, although it has changed a lot since then. It is NOT available to try out for free, although it is the most popular.

If I was buying a program today I would look at The Master Genealogist, Legacy, and Family Historian. All three are customisable and allows proper citing of sources, and have a long list of features.

There are some free programs around too – PAF and Brother’s Keeper are examples. If you’ve never used a program before try 2 or 3 of the free ones to see how you like them – whether they do what you want, and how easy they are to use. You may find that you are perfectly happy with these and don’t need to spend any money at all.

Then there are the internet programs that allow you to enter your data and share it with others, or not. Examples are MyHeritage, which has its own program that runs on your own computer, and TNG (The Next Generation).

There is a new Australian book out that goes into the subject in some detail, which gives a detailed description of many programs and compares them using comprehensive tables of features. The book was written by an Australian researcher and teacher, and is available here.

Most people who ask the question want to be told the name of a single program which they can confidently go out and buy. I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that because everyone is different, and has different needs. I can’t tell you which car to buy, or which breakfast cereal is best, or which cookbook you should buy. Family tree programs are the same.

Take a couple out for a test-drive and see what you think.

Social Media for Family Historians – my first book!

Social Media for Family Historians front coverSocial Media for Family Historians, my first book, was published on Friday 22nd October 2010. It was launched at the Unlock The Past History and Genealogy Expo in Sydney.

It contains 76 pages in full colour to explain what social media is and why it is of use to family historians. It introduces more than 25 websites that can help family historians, and anyone with families, to communicate, share and collaborate with each other.

I think social media could have been designed specifically with family historians in mind. The networking that we do as researchers is made much easier by social media sites, and the interest that we have in distantly related family members is way beyond that of a normal person!

We can share our family trees, documents, photos and videos; use Skype to communicate across the world; and write a blog to share our discoveries with family members, and to allow others to find us.

Here is the Table of Contents:

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. What is Social Media?
    • The Internet
    • Self-publishing
    • Social media
  • 3. Why use it?
    • Advantages
    • Disadvantages
  • 4. Communication
    • Chat
    • Mailing lists and Forums
    • Social Networking
    • Blogs
    • Microblogging
    • Virtual Worlds
  • 5. Sharing
    • Family Trees
    • Photographs
    • Videos
    • Social Cataloguing
  • 6. Collaboration
    • Wikis
    • Social Bookmarking
    • Documents
    • Questions and Answers
  • 7. Dangers
    • Risks
    • Some simple rules
  • 8. What are you waiting for?
  • Appendix 1. How to get started with Facebook
    • Sign up for Facebook
    • Using Facebook
  • Appendix 2. How to get started with blogging
    • Find a host
    • Create an account
    • Name your blog
    • Set Security
    • Create your profile
    • Select a design
    • Start writing!
    • More advanced blogging

The book is $19.50 plus postage. It will be available from Gould Genealogy any minute now, or directly from me. Email me if you are interested in purchasing a copy at carole (at) heritagegenealogy.com.au.

Top 10 Social Media Sites for Family Historians

I think that social media was made for family historians. We are different from other people – we actually enjoy finding distant relatives and keeping in touch with them! Social media helps us to find relatives and old friends in ways that were not possible in the days of mailing lists and message boards.

Here are 10 social media sites that are not directly related to family history (except one) but are nevertheless important for communicating, sharing and collaborating with other family historians, and family in general.

In alphabetic order

Blogger is the best-known of the free blog hosting sites. Writing a blog about your family history and the discoveries you make is one of the best ways of getting young people interested. It’ is owned by Google so you can use your Google ID to log in and create as many blogs as you like.  The address of your blog will be yourchosenname.blogspot.com. You can choose from a large number of designs and options, and posting is quick and easy.

Delicious is a social bookmarking site. You can save bookmarks to sites as you find them and categorise them however you wish. You can also find sites that others have similarly categorised, which can save you a lot of time when researching a topic or place.

Facebook is a social networking site used by 500 million people around the world to connect with friends and family. It is easy to find people and for them to find you, if you want them to. As long as you change the privacy settings as soon as you join, and don’t click on anything you don’t understand, you will be safe from harm.

FamilySearch Wiki is a collection of over 40,000 articles on many aspects of genealogy research around the world. Articles can be added and changed by anyone, making it progressively more comprehensive.

Flickr is a photo and video sharing website. You can share as many photos as you like (within reason) with as many or as few people as you like. Photos of ancestors and places of historic value can be made public to attract others interested in the same people and places, and uploaded to the National Library of Australia’s Picture Australia.

Google Docs is a free office suite of applications that allows you to share documents and collaborate with others. Word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and forms are all available. They are accessible to you anywhere as long as you can connect to the internet. You can keep them private or make them available to others to view or edit.

Google Reader is the most popular method of reading the blogs to which you have subscribed. You can open it in a full page in your web browser or in a small corner of your Google homepage, and quickly whip through a lot of posts from many different blogs in a short time.

Skype is a free program that allows you to make secure voice and video calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world over the internet. You just need an internet connection and a computer with a microphone and speaker such as a laptop, or an inexpensive headset. You can also buy a Skype phone to use like a regular phone, and make calls to regular phones, although they charge for this service.

Twitter is a ‘microblog’, where you can make short posts of 140 characters or less to give links to photos, websites, blog posts, or just ask questions and hold conversations. Twitter posts, or tweets, are searchable so you can find people interested in the same things as you. So many people and organisations use Twitter to let us know what they are doing that you can always learn something useful.

YouTube is a video sharing site that allows you to upload videos and share them with a few people or with everyone. You can search for videos on family history and other topics from archives, libraries, genealogy record companies and many other organisations.

I use most of these sites on a day-to-day basis. Many of them are now part of my daily life. I talk to my immediate family; share documents and photos; save bookmarks; read blogs and check Twitter on a regular basis. Although my own blogs are not hosted by Blogger, prefering to use my own hosting, I recommend it highly for first-time bloggers.

Try some of these out; do some searching; and see what you can find. You might be surprised. And hooked!

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