Which family tree software is best?

This is a big question. The Society of Australian Genealogists attempted to help find an answer for 25 or so budding genealogists earlier this month in a day-long seminar showing demonstrations of 6 different family tree programs – Family Tree Maker, Legacy, Personal Ancestral File, Reunion, something else, and The Master Genealogist.

The answer is different for everybody. I find that TMG is best for me, after doing some thorough research (as a good genealogist does!) on the features of each program a few years ago. So far I haven’t seen anything to change my mind about this, although I’ve seen programs that do some things better and have nice little features that I like, none of them have enough of these to make me want to change programs.

The question, then, is – which family tree software program is best for you? You have to work out what is important to you. Any program you use should have the basics, and I would be very surprised to find any on the market, or free on the internet, that don’t. The first one I ever used that my uncle, an amateur programmer, wrote, and although he was a good programmer he was not much of a genealogist. For example, the program didn’t have a place to put death dates. This is what I mean by basics – any program you find will have places to put basic information – birth, christening, marriage, death and burial dates and places, links to spouses and children, the sources for all of this, and some way to get the information out again – reports and charts.

After the basics everything else really are just extras that you may or may not decide you need. So you need to see how easy it is to use, and understand. There are different layouts, some that look like a family group sheet on the screen with parents at the top and children in a list underneath, and others that look like Windows Explorer with folders that open other folders.

Before you go out and buy a program, try one of the many free ones. Cora Web has an excellent page on family history programs here http://www.coraweb.com.au/software.htm that I won’t try to copy. Or have a look at the Genealogical Software Report Card at www.mumford.ca/reportcard/ for a comprehensive comparison of all of the popular programs.