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What is the Best Genealogy Software?



I get asked this question all the time. My answer is always the same…it depends. It depends on you, your skills, and what you are looking for in a genealogy software program.

But how do you know what you are looking for in a software program if you’ve never used one before? It’s like buying any major purchase in your life, your first home, your first car, you don’t know what works for you until ten years into your first home, and you realise some things just don’t jive with your lifestyle. You find yourself shopping for a new home. It’s a learning curve.

We often purchase software early on in our research journey generally for organising and preserving our research. It’s usually not until we are further into our research that we begin to look for more from our program and realise the software we purchased isn’t capable, and we start to consider other options. Now replacing your genealogy software isn’t as expensive as replacing your house but it still can be an inconvenience.

Let’s look at some of the important features we should contemplate before choosing our first genealogy software program. Determine which of these items on the list are important to you and start by comparing those items between the various programs.

Charting - Look for software that can chart your family tree. Charts and forms can vary widely between programs from 4 charts to 25 charts. If charts and forms are important to you, then you’ll want to compare this feature.

Audio – What are the audio capabilities? Can the program save an oral interview or audio notes?

Video - Can your software store a video recording of say perhaps an interview or family event?

Share with others – Is it important to be able to sync your information with your online tree or share with another genealogist? A feature not all programs are capable of performing.

Connect to the web – Can you log in to the web from within the program?

Import online sources-  Do you want to import online sources to your program?

Web hints – Some programs will offer you hints from the internet. Is this important to you?

Same-Sex Marriages - While all the programs can handle multiple marriages they cannot all handle same-sex marriages. Is this important for you?

DNA results – A growing aspect of our genealogy research you may want a program that allows you to record DNA markers allowing you to map and hone in on where your ancestors came from.

Automatic Age Display – This is a convenient feature. Not all programs offer it in which case you’ll have to do the math.

World Map – Some programs allow you to plot family events on a world map. This can be a nice visual feature you may want in your software.

Privacy options – Genealogy software programs can offer a variety of privacy options.  It is important to you spend some time comparing the privacy options in each program.

Citation and Organization – One thing they all got right is offering proper citation and organisation, they should, since this is at the heart of genealogy software programs. You generally shouldn’t have to worry about this feature.

Video Tutorials – I love software that offers video tutorials. I hate reading a manual. If I can view a video that is a couple of minutes long and shows me how to use a feature, then that is an asset in my book.

Identifies Problems – I appreciate a program that is smarter than me and points out inconsistent information, date errors or duplications.

Must-Haves and Deal Breakers
My program isn’t necessarily the right software program for you.  We all have different needs, and you want to identify your needs. There are some features I don’t care about while others are deal breakers for me. Consider the list above, which features on the list are must-haves for you, which ones are deal breakers. This should help you narrow in on the program that’s right for you.

Ask a Fellow Genealogist
Finally, ask a fellow genealogist what they are using. What do they like about the program and what do they dislike. You’ll find some genealogists who have been researching for awhile have tried several different programs.

I don’t recommend you inquiry because what your friend uses is the best, but because you can ask them specific questions about the program. What they like and dislike about the program.  Do there likes and dislikes align with yours or perhaps their dislikes don’t bother you. It pays to inquire around.

Keep in mind genealogy software companies offer upgrades on a regular basis, they are always improving and adding new features.  What may not be included as a feature today could be provided in the next update.

The more knowledge you have before making your genealogy software purchase, the more likely you’ll be happy with your choice and less likely to have to go shopping for a new program further into your research journey.





3 comments:

John Sparrow said...

There is another point to consider. Does the program import and export to/from a spreadsheet. To me, that is most important.

Lynn Palermo said...

That is a great point John. And are you aware of which programs provide this option? How do you use this feature, John?

John Sparrow said...

I started in genealogy when I saw some software on a disc on the front of a PC magazine. It happened to be My Heritage's Family Tree Builder (FTB). Very soon, I found updating info on each individual to be time consuming, particularly if, for example, updating the address of a family from a Census. I moved then to using a spreadsheet to hold my information. Updating was easy using Control C and Control V etc. When I needed a chart, I would import the data into FTB and create the chart, upload the info to My Heritage online database etc. If anyone is interested, I am happy to provide further info.