Modern genealogy software has tons of useful features for everyone, from the rank amateur just starting out to the seasoned professional.
But with so many choices out there, which is the best family tree software to build and manage your tree? Let’s take a closer look at what genealogy software can do for your research!
Best Family Tree Software 2023
1. MyHeritage Family Tree Builder
MyHeritage Family Tree Builder is a powerful and feature-rich genealogy software that allows users to build, manage, and explore their family history with ease. The software provides numerous benefits, making it an ideal choice for both beginners and advanced genealogists.
Some of the main features and benefits of the Family Tree Builder software include:
- Compatibility and Language Support: The software is available in 40 languages, making it accessible to a global audience. It is also supported on both Windows and Mac operating systems.
- Easy to Add Family Members: Users can easily add family members or import existing genealogical records in GEDCOM format. Additionally, the software allows users to add unrelated individuals to their family tree for research purposes.
- Multimedia Support: Family Tree Builder supports the addition of photos, documents, and other media files to individual profiles, making the family tree more engaging and informative.
- Advanced Privacy Settings: Users can customize privacy settings for individual family members or events, ensuring sensitive information remains private.
- Useful Research Tools: Family Tree Builder provides various tools for checking data consistency, detecting duplicates, and automatically searching for deceased individuals, helping users maintain accurate and up-to-date family trees.
- Charts and Reports: Users can generate various charts and reports, including tree consistency checkers, upcoming events, and customizable family trees. These charts and reports can be easily printed or shared with family members.
- Map Integration: The software enables users to view their family tree on a map, showcasing the geographical locations of various life events and making it easier to research specific locations.
- Synchronization with MyHeritage Website: Users can sync their family tree with their MyHeritage account, enabling easy sharing, access to additional research tools, and receiving alerts for new matches and records.
- Task and Event Management: Family Tree Builder allows users to create and manage tasks and events associated with their research, helping them stay organized and focused on their genealogy goals.
- Dedicated Support and Community: Users have access to MyHeritage’s extensive knowledge base, webinars, and social media communities to enhance their genealogy skills and knowledge.
In summary, the MyHeritage Family Tree Builder software offers an array of features and benefits that make it an essential tool for anyone interested in genealogy. It is user-friendly, feature-rich, and customizable to meet the individual needs of each user, making it the ideal choice for building and exploring family history. Read more in my MyHeritage Family Tree Builder Review.
2. RootsMagic 9
RootsMagic is a comprehensive genealogy software that enables users to discover, organize, and share their family history with ease and accuracy. Loved by both beginners and professionals, the software offers an array of powerful tools to help manage family records, create various reports and charts, visualize relationships, maintain evidence-based conclusions, and collaborate with other researchers. With its innovative technology, RootsMagic combines an intuitive user interface with robust features to facilitate a rich and rewarding genealogy experience for users of all skill levels.
Building upon its already strong foundation, RootsMagic has recently released version 9, introducing a host of exciting new features and enhancements designed to further streamline and enrich the user’s experience.
New features of RootsMagic 9 include:
- Associations: This feature allows users to show non-family relationships between individuals in their family tree, enhancing research potential by examining how friends, associates, and neighbors impact one’s family history.
- Enhanced Color Coding: Users can now create and switch between multiple color code sets, label their colors, and assign them to groups of individuals. This flexibility enhances data visualization and makes it easier to identify patterns within the family tree.
- New Tools: The software includes several new tools, such as rearranging children and spouses in a family, combining groups, changing fact types for individuals, removing fact types, and more. These tools simplify key tasks and enhance overall productivity.
- Saved Searches and Filters: RootsMagic 9 introduces saved searches and filters, enabling users to create, save, and reuse complex search criteria and filters for various tasks, ensuring consistent results and enhancing efficiency.
- Improved Note Editor: The note editor in RootsMagic 9 boasts improved performance and functionality, including a built-in spell checker and streamlined editing capabilities.
- Plain Old HTML Websites: The software now allows users to generate simple HTML and CSS styled websites for sharing their family tree data online, providing further flexibility in creating visualizations for research purposes.
- Enhanced Properties Report: RootsMagic 9 offers a comprehensive database properties report, providing detailed information on a user’s family tree data. This feature allows users to delve deeper into their data and identify any potential issues or patterns.
With these powerful new features and an intuitive interface, RootsMagic 9 is an indispensable tool for genealogists and family historians alike. Read my full RootsMagic Review.
3. Legacy Family Tree 9
Legacy Family Tree is a comprehensive genealogy software designed to help individuals organize, find, share, and preserve their family tree. With an intuitive and user-friendly interface, Legacy makes it easy for users to trace their ancestry and discover new information about their relatives.
The latest version, Legacy Family Tree 9, introduces several innovative features and enhancements to further enrich users’ genealogy research experience:
- Smart Search and Hints: With billions of records from key websites, Legacy 9 automatically searches for new information, pictures, and stories about your ancestors, providing you with valuable insights into their lives.
- Cause of Death Charts: Analyze trends in your ancestors’ medical history and causes of death with the new charts feature, helping you better understand their health and longevity.
- X-DNA Color Scheme: In addition to Y-DNA and mtDNA charts, Legacy 9 now includes the X-DNA color scheme, showing the inheritance of the X chromosome across generations.
- Find a Grave Tool: The software makes it easy to search and link Find a Grave memorials to your ancestors, enabling you to quickly access additional information.
- Stories Feature: Record and share stories about your ancestors with the new stories feature, allowing you to add details, citations, and photographs to enhance your family tree.
- Hashtags: Organize and categorize your ancestors based on traits, professions, or any other attribute using customizable hashtags.
- Legacy Cloud: Securely backup your family tree in the Legacy Cloud, ensuring your data is always safe and accessible.
- Chronology Comparison: The Chronology Comparison tool allows you to quickly compare two individuals’ timelines, highlighting differences and similarities to determine if they are related.
- Color Coding: The expanded color coding system makes it easier to understand and visualize the relationships within your family tree.
- Additional Reports: Legacy 9 includes two new reports – the Family Dictionary report for an at-a-glance reference of your family’s vital details, and the Family Tree Twinkle report, perfect for creating cards to share at family reunions.
Legacy Family Tree 9 offers an impressive array of new features and enhancements, making it a powerful and essential tool for individuals looking to explore and preserve their family history. With its smart search capabilities, insightful charts, and innovative tools, Legacy 9 presents an unparalleled genealogy experience, helping users uncover and share their family’s unique stories. Read my full Legacy Family Tree 9 Review.
4. Ancestry.com Online Trees
Ancestry.com’s online tree maker is a user-friendly tool that allows individuals to connect with their family history and discover their lineage. The tool is designed to be intuitive and easy to use, even for those who have limited information about their family history.
- Easy to Start: Users can start building their family tree with just one name. The more information added, the more detailed and comprehensive the tree becomes, with each name serving as another piece of the family story.
- Ancestry Hints®: As users build their family tree, Ancestry Hints® in the form of leaves start to appear. Each hint is a potential discovery that can lead to new information about the family history.
- Access to Records and Community: Ancestry.com provides access to billions of records and a community of millions of fellow family history seekers. This vast resource can lead to unexpected discoveries, such as finding an infamous relative or a photo of a great-grandparent.
- Guidance and Support: Even if users are unsure of certain details, they can make educated guesses which can help uncover new clues about their family history. Ancestry.com provides automatic hints whenever it identifies a potential piece of the user’s family story, guiding them towards new discoveries.
In summary, Ancestry.com’s online tree maker is a powerful tool that enables users to explore their family history, make new discoveries, and connect with their past in a meaningful way. The tool is designed to be accessible to everyone, regardless of their prior knowledge or experience with genealogy.
5. MacKiev Family Tree Maker 2019
Family Tree Maker (FTM) is a comprehensive genealogy software developed by Software MacKiev that allows users to discover their family history, preserve their legacy, and share their unique heritage. The software is designed to be intuitive and user-friendly, making it easy for beginners to grow their family tree with simple navigation, tree-building tools, and integrated web searching. For more advanced users, the software offers a range of sophisticated features, options for managing data, and a wide variety of charts and reports.
- Tree Building and Synchronization: FTM allows users to quickly and easily build their family tree. It also offers single-click synchronization with Ancestry.com, providing hints from Ancestry and FamilySearch.
- Interactive Timelines and Maps: Users can view family history timelines and interactive maps, providing a visual and chronological perspective of their ancestors’ lives.
- Advanced Features: FTM 2019 introduces several new features. These include the ability to download an entire branch from a FamilySearch tree, hints linked to more than six billion online FamilySearch historical records, and a new profile picture-cropping tool.
- Turn Back Time®: This feature allows users to track and undo their last thousand changes, enabling them to easily correct mistakes.
- TreeVault® Cloud Services: This feature ensures that an up-to-date copy of the user’s tree is securely stored in the cloud. It also allows users to view changes in their FTM tree in real-time on their smartphone or tablet.
- AlbumWALK® Media Player: This feature allows users to preserve memories contained in old photo albums with interactive talking photos and SoundSpot™ recordings.
- Rich Color Coding and Charts & Reports: FTM 2019 offers rich color coding and a variety of colorful family tree charts and reports, providing a snapshot of the user’s family tree and helping plan future research.
- Photo Darkroom®: This feature offers simple editing tools that can restore old photos faded beyond recognition.
- Media Organization: FTM provides tools to manage media faster than ever before, allowing users to add photos directly from iPhoto, scan images directly into their tree, and even create slideshows.
- Companion Guide: FTM comes with a free digital PDF guide that offers a step-by-step tour of the program and all that users can accomplish with it.
In summary, Family Tree Maker is a robust and user-friendly software that provides a comprehensive suite of tools for both beginners and advanced users to explore, document, and share their family history. Read my full Family Tree Maker Review.
Online family tree software
Online family trees do have several benefits. Genealogy websites make it easy to edit your tree, search for records, and attach them to people, all in one place. They can be accessed anywhere, from any device- when visiting Grandma or great-uncle Earl, you can quickly pull up the family tree on your phone, tablet, or laptop to share your latest discoveries.
Additionally, online trees can be invaluable when investigating DNA matches- attaching a family tree to DNA results helps you make connections with cousin matches, confirm shared ancestors, and discover new records.
However, there are some major downsides to maintaining your family information on the internet. First, while the World Wide Web is a modern miracle that gives you the world at your fingertips- you need an internet connection in order to access it. That can sometimes be tricky in certain types of repositories- for example, an old historic museum or library. Remember, not everyone provides Wi-Fi access, and even if they do, the connection can be spotty.
Believe it or not, you do not own your online tree or the data contained within it- the company hosting the website does. Although the user is allowed control of the trees they create- the ability to restrict access, edit and delete trees, for example- the data contained within ultimately belongs to that company. When you “save” a record to your tree, you are not really saving a copy of that record- you are simply linking that record to a “fact” on your tree.
If you stop subscribing to a website and you have not downloaded a copy of your tree’s records to your computer or hard drive, you will no longer have access to them.
Also, many of the records available online were digitized in partnership with local and national archives, who retain ownership of the original material. If the online company’s agreement with these archives someday changes, those records may no longer be available for users to view. Or, if the website where your tree is held decides to restrict your access, gets hacked or crashes, or the company simply goes out of business, your family tree is gone.
Clearly, there are advantages to keeping an offline version of your tree! Let’s dig a little deeper into some of the features of these programs.
Desktop family tree software
Family tree-building software is the most common type of genealogy software available. But these programs can do much more than simply create a family tree!
One of the major advantages to using software is that you can import or export family tree data as a GEDCOM file. A GEDCOM, or Genealogical Data Communication, is a specific file type used for exchanging tree data between different software programs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GEDCOM). Additionally, many online trees can be imported and exported as GEDCOM files too. This means you don’t have to start from scratch with a software program- you can simply download your online tree as a GEDCOM, and then import it into your new program- family connections intact!
Some of the many additional features you could find in family-tree programs include:
- User-friendly and easy to learn
- Report-building capability- create reports, family group sheets and more, and add notes to individuals or families
- Ability to add records, photographs, and even sound bites and videos, to individuals in your tree
- Applications to help build and publish a family history narrative
- Assistance with documenting citations
- Alerts to help you correct inconsistencies and errors in data
- “Clean-up” help for duplicate entries
- Options to create printable family trees
- Organizational tools to help you track your research and create a “to-do” list
- Ability to download your tree to a USB flash drive to take with you- helpful when researching in a facility with no internet access
- Some programs can even integrate with the major online databases, making it even easier to sync tree data between online and offline programs. For example, when you have a record “hint” in Ancestry, you could see it reflected in your offline tree as well!
Finding a middle ground: online and offline
You may still be hesitant to move your entire family history to an offline database. Good news- most experienced genealogists work BOTH online and offline! The biggest advantage to keeping trees in both places is that you have a backup, in case something should happen on one end or the other. You can always import or export your GEDCOM again to re-build your tree, providing peace of mind that your data will not be lost. Additionally, you can download and save copies of all your digital records to your offline tree. Working with both types of trees also allows you to benefit from the advantages each one provides.
When it comes to DNA research, having that online tree up-to-date and synched to your results is essential.
With offline trees, you have the ability to customize the program’s workspace to fit your research needs and organizational style.
Whichever route you decide to take, it is imperative that you create a backup not only for your tree data, but for ALL of your genealogy files.
In addition to importing and exporting your GEDCOMs to different programs, save that GEDCOM file in a separate folder on your PC, or even better, on an external hard drive. That way if your PC or device crashes, you’ll still have a copy of your data saved elsewhere. Create a reminder or alert for yourself to save an updated GEDCOM and create a new backup on a regular basis. All of that hard work is certainly worth protecting!
What to look for
Before selecting a genealogy program, make sure to do your homework and find the right software to suit your needs. Some of the points to consider when comparing family tree programs include:
- GEDCOM capability- Can the program import data from the website where your online tree is located?
- What type of reporting output does the program have, and do the options mesh with your needs? This feature may be especially important to those who are working on a family narrative or book.
- Does the program offer tutorials or a “learning center” for new users, or perhaps an online forum for users to connect and learn from each other?
- Look closely at the software version- has it been updated recently? If a program has not been updated in a long time, that usually means the developer is no longer working on the product- resulting in “bugs” that will never get fixed and no new features being added. This will eventually render the program obsolete.
- Does the product offer a “free trial” period, where you can test it out before purchasing?
Another important point to consider is whether the software company is active in the genealogy community. Do they attend conferences or participate in other local and national genealogy events? Do they sit in on genealogy podcasts to discuss the software’s latest features, or do they write technology articles for genealogy magazines? This is an indicator that they are not just a random company- they are in tune with their customers and the industry, and are looking to innovate and meet the needs of modern-day genealogists.
When it comes to free software versus a program you pay for, be sure to carefully compare the features of each before proceeding. Do you have unlimited access to your tree, and can you work on your own time? Do you have the same customization and reporting options?
Some of the advantages of paying for a program are the fact that you own the disc and the product key- once you register your program, you can re-install on a new device if needed, and receive online support from the software maker. Plus, many genealogy software programs are very reasonably priced for the everyday user.
Other types of software
Besides family tree-making software, there are plenty of other software options to choose from, including:
- Programs that help users craft citations
- Programs that help analyze genealogical sources to create sound research conclusions
- Programs that help design and print custom family trees
- Programs that help you write a family narrative by providing a writing analysis, historical context, and even timelines
- Programs that can help create maps to depict your important family events
There are even online apps you can download to your phone or another device to make your life easier, including time trackers, organizational tools, and citation crafters that can sync with your current word processor. There is a whole world of possibilities for every type of researcher, and new products are being created every day.
It’s easy to keep up with the latest trends in genealogy technology and find out what the professionals are using! Read genealogy magazines, follow blogs, check out video tutorials, and listen to podcasts to hear reviews of the latest products, see demonstrations, read announcements of new features and updates, and much more.
Genealogy researchers 50 years ago could never imagine all the resources we would have at our fingertips today! Technological innovations have truly changed the research field for the better. So why not take advantage, and find a software option that will grow your family tree to its greatest potential?
What is the best free genealogy software?
The best free genealogy software is MyHeritage Family Tree Builder. This software allows for optimal ease of use, photo management, and online tree publishing and searching. This software will enable you to sync your offline tree with your online account. Family Tree Builder is available on both Windows and Mac.
What does genealogy software enable you to do?
Genealogy software provides different tools for building and organizing a family tree that are both easy and intuitive to use. Online trees such as FamilySearch and Ancestry are great tools, but there are things you can’t do that you can do in desktop software. Most family tree building software allows you to build and manage your tree, whether you are online or offline. You can tailor your workspace to meet your organization’s style and research needs. The majority of desktop software includes printing capabilities. This is a benefit not found in customizable options with online tree-building websites like Ancestry or FamilySearch.
What genealogy software works with Ancestry.com?
There are several software programs that work with Ancestry, including RootsMagic, Legacy, and Family Tree Maker.
Do I need family tree software if I use Ancestry.com?
Ancestry.com offers tree building entirely online without users needing downloadable software. You can create, build and edit your family tree online without having to download any external software. All downloadable family tree software is optional and unnecessary for any more extensive online tree-building website (MyHeritage, FamilySearch, etc.).
What programs can open a GEDCOM file?
Most desktop family tree software allows users to upload a GEDCOM file, so one does not have to build their tree from scratch. RootsMagic, Family Tree Builder, MyHeritage Family Tree Builder, and MacKiev Family Tree Maker offer GEDCOM uploads. Editing a family tree in desktop software is much easier than in most online trees. Many professionals use desktop software to clean up client trees before uploading them back online.
What software is compatible with Windows 10?
Most genealogy software programs are compatible with Microsoft Windows, including Roots Magic 7, MyHeritage Family Tree Builder, Legacy 9.0, MacKiev Family Tree Maker, and Ancestry’s Family Tree Maker. iFamily is Mac-operated genealogy software that is one non-Windows compatible genealogy software. Make sure that the software is compatible with your version of Windows before buying.
What software is compatible with Mac?
Mac users can use RootsMagic, MyHeritage Family Tree Builder, MacKiev Family Tree Maker, and Ancestry’s Family Tree Maker. Make sure that the software is compatible with your Mac before buying.
There are a number of other programs that are also worth considering. Here are some honorable mentions:
Whichever program you choose, be sure to take advantage of all the resources that are available to help you in your research. There are online forums, Facebook groups, and podcasts devoted to genealogy, and these can be invaluable sources of information and support. Ultimately, the best family tree software for you will depend on your specific needs and research goals.