Family Tree Desktop Software

 Updated January 16, 2018

A big dilemma for beginners and experienced alike is where to store our family trees.  The decision about which desktop and/or websites to use has been tormenting me for a few years.  (Note: In this article and others I refer to desktop family tree programs as “software” and the online trees as ”websites”.) 

I’ll start with the bottom line right here at the top.  Bottom line: Famiiy Tree Maker and RootsMagic are recommended. They are comprehensive packages and the selection comes down to personal preference. 

I often look for good reviews and comparisons without success.  Always looking for something that is not very complex.  We don’t need the top ten.  The top three will do and, in this case, there are three that standout from the rest.  The top three are Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, and Legacy and we have members using each of them. 

The best article I have seen is a Family Tree online premium article called “Online Tree or Genealogy software? Deciding Where to Keep Your Data”.  It’s here.  I was able to read it without a premium subscription but you may need to seek out the print version at your library or on Zinio.  It’s called “Tree-Keeping” in the Oct-Nov 2017 Family Tree Magazine on page 48.

One consideration is which websites the software syncs with.  Sync is short for synchronize.  This feature allows you to automatically update one tree to keep it the same as the other.  For example, Family Tree Maker (FTM) can sync with Ancestry.com.  If you make a change in FTM it is moved to Ancestry.com and vice versa. That is, if you make a change in Ancestry.com the change is moved to FTM.

Family Tree Maker syncs with Ancestry.com and also costs twice as much as the others.  You can find this information in the articles.

RootsMagic provides hints from Ancestry.com, Family Search, MyHeritage and FindMyPast.  For subscription sites you will need a subscription to see the actual documents.  Also RootsMagic has a free trial version. 

Legacy syncs with Family Search and the Legacy version 10 will sync with MyHeritage.  Also has a free trial version.  Here’s the problem at Legacy  and the reason I am no longer recommending Legacy Family Tree software.

Tamura Jones sent his opinion here:  https://www.tamurajones.net/Genealogy2017.xhtml

“All of Millennia (owner of Legacy) was sold to MyHeritage; that includes not just Legacy Family Tree, but also Legacy Charting, the Legacy Family Tree Webinars, and the Legacy cruises. MyHeritage hopes to build out the Legacy Family Tree Webinars, but the Legacy cruises are probably over - and so is Legacy Family Tree.

“MyHeritage has promised to issue at least one more major release (Legacy version 10), but that is all they promised. A Millennia blog post stated unequivocally they that will not invest a Unicode rebuild of Legacy; that is a two decades-delayed admission of failure to keep up, that the product is finished. They decided to sell the company while Legacy is still worth something, because it still has a significant user base. MyHeritage did not really buy Legacy Family Tree or the Legacy webinars, they bought the Millennia customer base.

“MyHeritage has always claimed that Family Tree Builder is the best genealogy software, and the last few years, MyHeritage has actually tried to make it true by rebuilding Family Tree Builder into a modern genealogy application. MyHeritage is likely include some of Legacy's features into Family Tree Builder and provide Legacy users with a relatively smooth migration path.”

Judith Culver here.  It’s not a good business plan to maintain two robust software products and MyHeritage is not committing to develop Legacy software in the future.  If you are starting now, don’t go with Legacy.




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