The best genealogy tools make it easier to manage and build your family tree as well as trace your ancestors.
Finding your roots used to be such a taxing process. If were interested in doing so, you had to be prepared to spend your days, months, or even years going through registers archived in temperature-controlled rooms.
With the growth of the Internet in the last decade or so, many possibilities have been opened up for the world. This includes the ability to study your ancestry in a more convenient and comfortable way. You can now do it wherever you are whenever you like. Whether using a personal computer or a mobile device, finding out if there is anyone famous related to you has never been easier.
Genealogy software lets you do a lot of stuff, too. For one, you can build your family tree and record relevant information about your ancestors. This includes dates, locations, relationships, and others. You can also take note of your research sources and even link them to the family tree that you have created. You can keep multiple databases for numerous family trees. You may also print out your ancestral charts and family tree or share them with other people electronically.
Additionally, you can store your photos as well as audio and video records along with scanned documents related to your ancestors. The software also has a backup feature, so you can keep your information protected as it assists you by providing tips on how and where to search. It also allows you to bring your information from one genealogy program to another.
There is a wide selection of applications online that exist for the purpose of tracking your family’s roots. Having to deal with all of them to find the best one for your search can be a headache. To help you out, we have reviewed them and came up with the top five for you to choose from.
Here then are the best genealogy tools you should check out.
We've also featured the best people search finder services and engines.
The best genealogy tools for 2023 in full:
Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.
1. Family Tree Maker
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
FTM or Family Tree Maker is currently the most popular and widely used genealogy software. It has been around for a couple of decades and is quite a powerful tool. It is considered to be all-around good at most things, providing everything that you generally need from a genealogy program.
Its latest version is equipped with FamilySync, a distinct feature that allows automatic synchronization of a maximum of three family trees. This is very useful for cases when your relatives are updating the same tree as you. All the information added by them is shown on your tree and the other way around.
It also lets you assign a color as a code for certain ancestors. With up to eight colors to use, you will have an easier time tracking your research and updates. The application also has a built-in lightweight image editor, so photo enhancement is a piece of cake and can be done within the application itself.
The program is also able to connect with the Ancestry website and it recently also connected to FamilySearch.com. You can download records from them directly to your family tree. They are two of the largest genealogy sites online with billions of records available. This is an advantage that definitely makes the FTM application worth every penny. It is also one of the few programs available that lets you add same-sex marriages to your family tree. Whenever you feel blocked or stumped in your research, it also gives you helpful clues on where you can go to access more records. All you need is a stable Internet connection.
A number of downsides do exist though. One is the limited amount of charts and reports available. It cannot compete with Legacy 9 when it comes to the charts. Another thing is how Family Tree Maker is now under a different company, which has implemented numerous developments on the new version without due consideration of the older versions.
In terms of compatibility, it is such a great thing that the program works for Windows 7.0 and higher and MacOS 10.9 and higher. It does cost a bit more than the other options in the market, but many people think it is worth the price.
Since the program has been available for quite a long time, it does have a lot of users. This converts into a huge amount of online support available, which is of great help for newbies. Its own website provides a digital guide for free to assist you in dealing with the features of the program. This is then backed up by the online tips, how-to videos, instructions, and tutorials for using the program. Some information might be outdated though because of how many changes it has gone through.
For the full digital download Family Tree Maker costs around $80. It does not offer any free trials though.
2. Legacy Family Tree
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Many consider Legacy Family Tree as the best genealogy tool nowadays. This program comes with all the features you need and expect plus a few more.
One feature that stands out allows you to compare two people. This is quite useful if you are looking at two records bearing the same name. You can examine them to see and confirm if they are indeed the same person. The program allows you to display the two records side by side, which is easier to evaluate than if you have to flip back and forth between them.
The program also offers the widest charts and reports among the many different genealogy programs around. In most cases, they also look better than others. You end up with various choices when printing the results. In addition to printing your reports, you can also automatically convert your family tree to a webpage with Legacy 9’s built-in support. Its built-in browser also makes it easy for you to have a look at online sites. There is no need to move between windows back and forth.
You can also color code as well as use nine tags for organizing your ancestors with ease. The program also comes with an online backup system to keep your information secure. Its latest version even has the new X-DNA chart incorporated into it for tracking genetic inheritance.
The Legacy website is not as flashy as most of its competitors and is tricky to navigate through. However, there is a lot of online support through forums and its own help center. It is designed mainly for use with Windows, but you can find tips on its own website on how to use an emulator and make it work with Mac. Its website also has numerous training programs and videos along with troubleshooting advice, user forums, and a suggestion box for anything that you think can improve their product.
Legacy 9 works with many helpful sites such as FamilySearch, Find A Grave, and GenealogyBank, to name a few. The program searches for your ancestors on these sites and advises you on where you can find additional information.
It is available currently in two versions. The cost-free Standard version lets you experience most of what Legacy has to offer. To use all of its features though, you have to go with the paid Deluxe version which costs around $35.
3. Family Historian
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Though it is admittedly less known than the first two apps, Family Historian is still something useful for your genealogy research.
Its greatest asset is the ease of use. You can use it right away without having to check out any manuals and tutorials. Adding information into the program is quite simple. The app’s main screen has an ancestry chart and a details box where you can add information about the specific individual. With this, you can still have a look at the bigger picture even while you are working on the details. Its smart tree option allows you to collapse or expand the tree’s different parts as per your need. Your screen does not have to be filled up with the rest of the tree’s branches when you are working on a smaller section.
Family trees can also be viewed side by side, letting you compare them prior to actually merging them together. The program also has a mapping tool, so you can color code, zoom in or out as well as have a look at events that took place in a specific position. Sharing your family tree with family, friends or anyone else is also easy, electronically or by print. They have double the number of charts that FTM has.
Unfortunately, Family Historian’s charts do not have any background, so they look quite dull. More so, they do not process DNA results currently. Family Historian 7 works on Windows Vista as well as 7 and up. Its website is filled with guides and tutorials, but its support community is less than its counterparts. More so, its producer is a British company, which is why it is found to be more helpful for those who are looking for their roots in the UK.
It is linked with the databases of Findmypast and MyHeritage. You can find the information about your ancestors on these sites and download them automatically to your family tree. It comes in a 30-day trial version for free, so you can test it out for yourself before making a purchase. The price is around $70 for the full package.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
RootsMagic is less famous than its competitors but definitely not lagging behind with what it has to offer. It has all the basics that genealogy research needs hand-in-hand with some really helpful add-ons.
One of the powerful elements that the program has is allowing you to access multiple databases at the same time. You will find this really useful when you need to do a comparison between databases as well as when copying information across them. It even has a drag-and-drop tool for moving people from a database to another.
Its unique RootsMagic To-Go feature gives you the ability to keep a portable version of the program itself on your USB or hard drive. You can bring it with you and access the program anywhere and anytime. You get to continue your research even while on the road, and you can access your updated information even when you are researching in other places like the library.
Sharing your research results is a piece of cake with the program’s built-in tools. You can come up with your very own webpages or keep the information on CDs or DVs. You also have the option to print them as you like.
RootsMagic is also flexible enough to deal with complicated relationships. It also belongs to the small group of programs that allow same-sex marriages.
It does not offer as many chart options as its competitors, but you can create whatever reports you wish using its wide selection of options for doing so. More so, its interface is not as good-looking or user-friendly as other programs’.
The program runs on all versions of Windows starting from Windows XP and 2000 as well as on macOS 10.8 and higher. It has a smaller community, which translates to lesser user support. However, it comes with how-to video guides and tutorials. It is connected with Ancestry, FamilySearch, and MyHeritage, so you get access to quite a lot of databases and records online.
You can use RootsMagic Essentials for as long as you like without any cost. It has all of the basic features of the software but not its best asset, which is the RootsMagic To-Go feature. The paid version of RootsMagic costa around $40.
Deciding on the best genealogy tool for you
Considering how these tools are quite similar to each other, choosing one can still be hard even with only five options to pick from.
The best way to decide is to determine how you plan to use the program and what you intend to achieve. These two factors are the most important ones to help you evaluate which program suits your requirements.
In the end, though, there is really not much difference between the programs. You are most likely not going to end up picking the wrong one. All of them are going to give you what you need especially if you have just started out in your research. The additional features that each one offers simply add to the convenience of the whole process.
Which genealogy tool is best for you?
When deciding which genealogy tool to download and use, first consider what your actual needs are, as sometimes free and budget software options may only provide basic options, so if you need to use advanced tools you may find a paid platform is much more worthwhile. Additionally, higher-end software can really cater for every need, so do ensure you have a good idea of which features you think you may require.
How we tested the best genealogy tools
To test for the best genealogy tools we first set up an account with the relevant software platform, then tested the service to see how the software could be used for different purposes and in different situations. The aim was to push each genealogy tool to see how useful its basic tools were and also how easy it was to get to grips with any more advanced tools for researching past records and databases.
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