Whether you’re a complete amateur preparing to take your first steps, or a veteran genealogist with family trees growing out of your ears, you’ve come to the right place. Given the recent leaps and bounds in the world of genealogy, we’ve decided to update our reviews for what we consider to be the top products in this category. We hope to give beginners an idea of where they should start, and experienced users tips on how they can deepen and broaden their research. To these ends we’ve retested our top rated products as well as trawling the web for those new kids on the block who are shaking things up. Below we’ll take you through the criteria that we think any genealogist at any stage of their research should keep in mind. Whether you’re looking for fertile ground in which to plant your family tree, or new pastures offering fresh sources and clues, read on as we take you through what you should look out for.
Possibly the most important out of all our criteria, the features of any given piece of genealogy software will be your tool kit for your family tree research. All basic programmes will include a database and data visualization tools which constitute the fundamentals of any research project. Inputting and managing your data will be more or less easy depending on the sophistication of your database.
Readers should expect an easy to use design which makes this sometimes arduous task a breeze. Managing this data is also essential in order to keep track of your progress and not get tangled up in the branches and roots of your family tree. The best products in this category feature research managers to track your progress, automatic citation tools to ensure coherence in your sourcing, and research scrapbooks for storing information not yet ready to be integrated.
This is the base line with which you will be able to construct a family tree. However, accessing records, creating links and following up on clues will be at the heart of your research. Many websites do exist which facilitate this process, the best of which we’ve reviewed here. Many genealogy software packages will be specially designed to work with one particular genealogy website. As such we recommend users ensure this is one that suits their needs before making any purchase decision.
Photo and file management
Gone are the days of stacks of moth eaten files with faded photographs paper-clipped haphazardly throughout. Readers should look out for genealogy software that allows you to store everything electronically, source it correctly, and create the various relevant links that give it meaning.
Genealogy has radically changed from the days when you had to travel all over the world, leafing through phonebooks, and pouring over dusty archives. A veritable community of amateur genealogists has sprung up on the internet, all collaborating and helping one another in a collective quest to understand our roots. Today we are now able to publish our progress online while automatic search engines scan the millions of other projects out there checking for matches. Finding a relative who is also conducting their own genealogy research may add a whole branch to your family tree! Also, being put in direct touch with long lost relatives is often the most rewarding aspect of genealogy research.
Ease of use
Any given piece of genealogy software can be the most sophisticated and feature packed programme out there but this is worth very little if you are unable to use it. It is here that we have seen the most variety in this category. Whilst some programmes are hugely complicated and will leave all but professional genealogists feeling dizzy, others are very simple drag and drop set-ups that a child could use. It must be noted that often complexity and customizability are sacrificed for ease of use. As such, every reader will be looking for a slightly different balance. For this reason we strongly recommend you try out the free trials of at least your top three choices before handing over any money.
Ease of installation
These days most software packages are pretty easy to install. However, the more complex programmes may well require you fiddle with some settings before they are up and running. This can certainly be an obstacle for less computer literate users. On the other hand, “one click install” software options are becoming more and more common, allowing users to get stuck into their research within minutes of downloading. As a rule for this category, the free trial will generally be a good indicator of how easy the final product will be to install on your computer. Also, Mac users take note, genealogy software seems to have not yet fully taken root in the Mac market. Hence we strongly recommend that Mac compatibility be the first thing you check for when considering your options.
Most software these days should not require customer support i the light of the technological leaps of the last 5 years in programming and software design. This said, many products in this category are yet to catch up with these developments and hence require customer support. Whilst this is always welcome, trying to resolve technical issues over the phone is no one’s idea of fun and should be best avoided in the first place. In fact, many of the most popular products are associated with a lively forum where experienced users are usually more than happy to lend a hand to any beginner who runs into difficulties.
Value for money
When it comes to cost, there doesn’t seem to be very much variety in this category. With the most expensive software selling for around $50 and the cheapest at $25 prices don’t differ drastically. As such, we recommend readers look into additional costs that come with genealogy research, such as subscription to associated genealogy web sites as it is this, in the long run, that will determine how much your investigation ends up costing you. Likewise, web integration being to vital to genealogy research, users should always make sure to check whether hosting of their research is included or comes at an additional cost.
The Bottom Line
There’s no one-size-fits-all product in this category. Whereas our No1 product will probably be the best choice for most readers, many of you may find that niche software you’ve been looking for somewhere lower in our rankings. Consequently, we urge readers to take their time in their research, read a bunch of our reviews and get a solid idea of what you’re looking for. Although you may be impatient to get stuck into digging into your family past as soon as possible, we assure you that choosing the right software according to your needs will save you bags of time in the long run. So on that note, we wish you luck in your research and a rewarding and enriching quest into your family history; who knows what’s in store for you!
If you can't find what you're looking for in our reviews of the best Genealogy Software, take a look at our reviews of the best Genealogy Websites out there and you're sure to find what you're looking for.