Best Free Genealogy or Family Tree Software

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Introduction

Genealogy software provides a method for recording the subjects of our research, e.g. their names, relationships, and events of their lives. Evidence (citations and sources) should be recorded to support the conclusions reached. They also print the reports and charts to show off the results of our labor.

This article reviews stand alone programs which run on your PC. If you are interested in web applications, see this companion review Best Free Online Genealogy or Family Tree Applications.

Several free applications in this review will do a reasonable job for the novice or advanced genealogist. Read also the Supported Features of these applications in a section of this page.

 

Rated Products

Gramps  

A cross-platform and open-source application to research, organize and share your family tree with outstanding features.


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free (Open source)
Cross platform and open source, easy navigation, outstanding place entry, superior date support, best narrative style web sites, create large format reports, support multiple parent relationships.
No foot or end notes, lacks people list, source list, repository list and citation list reports.
Read full review...

ScionPC  

A genealogical management system that is easy to use, fully featured and portable.


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free
Easy to use, portable, less gender constraints, exceptional date format, creates a complete web site for upload, global merge function and supports other languages.
Only one citation per event, one source format; no private notes, no book print function, no history list and no fan charts.
Read full review...

MyHeritage Family Tree Builder  

Handy genealogy software for building your family tree, adding photos, historical records and more.


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Handy list for navigation, auto checks for duplicates, direct upload, import and create GEDCOM files.
No merge tools, no individual or place reports, no date calculator, nag screens, requires registration.
Read full review...

Ancestry  

A handy app to access your Ancestry.com family trees.


Our Rating: 
3.5
License: Free (Limited features)
Horizontal pedigree chart; display, add and edit individuals and events; easy to search by name; add photos to the tree; location aware.
Does not support sources. No descendant, people, or place list view. No bookmarks or history list of viewed people.
Read full review...

Legacy Family Tree Standard  

It is easy to use, flexible and has plenty of capabilities.


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free (Limited features)
Easy to use and flexible; supports family, pedigree and index views; easy navigation; attach photos and documents; strong report generator and create good looking web pages.
No support for same sex couples; support multiple names but not searchable; only ASCII character encoding is supported; nagging message.
Read full review...

Brother's Keeper  

Helps input and organize family history information with basic features.


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free (Limited features)
Checks for duplicates; support multiple names, multiple parents and marriages, same sex marriages and parents; no lags.
Does not support Unicode characters; no duplicate merge tools, no pop-up calendar and no people bookmarks.
Read full review...

Ancestral Quest Basics  

Easily organize your family history with basic features and automatic searches.


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free (Limited features)
Automatic searches in the background, displays matches, perform individual searches, support ASCII character encoding.
No Unicode support, individual view blocked, nags with each startup.
Read full review...

Supported Features:

The above applications support these features unless otherwise noted:

  • They support unlimited entry of individuals, birth, marriage, death, burial, and other events together with their associated dates, locations, and source citations.
  • Alternative names can be entered but are not necessarily searched.
  • Marriages are not numerically limited, i.e. multiple spouses (sequential or polygamous).
  • Polygamous relationships are not completely displayed, e.g. only one pair can be viewed at a time.
  • Multiple parents are supported (adopted, foster, or other possibilities). However, only one pair of parents can be displayed at a time.
  • Incest is supported, e.g. a child can be married to one of their parents and/or be both sibling and parent of another sibling. 
  • Same sex marriages and parents are supported by several of the recommended programs.
  • Intersex and transsexual individuals are not supported.
  • They support family group, pedigree, and descendant reports and charts together with the associated foot- or end-notes.
  • They support multimedia attachments but not all support photos in reports.
  • They support import and export of GEDCOM (GEnealogical Data COMmunication) format files.

 

Related Products and Links

Related Products

  • GEDView is a portable viewer for GEDCOM files. Save your GEDCOM to a USB drive with this utility and you'll never be without access to your research. Provides name listing, individual screen, and pop up pedigree, descendant, Mitochondrial DNA, and Y Chromosome views.
  • Ged2Web converts GEDCOM files to HTML files for uploading to a website. More features than PAF but either Legacy, Gramps, or ScionPC produce better formatted web sites. If you don't want to install Legacy, Gramps, or ScionPC then you might try this utility.
  • "GeneaQuilts is a new visualization technique for representing large genealogies of up to several thousand individuals. The visualization takes the form of a diagonally-filled matrix, where rows are individuals and columns are nuclear families. The system includes an overview, a timeline, search and filtering components, and a new interaction technique called Bring & Slide that allows fluid navigation in very large genealogies." I suggest watching the demonstration video if you're interested in trying this program.

Related Links

 

Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Jojo Yee. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

My favorite tree graphics are made with MyHeritage Family Tree Builder, I believe the MyHeritage Family Tree Builder program is free for everyone. It can create beautifull tree posters with very good resolution.

Hi, thanks for the article, quite useful indeed!

Right now I'm in search for a decent program to build my family tree. Ages ago I used Geno Pro that allowed me to create a visual tree of all my relatives (even though it took four pages :) ), and now I'm trying to find something similar.

I tried Gramps however it will not do it (hides siblings for instance, and also shows the tree horizontally when I really would have liked it vertically... at least to have an option!)

Any suggestions which program would do that, a chart like http://www.bestadsontv.com/files/print/2011/Jan/33524_Bestad_Family_Tree_RGB.jpg ?

Thank you :)

You can change the chart to vertical, different direction, fan chart, etc. by going to View-->Configure. The fan chart is pretty cool, you can see hundreds of people at once.

The Reports menu has lots of different things that are produced with a Graphwiz plugin. It should be installed, so you just hit a button and it makes a chart in SVG format that you can manipulate using a vector graphics program.

You can install plugins pretty easily, and there's a bunch of them at https://gramps-project.org/wiki/index.php?title=4.2_Addons . Maybe some of them will do what you want. Like this? https://gramps-project.org/wiki/index.php?title=File:RelationshipChartDescendants.png

The wiki has support for new users. https://gramps-project.org/wiki/index.php?title=Main_page Probably the place to go for help.

hallo everybody
I made my family tree some years ago and I used Simple Family Tree [direct file link removed as per site rules]. I think you should give it a try since it is so clear and simple, even if it is very basic.
When I had to merge two trees (one made by me and one made by my sister-in-law) I used MyHeritage Family Tree Builder.
Merging didn't work very well since every individual was duplicated by the software so i had to delete every doubled individual "by hand".
Moreover, every software I use, I can't get a tree with ALL the individuals I have in the list. I tried to use Gramps but this can only show the parents for every individual, that is definitely not what I want.
Can you suggest me a free software that don't have these problems? [commercial reference removed as per site rules]
Thank you for any reply.

"I tried to use Gramps but this can only show the parents for every individual, that is definitely not what I want."

Not sure what you're trying to do here, but if you go into the View-->Configure menu, you can set up Gramps to show all kinds of weird stuff, like vertical up/down (like Ancestry.com) or a descendent fan chart (which can show hundreds of people in a small area). It just has tons of capability.

Hey, thanks for the prompt answer!
What I wanted is something like that : http://www.aviz.fr/old/geneaquilts/Images/GreekGods_Graph.pdf
Since my family is not that complex, I think that it would be nice to have my family tree look like that, instead of the usual, partial tree I can get by selecting one individual and show only its siblings and ancestors.
Also fan chart can't show me and my cousins, and my sister in law too.
Can i use Gramps for merging trees?
I see that I can have "reports" that sound like what I need, but thay save files in .gv format. I can't even open them with Gimp! Is there any other program I can use , a part from "Graphviz"?
If i download Graphviz, maybe in my Ubuntu computer, would it work? Have you ever tried to do something like that?
Thanks anyway.

Interestingly, Gramps uses Graphviz to show charts. Scribus also has a plug in. Haven't tried.

Gimp works on images, not vectors or databases.

Graphviz isn't in my Mint repository, so haven't tried that either. Getting late anyhow....zzzzz

Your summary of Brother's Keeper is entirely inaccurate.

You said: No date formatting. No people list view. Only product which did not support pictures or other media. Reports cannot be saved to formats other than html. No bookmarks. Supports same sex parents but labels are Father/Mother. Does not support Unicode. No duplicate merge tools. No custom facts. No pop-up calendar. No private notes. No people bookmarks.
* BK supports Date Formatting (File > Options > Date)
* BK people list views are available from the Lists menu on the main screen. They include alphabetical by first or last name.
* BK supports pictures and other media. There are picture and media tabs on the person view pages. BK also supports picture/media attachments in sources.
* Reports can be saved as formats other than html. It varies depending on report, but .doc and .rtf are two of the possible formats available.
* No duplicate merge tools, but checks for duplicates on input.
* Custom facts are available. On the edit screen go to the Add menu and you have options to add custom events and facts.
* You can set notes to print on all reports, selected reports, or no reports. That gives you the flexibility to set up private notes.

None of these are new features. All predate your review.

Thank you for your comments.  I appreciate all feedback.

* BK supports Date Formatting (File > Options > Date)--Selecting 24 June 1954 (enter as DDMMYYYY) does work, i.e. entering 29122015 did reformat to 29 Dec 2015.  Existing entries such as 29-12-2015, 29/12/2015, or 29 December 2015 in a date field are unchanged.  Also imported dates are unchanged.  I expected the entries to change to 29 Dec 2015 as set in the options.  If the dates aren't automatically formatted then inconsistent entries could result.  I'll withdraw the specific criticism but I will mention that existing data and imports will not be reformatted to the standard.

* BK people list views are available from the Lists menu on the main screen.--You are correct.  I didn't realize that clicking on one of the items in the list would go to an edit screen.  Apparently I failed to notice the difference from the reports which don't support clicking in the same drop down menu.  The distinction is not always clear, e.g. the Locations list can be clicked to select but the Locations with event is not.  I'll withdraw my comment.

* Reports can be saved as formats other than html.--I agree.  Many can be saved as txt format. A few can be saved to rtf and html. Several cannot be saved directly to a file at all.  I'll rephrase my comment accordingly.

* No duplicate merge tools, but checks for duplicates on input.--You are absolutely correct.  I did notice the input checking (I look for both features).  I'll add a comment about input checking.

* Custom facts are available.--I clicked the Add Event. Then I tried to select the text in the Event/Fact field.  Only predesignated types of events are available from the drop down list are available.  I couldn't add a custom event such as "Owns Zebras" or "Criminal."  I do agree that this is a seldom used feature that most programs don't support and is arguably unnecessary.  I'll remove this comment.

* You can set notes to print on all reports, selected reports, or no reports.--You are correct.  I didn't notice the "Print where" selection ability.  I'll withdraw this comment.

I'll post a new review in the next day or two.

Thanks,

Rick

Wow. Very helpful, but I am SO confused.
I just got several pages of geneology from a cousin and want to put them in a program.
HOWEVER, I want to keep from doing a lot of unnecessary typing - oops I don't like THAT program, THIS one is better, starting from scratch.
So I thought I would put data in an EXCEL worksheet and import into a program. Then if I decide to change programs, be able to do the same thing.
So I'm looking for a program with import/export capability.
HOWEVER, since many of the comments here look like Greek, I may be way over my head.
SO, can anyone tell me best program to use with data import feature?
and please remember, I am techno-challenged.

Thanks!

Every genealogy propgram will import and export to a GEDCOM file. I imported my dad's Roots Magic GEDCOM file into Gramps and it worked great.

You will run into trouble if you start saving data that isn't included in the GEDCOM scheme. Proprietary formats could include sources, images, recordings. Those are fine as long as the company stays in business and you want to pay what they ask, but if you share the data with someone else they probably won't have the same program. If you use Excel (or the open source LibreOffice Calc) you will have your own format to sort out.

Gramps seems to be the only real open source genealogy program. It is better than the old PAF from the Mormons, and has a ton of capabilities. I back it up in their format, but also back up occasionally in GEDCOM.

ttowndick, Vandamme is absolutely correct. Excel is not supported by any genealogy program import. GEDCOM is supported by all of them. I suggest you start using one of the programs. If you aren't happy then export the date you've entered to a GEDCOM file and import that to the new program. I do suggest you start with the program with the most capability. I can speak from experience that it is very difficult to go back and add details to records you already entered. I originally started my research with a program that is still commercially available but I became frustrated with its limitations. Even with a GEDCOM import, I essentially had to review hundreds of records when I upgraded to a far superior program. Gramps would be an excellent choice for a program one is unlikely to outgrow.

Thanks for yours & Vandamme's prompt replies. I hope he sees this as well.
Looking around, I started putting information into a free account at FamilySearch.org. I ASSUME since they have access to LDS data, that would be most helpful, and I have found several ancestors already listed.
I did NOT check on their export options, but I think this is most helpful for my needs.
My question had to do with Excel, that I have most experience in, would be best way to enter data and give me most flexibility in whatever program(s) I might discover later. And being tech dangerous, I don't know anything about GEDCOM at all.
I think I am going to continue with FamilySearch. If you or anyone has comments on going that direction, I would welcome input.
As to my original question, after your comments, I did a quick search and http://orba-design.com/ged.php offers a method to import excel to GEDCOM format.
I did NOT explore at this time, and only put it here in case someone is looking for ways to follow my approach using Excel.
Thanks again for you help.

I went to the Orba Design site and opened up their template with LibreOffice Calc, and it worked fine. But I didn't try their converter.

I found out that GEDCOM was started by the LDS and just kind of grew from there, with some companies making extensions to it for various things.GEDCOM is text based, but others like Excel and LO spreadsheets and Gramps's are XML. There's no standard, or official sanctioning entity to evaluate new formats or features and make them standard. Us engineers have the IEEE, which is why your wireless card works with your router.

I sent in a minor bug report to Gramps and they came right back replying that they fixed that bug in the latest version. So they are moving quick and actively developing and polishing.

And it runs natively on Linux for when you outgrow Windows... ;-)

I used the Legacy one. I did not have any virus protection at the time. I now have virus protection and I scanned my laptop for viruses and when it was done I no longer had my family tree. It was full of viruses so I lost everything I had put in. I am going to try to find a different one to use.

Please do not make such claims unless you include substantive evidence otherwise we view this as trolling. As you can see from the linked report, Legacy is virus free so anything that was found on your computer must have arrived from another source after you installed the program. MC- Site Manager. https://www.virustotal.com/en/file/7737e6a0dc811ae36e93af9d287f8ad12ef75...

Gramps is up to version 4.1.1. I found some bugs in ver.3 and I see they've been fixed.It's in the repositories of openSUSE and Ubuntu so install is quick & EZ in Linux.

That version is still in beta. I'll review it when it gets released.

Gramps: Kaspersky flagged as containing PDM:Trojan.Win32Bazona.a on download.

You have to watch where you get software when you run Windows. Get it right from the Gramps Project, not a "freeware site". And antivirus programs have a lot of false positives.
I run Linux, and usually get apps right from the distro repositories so I know they're clean.

Gramps is probably the only open source genealogy program, so deserves support. It runs great in openSUSE (KDE based) and Mint (Debian/Ubuntu/Gnome3 based). No fooling around with Wine or VM.

I have used MyHeritage Family Tree Builder for years. I HATE the nag "Feature" that I can't seem to turn off. I NEVER want to publish to the web.

I'm looking to replace FTB because now I can no longer create a book report. Not unless I buy a third party software package. What part of FREE doesn't MyHeritage understand. FREE MEANS I DON'T HAVE TO PAY TO USE!!!!!

Looks like I will have to try Legacy Standard. I hope I can export/import my data.

I use Legacy but when using the Individual report Legacy is not consistent with the numbering system. For example I use the d'Aboville numbering. When printing Individual reports for a random person, Legacy allocates number 1 against that individual and not the relevant d'Aboville number. Any suggestions? Is there a program out there that overcomes this?

As far as I know all Genealogical systems using numerals begin the tree with either the Arabic numeral 1 or the Roman numeral I. So printing a report for a single individual the Genealogical numbering system would always be 1 or I regardless of the program. If the object is to print a descendant report in smaller bits then a reference field or custom tag could approximate the numbering system but the appropriate d'Aboville number would need to be manually entered. In Legacy, the Title Pre field would provide a doable workaround and would appear in the proper placement on some reports. The down side with using a field is the need to be updated for each ancestor. If tags are used instead, then a custom tag could be created for each ancestor but tags are unlikely to appear properly on the report.

Thank you very much for this review (and all other reviews).

One thing that is missed in this review is multiple language support for data entry. I need to enter non-Western encoded characters (Chinese in my case). I was very excited to try Legacy because of all the features, only to find out the characters entered all translate to "??" marks. This rendered the application useless for me. I tried Gramps next and it did beautifully with Chinese entry. It even took me to the right place in "OpenStreetMap" based on a location which was entered in Chinese. I haven't tried other applications down the line yet as I'll work with Gramps now to see how it goes. I will miss Legacy's intuitive interface but the lack of the language feature was a deal breaker for me.

Perhaps an update to the Pros and Cons about languages supported for each software would help others.

Thank you for your comments. I may add something about language support claims. However, I'm unqualified to judge whether the support is real. I'll seriously consider your recommendation.
I did test whether each program supports Unicode characters. Rick

Hello, I have an update about double byte character entry for a couple of the software. In my previous post, I said that Gramps allows Chinese character entry. This is still accurate for the software GUI, however I found out that the reports produced do not render the Chinese characters (I tried the PDF reports). I have moved down the list to MyHeritage Family Tree Builder, and that both allows Chinese character entry and generates reports with the Chinese characters intact.

Regarding the nag factor of MyHeritage Family Tree Builder, I recently found that there is a way to turn off the opening of the website at program start. With the application open, go to Tools -> Options -> General. Here, there are options to set "Show splash screen" and "Show My Sites page on startup" to 'No'. I hope that helps.

Sadly Personal Ancestral File is no longer available from the LDS Familysearch site. It is still available elsewhere as is the (essential) PAF Companion, but the latter no longer seems to accept the security PIN.

I had noticed that they were no longer supporting PAF but it was still available as a download at the time of my last revision. Thank you for letting me know. I'll remove this program from my recommendations.

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