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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 please see my companion review at Best Free Online Genealogy / Family Tree Applications.
Several free genealogy programs will do a reasonable job for the novice or advanced genealogist. Unless otherwise noted:
I also reviewed mobile applications. The mobile app ratings are for that category only and are not meant for direct comparison with the PC programs.
Related Products and Links
|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.|
The Ancestry Android and Ipad Apps offer a mobile method for accessing your Ancestry.com family trees.
Horizontal pedigree chart with individual and family displays that can shown at the right side. Displays, adds, and edits individuals and events. Easy to search by name. Can add photos to the tree. With internet connection, edits are posted to Ancestry.com, locations are prompted, and Ancestry.com can be searched. Location aware devices can also supply current city for event location.
Does not support sources. No descendant, people, or place list view. No bookmarks or history list of viewed people.
Requires (free or paid) Ancestry.com registration.
Requires internet connection.
Gramps should be able to run on any operating systems that supports Python, e.g. Windows, Linux, Mac OS (disclaimer--I only tested in Windows). Easily navigate or filter by people or name list, family, relationship, ancestry, events, places, sources, repositories, media, and notes. An undo function allows easy correction of the most recent entries.
The place entry is especially outstanding. Places have distinct fields for street, city, latitude, church parish, etc. Alternate locations can be entered for each place, e.g. one could enter Virginia as an alternate for some West Virginia locations prior to the Civil War. Sources, notes, multimedia, and internet links can be linked to each place. Also all events linked to the place are displayed and can be navigated to.
The date support is superior. Dates can be based on several different calendars, e.g. Gregorian, Islamic, etc. The date can have a quality of regular, estimated, or calculated. And finally the type can include before, after, range, span, etc. Events support roles, e.g. bride for a marriage event. Oddly there is no date calculator so, for example, a birth date calculated from the age at death would need to be manually calculated.
Gramps creates the best narrative style web sites. You can select a standard copyright or from any of the Creative Commons copyrights. Not only can living people be excluded, entirely or name only but also a date range to restrict recently deceased people can be selected, e.g. people who died within the last five years could be treated as if they were still living.
Gramps can create large format reports which could be sent to a facility with the ability to print large sheets. Alternatively, large sized reports can be printed on individual pages which can be put together like a jigsaw puzzle, with the pages numbered according to their location in the overall report.
Sources can be attached to people, families, events, and multimedia. Citations can be copied and pasted.
Gramps directly supports patronymic and matronymic style names, e.g. ap Robert, verch Evan, etc. It also supports multiple surnames, e.g. Ramón y Cajal.
Gramps supports multiple parent relationships, e.g. adoptive. Same sex marriage is supported and each partner is labeled as "spouse." Same sex parents are also supported but one parent will be labeled as father and the other as mother. Marriage is not assumed for parents. Gender need not be specified for parents or married couples, e.g. a marriage can be entered for J. Roe and A. Smith with both listed as unknown gender. Genealogists worried about how to enter the parents of cloned individuals will be relieved to know that the same person can be entered as both father and mother:)
Gramps supports the utf-8 character set.
The family group text report did not have foot or end notes.
Lacks people list, source list, repository list, and citation list reports.
Portable version available at http://portableapps.com/apps/education/gramps_portable
If you're interested in an easy to use portable application then ScionPC should be at the top of your list.
I love the lack of gender constraints, e.g. I can add both of my grandchild's same sex parents without resorting to tricks such as changing the gender of one of the parents. Both members of marriages are referred to as partner's. (There is a warning that the couple is the same sex.) I wish other genealogy programs would adopt this standard. Can document a Sex Change.
ScionPC has exceptional date format support, e.g. Circa, Before, After, Estimated, and Date Range modifiers as well as Georgian, Julian, Hebrew, French Revolutionary, Islamic, Persian, Indian National, Coptic, User Defined and Unknown calendars. I like the pop up calendar for use when entering dates.
The program creates a complete web site for upload. Supports CSS.
Lists include repository, note, and media.
Global merge function for all identical Sources, Repositories, and Notes.
Supports other languages and database format is XML compliant yet only supports the ascii character set.
Only one source citation is permitted per event. Only one source format. No book print function.
Only one citation per event. Only one source format. No private notes. No book print function. No history list or back button to revisit previously viewed pages. No fan charts.
MyHeritage Family Tree Builder
MyHeritage Family Tree Builder's hour glass view can adjust from just one generation above and below the focus person to three generations. This eliminates the need for separate person, pedigree, and descendant views. There is a handy list for navigation just to the left which can be expanded or retracted out of the way.
MyHeritage automatically checks for possible duplicates when entering people. This feature mitigates the absence of a merge duplicate people tool. MyHeritage does offer the ability to merge relatives from other peoples trees on the MyHeritage.com website. Good tree consistency checker.
A button appears next to the place entry field when clicked will offer suggestions from similar places already appearing in your database. A pop-up calendar is available when entering dates. Supports Hebrew and French Revolution calendars.
Reports can be saved to HTML, RTF, and PDF format; charts, to PDF and JPEG. Supports a direct upload to the MyHeritage web site but no other independent web site creation. Imports GEDCOM format files. Will offer to create GEDCOM files directly from several other formats.
Marriage is assumed for parents but can be changed to another type of status such as Friends, Engaged, or Other. Gender need not be specified for parents or married couples, e.g. a marriage can be entered for J. Roe and A. Smith with both listed as unknown gender and "husband."
UTF-8 character encoding is supported.
No place or individual person reports.
The PDF format manual is very helpful substitute for context sensitive help.
Launches MyHeritage.com in a browser window on every program launch and displays nag screens when options unavailable in the free version are selected. Registration adds your email to several mailing lists. Some features require syncing to MyHeritage.com. (See note below)
No merge tools. No individual or place reports. No date calculator. Can not create a complete web site file set for upload to a third party site. Only one source format.
Requires registration with MyHeritage.com web site (See note below).
Please note that the MyHeritage online website was not recommended in my companion review of the Best Free Online Genealogy and Family Tree Applications. I felt that the online limit of 250 people was too constraining.
RootsMagic Essentials can import directly from several other genealogy programs as well as from a GEDCOM file. This functionality should be more widely supported as a lot of detail is lost in transfers with the GEDCOM format.
RootsMagic Essentials has a variety of source templates based somewhat on Elizabeth Shown Mills "Evidence."
Open multiple databases or the same database multiple times and display them side by side.
UTF-8 character encoding is supported.
The reports and charts produced by RootsMagic are generally better in appearance than the other programs listed here. Place, citation, to-do list, and narrative reports are supported. Bibliographies are available for some reports. Saving reports to other file formats is disabled—viewing and printing is allowed. There is no option to hide living people or events for living folks and no option to exclude private notes in reports. Reports not supported in free version are nicely greyed out.
I like the copy and paste citation functionality.
All parent relationships assume that the parents are married. This would give a very odd impression for children of an incestuous (parent/child) relationship.
There is no relationship calculator.
RootsMagic displays a nagging splash screen at every start up requiring the user to chose between the free and the Full version. This is immediately followed with a RootsMagic News screen. Many menu choices are not functional in the free version but nonfunctional reports are greyed out.
No People List views.
No relationship calculator.
Don't bother selecting the 68M place database download. The free version does not support the function.
Multiple names are supported and can be searched. Supports multiple parents and marriages. Same sex marriage is supported. Same sex parents are supported.
Supports languages with ASCII character encoding. No nags.
Does not support Unicode characters.
No duplicate merge tools (does check people on first entry). No pop-up calendar. No people bookmarks.
Ancestral Quest Basics
Ancestral Quest Basics automatically searches RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project and Ancestry.com in the background and displays number of matches. Performs individual Internet searches of Ancestry.com, Rootsweb.com, Familysearch.com, and Worldvitalrecords.com (some types of search available only with paid version).
Internet connection and browser required for internet search functions.
Supports languages with ASCII character encoding.
Only product reviewed which did not support incestual relationships (children of parent-child unions). Same gender relationships not supported.
Only search by primary name is supported. Back buttons, bookmarks, and history of people viewed are not supported.
Only product which did not support ancestor or descendant box type charts. No relationship or timeline reports. Photos can be attached to individuals and "include photos" can apparently be selected for reports but I was unable to have the photos to display anywhere except in the individual's scrapbook.
Nags with each startup and whenever a feature available only in paid version is selected.
No Unicode support.
Individual view blocked.
Legacy Standard is fairly easy to use, flexible, and has plenty of capabilities. The free version supports family, pedigree, and index views. Easily navigate to younger or older generations simply by clicking on the individuals. Clicking on Events icon displays all of the events for an individual.
You can attach photos or any other type of document. The source templates are well structured. The location field is unstructured but the Master Location List can help keep the locations consistent. The merge feature for people, places, sources, repositories, etc. is easy to use. You can select specific individuals, families and entire family lines for export or reports by placing them in a Focus Group.
Strong report generator supports many general report types including citation and to do lists. Legacy can print narrative book style reports using generic sentence templates. Creates stunning graphical charts, ancestor, descendant, fan, hourglass, and bow tie charts. Cannot save some reports to RTF (Rich Text Format); however, text format (ASCII) is supported. Saving reports to PDF format is not supported.
The program provides Internet Search links and a To Do List.
Legacy creates good looking web pages. Supports photos and CSS.
Same sex couples are not supported either as parents or marriage. Polygamous and sequential multiple marriages and incestuous relationships are supported. Multiple parental relationships such as including adoptive parents or guardians are supported. Supports multiple names but not searchable.
Only ASCII character encoding is supported.
Many menu items when selected display a nagging message that the feature is available only in the Deluxe Edition. Greying out and disabling the unavailable options would have been less obtrusive.
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