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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Average: 3.9 (162 votes)

Comments

I have been using Legacy Family Tree for the past 5 years. It does support same sex marriage and same sex parents. You just have to turn off the 'warning' of this 'error' in the Customize menu.

[Commercial version feature comment removed]

I looked for the "warning" you described in the Customize menu. I can't find it. It is not a "warning" that prevents adding a same sec spouse or parent. The menu options for adding those people is greyed out, e.g. add wife is greyed out when a female is displayed. If add a husband is selected then the sex defaults to male with female greyed out. Please describe the step by step process for adding a same sex spouse and parent.
"Opens MyHeritage web site on every program start. Nags when encountering feature limits." Haven't downloaded MyHeritage Family Tree builder, but the the homepage shows that there is no adware, spyware or evil-ware included with the product. Is it feature-limited, because I can't see that too http://www.myheritage.com/download-family-tree-builder
If there are no extra third-party things bundled with the software, then the site is correct in saying that there are no adware, spyware, or evil-ware included. However, a nag screen is different. Having a nag screen does not make the program a spyware, or adware. It makes it a nagware. So, what is written by the editor is correct in the QSG. These things should be discussed in the Editor's Forum anyways.
Yes, it is feature limited. My comments and ratings are based on the actual features available in the free version. There is a comment in the Quick Selection guide for all of the products to indicate whether they are feature limited versions of commercial products.
Yes I did see that in the QSD, but the site here: http://www.myheritage.com/download-family-tree-builder states that the product doesn't include any kind of adware etc, as opposed to the cons in the QSD. Also I can't find any Pro version of the software anywhere on the site, if the free was feature limited. I might be wrong, I still have to test the product. Edit: Ok, I did find the premium version, which is the link that's been pointed to in the QSD
Sorry, I have no control over the claims the company makes on its web site. I agree that all of the feature limited versions of commercial software listed here contain adware. To avoid adware, I suggest using one of the programs listed as "Unrestricted freeware" in the QSD. For me, clicking the QSD link launched the free version download page. On that page, clicking the link just below the "Free Download" link ("We also have a Premium version for more powerful features") opens a window that says "To get the Premium Family Tree Builder, start with the free download. You can upgrade later from the program itself." Upgrades to commercial versions are out of scope for this website.

Thanks for the reply, okrick. I am using IE 10 as my browser, and when I click on the Quick Selection Guide link, I am only taken as far down as the ScionPC discussion. Also, please note that I'm not sure from the discussion which free program gets the highest rating or which programs work well with the 64 bit version of Windows.

I tried with IE10 on my Windows 8 PC, and the Quick Selection Guide is working fine. Tried with Firefox too. All fine here. Maybe some add-on interfering?

Disabled all IE 10 add-ons; link issue remains. In fact, just noted another issue. After clicking the link, along the right side of the narrative, I see small specks of icons. If I put my cursor on the specks, the say things like "version," "product type," "pros," "cons," etc. When I return to that page, the specks are missing until I click on the poorly working Quick Selection Guide link again.

However, I'm less interested in fixing the link issue and more interested about how the free programs in the discussion are rated compared to others and which will work well with 64 bit Windows 7?

The stars in the Quick Selection Guide show their relative rating compared with the others. All the programs worked well with 64 bit Windows 7. All of them are actually designed for a 32 bit system.
Seems like the page might not be loading right for some reason. Try clearing cache, history, temp files, etc, and then try again. Or, use another browser.

Using latest version of Firefox solved the problem; all ratings appear and Quick Selection Guide link works perfectly. I will have to play with IE10 to see if I can figure out it's issue.

Re: Legacy Standard free
Gizmo says
"Source templates, research guidance, place list, to-do list, Focus groups. Creates web sites. Merge feature for people, places, sources, repositories, etc. Many report and chart types including narrative, citation list, to do, and DNA. Internet searches. Polygamous and sequential multiple marriages and incestuous relationships are supported. Supports multiple names but can't search them."

Legacy says that "research Guidance" only available in the paid version. "Dna" markers also only in paid version, I did not research any further re comparisons of other features only in the Paid version

Good catch. You are absolutely correct. The language was partially left over from last years review. I must have lifted some of Legacy's narration without double checking that it was actually present in the free version. I revisited the other claims and they are present in the free version. I corrected my narrative. Neither of these issues is significant enough to modify my rating. Thanks, Rick

Just read this today and wondered why several of the discussed software packages never made it to the ratings and compatible operating software part of the article (Quick Selection Guide)? Also the Quick Selection Guide link early in the article takes us to a spot mid-discussion rather than to the start of the guide.

Sorry about that. This time I used an off line html editor to make my changes. When I pasted the results back online I noticed that many of the links and images vanished. I hope I've found all of the missing issues. I vow to never edit these articles off line again. The Quick Selection Guide link took me to the start of the guide in Firefox, Chrome, and IExplore. Please try it again and let me know exactly where the link lands you. Also it might be helpful to know which browser you're using. Rick

I should have mentioned in my previous post that I am using the portable version of Gramps but surely this would not make a difference to the relationship situation for cousins. As much as I love open source software I do detest having to download and install separate software components in order to allow Gramps to run. That is why I downloaded the portable version.

The Gramps Kinship Report lists cousins of all degrees and removals. It even indicats the direction of the removal. I used the all in one windows installed version instead of the portable version. Since my last review, Gramps has prominently listed all in one installers on its site. During my previous reviews, it seemed to me that the all in one installers were independent projects of one of their developers. I felt much more space at the time was devoted to the differing versions of Gramps and to informing potential users of how to get and install the various software components. I'm glad to see that has apparently changed.

Have you heard of or looked at XY Family Tree? I have downloaded it and GRAMPS. XY was considerably easier to enter data into. Also after I had entered all available data GRAMPS would not recognize cousin relationships at all yet XY Family Tree listed all such relationships including the once, twice removed status etc.

Yes, I looked at XY Family Tree. Didn't recommend it due to no sources, only born, married, and death events, and no reports. In my opinion, any one of these issues would be a fatal flaw for a genealogy program.

Have just migrated from a paid program to Gramps v.3.4.3-1. I am impressed beyond believe. Took a few days to find my way around the wiki help files but well worth the time.
Almost every screen has a Help button that takes you to the appropriate page in the online wiki (Prepare to Bookmark!)
Lots of pop up tips as well to help you through the mire.

Someone mentioned that you can't change the date format. In my version, it can be easily changed via Edit > preferences > Display tab > 'Date Format'.

The features in Legacy are about average for what you'd expect of a family tree program but there're many more user friendly programs on the market. I use Legacg, FTM, FTB, PAF and CGR depending on what I want to do and which reports I want to run.

But would you trust your family tree data, data that has been collected after years of painstaking research, to a program that does not correctly export to a Gedcom?

Legacy is more concerned with developing new features rather than fixing the bugs in their current version. Below is correspondence with their "support" department when I discovered a bug in the system..a bug they claim to have known about and fixed in Oct 2012 but the fix has not been released as at 6 Feb 2013..

[edited out]

Have edited out the long conversation posted, which was quite long for the comments section. Please post it in the freeware forum, with a link to the thread here in the comments section. Also, please make sure not to post the emails, as this is a public forum, and it's not safe posting emails publicly.

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