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Genealogy applications provide 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 web applications which require a browser and internet connection. If you are interested in stand alone programs please see my companion review at Best Free Genealogy / Family Tree Applications.
Several free web applications will do a reasonable job for the novice or advanced genealogist. Unless otherwise noted:
The free online genealogy sites have an advantage in that you can collaborate or share with others on your family tree research. However, I don't recommend them as your only method for documenting your research.
You should not publicly post information about living individuals that might be inappropriate for sharing with the public. Not everyone believes that privacy is dead and they are not willing to get over it. Either exclude them from the upload or verify that the site purges or otherwise restricts the data to the posting individual.
Sooner or later most researchers would want to produce some sort of report or chart of their research. These sites have few reports compared to the offline programs.
Finally I strongly suggest making regular backups of your research to your hard drive or to another website in case the company shuts down entirely, begins charging for formerly free services, or institutes a policy that you dislike.
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Living individuals can be entered but are not viewable or accessable to others.
No nagging as the site is not feature limited. With the exception the images of some sources which are hosted on third party sites which require payment for access to the image or a visit to a Family History Center. No ads.
Printable fan charts, pedigree charts, family group sheets.
Ability to send messages to other users working on the same individuals.
Does not support same sex marriages or incestuous (parent-child) relationships.
Cannot directly upload or download a GEDCOM. You have to load the GEDCOM into one of the free programs that syncs with FamilySearch (Ancestral Quest, Legacy Family Tree and RootsMagic), then sync to upload. As you sync, you will be asked to resolve any duplicates. This may take a long time, but it prevents duplicates, and you may find some additional information about your ancestors.
WeRelate.org is a wiki site similar to Wikipedia with the focus on family research. Like Wikipedia anyone can search and view the entries, e.g. do not post anything you wouldn't want public. Also like Wikipedia anyone with an account can make corrections or edits. Any disputes are resolved by the site moderators. People, places, sources, families, etc. are created as wiki articles.
Duplicate people are checked for when adding. Also you can search for and merge duplicates.
Sets the standard for name searches. They sponsor the Variant names project which is a huge improvement on Soundex searches. Know of a variation on a name--then add it to the moderated list. Search for people by date, place, parents, and keywords.
Impressive source support. Attaching photographs and documents is easily done. Master place list with many places displaying their corresponding Wikipedia articles. The application prompts for the location once a few characters have been typed. There is a process to merge duplicate sources and places but it would be more convenient if we could do it directly.
The pedigree map (oddly hidden under the "more" drop down of the upper left hand menu) starts as a bow-tie report with dependents on the left and ancestors on the right. One can select which groups of individuals to include to make it more like just a pedigree or descendant chart. The birth, death, and combined locations maps are nicely done. They also provide a timeline view, thumbnail, and details view for everyone in the pedigree view. Note formatting. Strong image and document support.
Can delete tree (except for articles already edited by others). Email unsubscribe. Living individuals must be removed from any GEDCOM upload. There is an Edit log for every revision and any registered user can revert back to a previous submission. You can get an email notification for any revision to any article including your own submissions.
You can upload and download GEDCOM files. The uploads are limited to 5,000 people but you can upload several files.The limit is helpful as there is a cleanup process before the files are forwarded to a moderator for approval, e.g. living people, children older than their parents, children born after mother's death, etc. are all rejected. Much simpler to make the correction in the source program and reupload to verify that the errors are indeed gone.
Supports same sex, polygamous, and incestouous marriages. Supports adoptive or foster parents.
Site is supported by prominent ads which appear on the right side.
No reports but screen prints can be made of the pedigree map mentioned above.
WikiTree is another collaborative family tree site. I like that that there are several levels of privacy which can be set individually for each person in your tree. Gender neutral marriages and parents are allowed. Ancestor Pedigree Chart, Ahnentafel Ancestor List, Family Group View, Descendant List, Wikid Shareable Tree, Family Tree Widgets, and Location Map reports.
There is a duplicate search feature and manual merging of duplicate people.
No source citations for Name, Birth, Marriage, and Death Events. There is no provision for adoptive or foster parents. Events other than name, birth, marriage, and death and Sources and Repositories must be entered in Wiki format. No place list. Despite the Wiki reference in the name this site doesn't have the same look and feel of Wikipedia like WeRelate does. Cannot delete either tree or individual.
Ancestry.com provides a forum for uploading and entering your information online. You have a choice of making your tree public or private. Individuals in private trees appear in searches but all details are hidden from the searcher until you grant access. This is not a collaborative site, e.g. others have read only access to your data and the ability to attach notes. You can upload and download GEDCOM files. People list view. Custom facts. Prompts for location. Can attach photographs and documents. Relationship calculator.
Cannot exclude living people without making the entire file private--of course one could upload two files and make the living people file private while making the deceased file public. No duplicate finder or manual merge ability. No bookmarks.
Search sometimes cannot find the people in your own file.
Free Ancestry Guest Registration is available at Ancestry Guest Registration.
If your tree is public then unauthorized access is not an issue.
RootsWeb WorldConnect is a read only searchable site for uploaded GEDCOM files. None of the uploaded data can be edited. All trees are available to the public. This is not a collaborative site, e.g. others have read only access to your data and the ability to attach notes but cannot edit. You can upload and download GEDCOM files.
The site provides Individual, Descendancy, Register, Pedigree, and Ahnentafel views.
Display Options, Living Person Options, GEDCOM Download Options, and Owner Information are selected on upload of the GEDCOM file. Display allows a title, how surnames are highlighted, how many levels of ancestry or descendency are viewable, a link to your homepage, and a title and footer for the pages.
Living person options provide a choice between showing people as "Living Surname" with no details or completely suppressed in the display. WorldConnect defaults to treating people born after the latest publicly available US Census and no death information as living. You can choose an earlier date for this cutoff. You can also choose to treat deceased children of living people as living and anyone deceased after the cutoff year as living.
GEDCOM download options are whether to allow download of the complete GEDCOM (with living suppressed), a partial download limited to so many generations, or none at all.
WorldConnect displays advertising next to your data as well as ads for Ancestry.com, the owners of RootsWeb. Any GEDCOMS uploaded here will also be searchable and viewable on Ancestry.com.
Requires a genealogy program to maintain the data and create GEDCOMs for upload to this site.
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