In this post, I talk about the benefits of using software to manage your family tree and also provide you the links to four of the most popular ones including the one that I use. Genealogy programs help you stay organized and also let you add any documents or photos that you may find about your ancestors. Not to mention it will also, if you choose the correct one, help you keep your family tree backed up to the cloud just in case your computer crashes and or is stolen. Most importantly you will save so much time and headaches since they make managing your Family Tree a pleasure.
A Genealogy program can also run reports and even help you write a book about your ancestors. My intention with this post is to encourage you to choose a genealogy program, that is if you do not have one yet.
I am often surprised that people tell me that they are building their family tree with pen and paper. Many others only use FamilySearch and or Ancestry to build their trees. In one instance someone told me that they had their family tree on both Ancestry and FamilySearch and that the tree on FamilySearch was a copy of the one in Ancestry and that they rebuilt it manually by copying each name one by one. I asked them why they didn’t just download the Gedcom from Ancestry and re-upload it to FamilySearch. They responded by asking: what is a Gedcom?
In case you don’t know a Gedcome file is an acronym standing for Genealogical Data Communication, a proprietary and open de facto specification for exchanging genealogical data between different genealogy software. GEDCOM was developed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) as an aid to genealogical research. All genealogy software and every genealogical website as FamilySearch and Ancestry follow these standards.
The program that I have been using since 2012, is Family Tree Maker. I started to use this program once I made the decision to restart my family tree from scratch. I chose it above anything else for the ease of use and the excellent source citing capabilities. I did not have anyone to advise me of the other great benefits that it offers, but I digress. When you start entering your family tree into this program as well as any other genealogical program they in turn create a database with every single piece of information that you enter into it. This database is a GEDCOM database that follows the standards created by the LSD Church thus guaranteeing that your family tree will be compatible with many other programs. The beauty of GEDCOM databases is that all programs let you export them either for safekeeping or to use for other purposes.
One of these other purposes is for example, the person that I mentioned before, instead of them recreating their family tree again by entering each name one by one. They could have just simply exported their GEDCOM file and uploaded it to FamilySearch thus guaranteeing a true exact family tree as the one they have on Ancestry. In their case, since they were not using a genealogy program all they had to do was download the GEDCOM database from Ancestry and re-upload it to FamilySearch.
To export your family tree from Ancestry all you have to do is log in and go to your family tree by selecting it from the “Family Tree” tab. Once you are there click the drop-down menu to your top left-hand corner titled “Tree Pages” and select “Tree Settings” Once there you will see a green button that says “Export Tree”. Once you click it your browser will download your entire family tree as a GEDCOM database file that you can either use with any genealogy program or upload to any genealogical website.
When I first Started
I started to do Genealogy when I was about 16 years old back in 1998. As you can imagine a 17-year-old does not have much money, at least I did not. I barely had a computer that worked and at the time I was just doing my family tree by hand using pen and paper. Years later my first attempt to go digital with my very short knowledge of genealogy was to make a simple family tree using a text editor on my computer. Then in 2002, I discovered Family Tree Builder, the only free choice that I could find out there. I fell in love with it. At first, it was great since all I cared was about entering names into it. I had no care in the world to make sure that my information was correct. It took me years to become really good at researching. Years later I got more serious and started to cite my sources, by then I already had 16,000 names in my database. I tried to go back and cite my sources but I promptly found out that Family Tree Builder was very limited in its citing capabilities. I had to enter each citation manually for every individual mentioned in one document. You could not create just one citation and link it to every person mentioned. It was very frustrating.
After some research, I found that Family Tree Maker had great citation capabilities and would let me make one citation and link it to every person and fact mentioned in that particular citation. It was great and it still is. For now, let’s continue to talk about the various software that are out there. Even though I use Family Tree Maker it might not be what you are looking for.
Different Genealogical Programs
Family Tree Maker – This is the one that I use and the only one that I have recommended since 2012.
Family Tree Builder – I started to use them in 2002 and have already completely stopped using them. I highly recommend it for people who are on a tight budget or beginners who don’t want to spend any money on this awesome hobby.
RootsMagic – I have tried them but there is something that I just can’t quite figure out. I think it may be that the interface makes them look outdated but you never know they may be the right choice for you. They also have some trial software and I believe a free version of their software with limited capabilities. Also great for beginners and if your budget is tight.
Legacy Family Tree – I will be honest with you. I have not tried them but many people swear by them. You might try them out too.
Do Your Own Testing
Let’s be clear the above-mentioned programs are not the only ones out there. A simple Google search will probably return hundreds of choices. The above ones are the most popular ones and the ones that I have heard other researchers tell me that they use and love. In the end, it will come to the one that you feel more comfortable with and the one that is easier for you to use or maybe the one that provides what you need as was the case with me.
I’ve Chosen My Software, Now what?
Now the really hard part or fun part, depending on how you see it, is to open your software and create a simple tree with you and your wife, your parents, and your children. Before you go any further than this take time to explore your program. Click on every tab and option. Learn it inside out. Google any questions that you may have. Also, Google it on YouTube to see if there are any tutorial videos about the program that you choose. Join our Facebook group We Are Cousins and ask questions about your program and either me or someone else may be able to help you. Once you have learned about your program it is time to start entering all your family tree into it. Don’t forget to create your citations. They will save you headaches in the future.
Remember the first step to taking your genealogy into the digital age is to start with your family tree by choosing a genealogy program that fits you and your needs.
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Presentation on Using Computer Programs to Manage Your Family Tree
Using Computer Programs to Manage Your Family Tree – Summary: If you are still managing your family tree with pen and paper and or another system to manage it then this presentation is perfect for you. Learn firsthand how software can make you more efficient and help you find ancestors faster.
Note: This post was first posted on Jan 16, 2015