How do I Choose a Genealogy Program?

Family Tree ComputerIn early December Ancestry.com stunned the users of Family Tree Maker (FTM) with an announcement that they would discontinue the sale of FTM on December 31, 2015.  They further stated that they would only support FTM compatibility with patrons’ online trees for one year.  This sent many FTM users into a quandary: should I stay with unsupported FTM or invest in a new genealogy software package.

Then came the reprieve: Ancestry.com announced an agreement with Software MacKiev to purchase Family Tree Maker.  (See Family Tree Maker – It’s Back!)  Software MacKiev will take over the task of updates and creating new version of FTM.  They will also maintain the interaction with your Ancestry family tree.  Ancestry.com also announced a new relationship with RootsMagic.  With this relationship, RootsMagic can serve as your desktop family tree software, while also having access to Ancestry hints, Ancestry searches, and the ability to save your tree on Ancestry.

What should I do?

These events have sparked multiple conversations about genealogy software packages amongst beginner and experienced genealogist alike.  As a beginner you may be asking what features do genealogy programs offer.  You will want to consider ease of data entry, citation styles, report features, reliability checking, and technical support.

Those already using a software program will have a point of reference.  You may be concerned with how the new program differs from your current product.  You will want to know how the new program imports data from your old program.  Can the new program read their old files, or will they have to use the GEDCOM format to transfer the data?  Are you combining more than one file?  You will want to look for a duplicates merging function.

So many Questions!

Trying to decide between programs may seem like a daunting task.  Recently Rhonda R. McClure, a staff genealogist with the New England Historic Genealogical Society, presented an excellent webinar titled, Choosing a Genealogical Software ProgramDuring this hour long presentation Rhonda discusses the important features you may want to consider when evaluating a genealogy program.  She highlights each point with screen shots from 8 different programs (Windows & MAC) giving you the feel of each program.

Summary

Genealogical software can help you organize your family history research, create proper citations, generate charts & reports, update & add new family members, and in some cases interact with Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.  Investigate a few, try a couple of free demo versions, and you should be able to find a program that meets your needs for many years.

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