Two women use genealogy software on a laptop.

The Best Family Tree Building Software Programs

For both amateur genealogists tracking their family line and expert professionals maintaining thousands of records, genealogy software can make it easier to locate, digitize and index data. There are several options available to you, and if you’re new to software of this type, choosing the right one for your project may feel like a head-scratcher.

We’ve taken a look at the best picks out there, so check out this point-by-point overview of the most used genealogy software to learn more about how they can benefit you and which one is right for your needs.

Our Top Picks

  • Legacy Family Tree is the most well-rounded genealogy software, offering an interface that’s easy for beginners to use with powerful indexing capabilities that keep it useful even to experienced genealogists
  • Family Historian is the perfect software for someone who’d rather focus on genealogy than technology; it’s simple to use, and links up with Family Search to make importing and exporting findings easy
  • RootsMagic is popular among legitimate genealogists for its functionality, portability, and versatility — it allows you to work from more than one family database at a time, and Windows, Mac, phone, and tablet versions all exist

Comparison Table

Legacy Family Tree

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: No
  • Can be used on mobile: Yes
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

Family Historian

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: No
  • Can be used on mobile: No
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: No

Gramps

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: Yes
  • Can be used on mobile: App exists, but is not updated and no longer works
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

Family Tree Builder

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: Yes
  • Can be used on mobile: Yes
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

RootsMagic

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: Yes
  • Can be used on mobile: Yes
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

Do I Need Genealogy Software?

If you’re an amateur genealogist deciding whether or not genealogy software is right for you, there are a few things to consider.

  • Cost. If you’re spending a monthly fee to access a family tree building tool online, you’re likely to save money by making a one-time investment in genealogy software; you’ll definitely save by opting for an open-source freeware genealogy program like Gramps.
  • Privacy. Does your family tree consist of mostly living or mostly non-living relatives? Creating a true family tree is likely to require including names and records of living people. In order to protect their family’s privacy, some people prefer to keep their tree and genealogical records offline.
  • Reliable access. When you choose genealogy software over an online records storage tool, you can be assured that you can access your tree and records whenever you need them. You won’t have to rely on an Internet connection, nor have to worry about a website having downtime, maintenance, or simply being slow.

Start here if you are just beginning your genealogy journey.

What are the benefits of genealogy software?

Using genealogy software to maintain your family’s records can help you be sure they’re always accessible, preserve your family’s privacy, and avoid the monthly cost associated with some genealogy websites. There are other ways in which a genealogy program can be useful to researchers.

Wondering what else genealogy software will let you do?

  • Create your family tree. You’ll be able to visualize your ancestral relationships through an evolving family tree diagram, creating listings for each family member including relevant relationships, places, and dates
  • Track sources carefully. Software gives you an easy way to track your research sources and link them directly to your tree so you can verify them whenever you need to
  • Generate printable reports. Many genealogy softwares allow you to generate a printable family tree or pedigree chart as well as other ancestry reports which can be printed and shared among immediate family or at a reunion or other event
  • Safely track media related to your genealogy. Pictures and documents you’ve scanned or saved as well as any audio or video recordings of loved ones that have been digitized can be indexed in individual listings
  • Verified backups. Remembering to back up your files on a regular schedule can be difficult, but in almost all cases, genealogy software creates automatic backups that allow you to protect your hard work
  • Transfer information between programs and websites. The use of GEDCOM files makes it easy to export your work from one software program and import it into another program or genealogy site
  • Locate new info. Genealogy software can prompt you with hints about how and where to find out more information about the ancestors you’re researching

Looking to add more to your genealogy toolkit? For researchers in search of records from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, Find My Past is unrivaled.

Detailed Comparisons

1. Legacy Family Tree

If you’re an amateur genealogist attempting to work with genealogy software for the first time, you’re likely to find success with Legacy Family Tree 9. Although the interface unquestionably has a bit of a ‘vintage’ feel, learning and using the program is simple for beginners; you’ll quickly see that inputting your data goes quickly and easily, and navigating between databases and entries is a breeze.

Legacy is Family Search certified, and links up to both online genealogical research databases and other genealogical services. The charts it generates aren’t especially impressive aesthetically, but their content is remarkably comprehensive. The program also offers highly accurate GEDCOM files, even acknowledging polygamous and same-sex marriages that other programs may overlook to the detriment of accurate pedigree files.

The software allows users to convert genealogy research into a story that can be printed and shares; this story follows the timeline of your family, and includes noteworthy events, special memories, and marriages, among other things. Reports can also be formulated from charts created with the program, which can be printed for sharing or exported as HTML to be shared on a web page.

Key Features

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: No
  • Can be used on mobile: Yes
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

Pros

  • The interface is very simple to use, which makes inputting data a quick and easy process
  • Legacy provides highly accurate GEDCOM files, even including notations for same-sex and polygamous unions for historical accuracy where other programs do not

Cons

  • Though it’s easy to use, both the interface of Legacy and the charts it creates have a distinct “vintage” appearance mirroring the tech of the Windows XP/Vista era
  • If you want to use Legacy on a Mac, you’ll need to use a Virtual Machine

Where to buy: legacyfamilytree.com

2. Family Historian

Looking to organize heaps of genealogical data? Family Historian 6 may just have the tools you’re looking for, as their software makes it quick and simple to input and edit listings and index the information you’ve found. However, if you’re looking to perform in-depth research on your family’s genealogical history, the program may not meet your needs. Unlike some other popular genealogy software, Family Historian does’t connect to any research sources, so you’ll need to bring your own information.

The software has partial integration with genealogy site MyHeritage, using them as a source of hints relating to documentation provided in your tree. Accessing this service will require shelling out for an additional monthly subscription beyond the download cost of your software, but can connect you with a database of records that may push your research forward a bit if you’re stuck. This connection also doesn’t allow for the automatic input of any data, so you’ll be stuck typing tree entries and data from records manually.

Family Historian will allow users to import and export both GEDCOM files and their native file type, referred to as Family Historian Project files. It’s available for Windows, but Mac users will need to use a Virtual Machine to run the program. If you’re not sure if the program is right for you, a 30-day free trial can offer the opportunity to experiment with the interface and see what Family Historian has to offer.

Key Features

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: No
  • Can be used on mobile: No
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: No

Pros

  • There’s a 30 day free trial, so you can audition the software without a major financial commitment
  • You can add relatives of unknown sex, which is helpful when you have only a name to go on

Cons

  • The cost of Family Historian doesn’t include genealogical research — you’ll need to use a database to source your listings, and there’s no auto-fill option
  • If you want to use Family Historian on a Mac, you’ll need to use a Virtual Machine

Where to buy: https://www.family-historian.co.uk/

3. Gramps

There’s plenty of great genealogy software out there for Windows users, but if you use Linux or are on a Mac, it’s not as easy to come by. For many, Gramps is something of a holy grail — not only is it highly functional genealogy software, but it’s available on Windows, Linux, and Mac, and it’s free! The open-source, Python-based application is available for download at no cost whatsoever.

There’s one downside, which is that it’s not the easiest possible choice for beginners. You may face a bit of a learning curve when it comes to inputting data, but as you gain experience, the program feels more intuitive. The larger issue is that to get the most out of the program, the installation of third-party plugins is required, which can be a bit complex for those who aren’t tech-savvy.

That said, if you know your way around open source software and plugins, you’ll certainly be able to mold Gramps into a program that meets your needs. Plugins, which are cutely referred to as ‘Gramplets’, add dynamic changes and interactivity to the base software; if you’re an expert at Python, you might even consider coding an add-on that will create the exact functionality you desire.

Another benefit to Gramps being open source? You’re never locked into a client relationship with anyone genealogy company, nor does any company have access or ownership to any part of your genealogical records.

Key Features

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: Yes
  • Can be used on mobile: App exists, but is not updated and no longer works
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

Pros

  • The program is open source, which means it’s totally free genealogy software and always will be
  • It’s compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux, which can’t be said about other genealogy software

Cons

  • There’s a learning curve to entry, and it can feel rather complicated when you’re starting out
  • The base program itself isn’t very novel, so you’ll need to install plugins called Gramplets to unlock more functionality — this may be difficult for someone who isn’t tech-savvy

Where to download: gramps-project.org/blog/download

4. Family Tree Builder

A fluid, modern interface with drag-and-drop functionality makes Family Tree Builder an easy sell for those who want to create their family tree without feeling like they’re doing a homework assignment. It’s aesthetically pleasing to be sure, and doesn’t sacrifice functionality to get there. You’ll be able to import and export GEDCOM files; when importing, Family Tree Builder conveniently places copies of audio, video, and images associated with your GEDCOM file in a unique folder.

The software, which is powered by top-5 genealogy company MyHeritage, is completely free to download. The free software comes with basic family tree creation functionality, but there are quite a few features which remain behind a paywall in the free version. In order to merge information from other trees on MyHeritage, view your family tree as an all-in-one chart, remove limitations on access to interactive apps, and view your family history timeline, you’ll need to be a deluxe subscriber. Additionally, your tree will only be able to be viewed online by other paying members of MyHeritage.

The ability to create and order dynamic, visually pleasing, and highly customized wall charts is unique to Family Tree Builder. A partnership between Generations Maps and MyHeritage means that users may order high resolution prints of their chart, which can be edited for style, size, background, border, and font. You’ll also have the option to simply save the chart as a PDF for your records.

One more thing to note: tracking sources is an important part of your genealogical research, and Family Tree Builder doesn’t have any features to make it easier on users. Customized source-citing templates don’t exist, not can you batch-apply a citation to more than one entry in your tree. This can make keeping track of sources a little tedious.

Another note: A similar name can make it easy to confuse this software with Family Tree Maker, a program designed by Broderbund and sold to ancestry.com FTM is vulnerable to crashes, and as such, we don’t recommend it.

Key Features

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: Yes
  • Can be used on mobile: Yes
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

Pros

  • It features an attractive, modern drag-and-drop interface that’s easy for beginners to grasp
  • Thanks to a partnership with Generations Maps, you can order or download a copy of a customized genealogy chart

Cons

  • Although the software itself is free, many of the most desirable features require Family Tree Heritage Platinum subscription or other similar premium membership
  • There’s no way to apply one source to multiple entries, nor do customized source forms exist, so entering the information can become repetitive

Where to download: myheritage.com

5. RootsMagic

Balance is the name of the game with RootsMagic 7, a software that combines a comparatively low retail cost with ease of use, cross-platform compatibility and no hidden fees. The software has both a Windows and a Mac version and also features a functional app that works on both iOS and Android devices, which puts them a step ahead of competitors whose apps have long remained without updates.

The popular software is certified by Family Search, which is one of the largest genealogical databases in the world and which is completely free to access. The database is powered and maintained by the LDS church, but is secular and open to the public. This means that it’s a breeze to locate records connected to your family and use them to build a family tree, and you won’t need to pay for a subscription to a secondary source in order to do so.

The interface isn’t as modern as some other family tree programs, but nonetheless, it’s clean-cut and functional with a limited learning curve, which means it’s still among the best family tree software. Entering data quickly becomes a streamlined process, and helpful hints powered by Family Search allow you to extrapolate useful details about family members based on the site’s record searches.

One aspect that may disappoint some users is RootsMagic’s chart creation ability. Though the software can create charts, there aren’t very many options and they’re not especially unique or attractive. It still puts them ahead of quite a few competitors with even fewer chart customization options. The software also struggles minorly with accuracy when importing GEDCOM files, so double-checking entries for accuracy is wise. Overall, however, RootsMagic provides a balanced experience that’s great for new users and has functionality across all major platforms.

Key Features

  • PC Compatible: Yes
  • Mac Compatible: Yes
  • Can be used on mobile: Yes
  • Offers online support: Yes
  • Integrates with other services and software: Yes

Pros

  • RootsMagic relies on Family Search, which means access to one of the world’s largest genealogical databases to research your family’s history without any hidden charges
  • The learning curve is limited, so new users can usually pick the program up without too much of an issue

Cons

  • Though you can create charts, customization options are few and far between and the results aren’t that attractive
  • The software sometimes produces errors when importing GEDCOM files

Where to buy: rootsmagic.com

Choosing the Right Genealogy Software for Your Needs

The Best Genealogy Software: Legacy Family Tree Builder

Whether you’re new to genealogy and trying to organize your records or you’re simply making the jump to new genealogy software, the most important thing is choosing software that meets your needs. Legacy Family Tree Builder is one pick that has many features on offer for both the novice and expert researcher. It’s certified by Family Search, making use of one of the world’s largest records databases for free access to information, and is trusted by genealogists worldwide; for these reasons, we consider it the best genealogy software.

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Hannah H.

Hannah H.

Hannah is both a parent and a freelance journalist and author. You go, girl! She is an impeccable wordsmith and her warm and witty outlook on life makes her pieces a joy to read.

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