NOTE: I usually publish an update to this article about once a year. In fact, several new Windows genealogy programs have appeared in the past twelve months.The following is a list of all the more popular genealogy programs that I know of that are actively being marketed for Windows users in North America. In fact, more than one hundred genealogy programs have been offered to Windows users over the years, and a handful of them are still available for purchase today. However, not all of them are being actively developed and supported. For this list, I will focus only on the products that are current and still have developers writing updates, bug fixes, and new releases.
The following list is in alphabetical order:
Ancestral Quest from Incline Software is the program that Personal Ancestral File (also known as PAF) could have become if the Mormon Church had continued development of their Windows genealogy product. Both Ancestral Quest and Personal Ancestral File share a common heritage: at one time, they were nearly the same program. Both were originally developed by the same programming team. However, as time went by, the program was split into two different products with programming supplied by two different teams. Over a period of several years, Personal Ancestral File received only a few updates and eventually was “frozen” with all the software developers moved to other products. In contrast, Ancestral Quest has remained as an active product, and many new features have been added to the program in recent years.
Ancestral Quest can read and write databases created by Personal Ancestral File. As a result, it is a popular product for PAF users who wish to move up to a more modern product. In fact, it is possible to switch back and forth between the two while using a single shared database: enter your data in PAF and later read it in Ancestral Quest as well as vice versa.
New features added to Ancestral Quest that have always been missing in PAF include the capability to publish books directly from the program, a wide variety of charts (Pedigree Charts, Family Group Sheets, Ancestry charts, Descendant charts, genealogy book reports, fan charts and more), multimedia scrapbooks, an excellent source citation system, the ability to research your family on the Internet directly from the program, the ability to create web pages in HTML format, and even the capability to run Ancestral Quest from a flash drive with a utility program called AQ2Go. With this last feature, you can carry a reduced version of the program and its full database in a jump drive, then use it on a friend's PC, a public library's PC, or an Internet cafe. A special “Jewish Edition” of the program adds a Page of Testimony and special events unique to the Jewish community, such as Bar Mitzvah, Bas Mitzvah, Hebrew/Yiddish Name, and Tribe.
Ancestral Quest is one of the first products to smoothly integrate with New FamilySearch, allowing the user to maintain all data on a local hard drive or to read and write data on the New FamilySearch online database or to do both. Individual records, or groups of records, can easily be copied from the local database to the online database and vice versa.
Ancestral Quest 12.1 sells for $29.95, and a 60-day free trial may be downloaded from the program's web site at http://www.ancquest.com
Perhaps the newest genealogy program on this list is Branches, produced by Sherwood Electronics. Branches is advertised as "Genealogy Software of the 21st Century" and lives up to that name. Some users refer to it as “Google Maps for Genealogy.”
What makes Branches stand out from its competition is its graphical user interface. You can view, manage, and organize your genealogy data in a modern graphical environment. Underneath that graphical interface lies a very powerful SQL database. With Branches, you will see your genealogy in a whole new perspective.
The graphical interface in Branches is very similar to modern mapping software. In effect, your family tree is "mapped," and you can zoom in or out or move in any direction in much the same manner as using Google Maps or MapQuest. Clicking on a pedigree chart and dragging it, zooming in, zooming out, and otherwise moving around your family tree is an interesting and enjoyable experience. In short, Branches is FUN to use.
You can read my earlier review of Branches 1.0 at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2010/05/branches-a-major-new-windows-genealogy-program.html
Branches sells for $39.95, and a 30-day free trial version is also available. You can learn more about Branches or download the trial version at http://www.branchesgenealogy.com/
Brother's Keeper is a shareware genealogy program that started years ago as an MS-DOS program, before Windows had been invented. Author John Steed continues to update and modernize the program as users request new features. Although not as well known as some of the other Windows genealogy programs, Brother's Keeper has fiercely loyal users.
Brother's Keeper is shareware. That is, you may download the entire program and run it without restrictions. There is no “dummied down” or trial version; the file you download contains the entire program. If you do decide to keep Brother's Keeper and use it on a regular basis, you are morally obligated to pay $45 for a registration key.
You can learn more about Brother's Keeper or download the complete program at http://www.bkwin.org/.
Family Historian from Calico Pie is a Windows genealogy program that is popular in many countries. Developed in England, the program has many enthusiastic users throughout the British Isles, Europe, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. The program is now sold in Target stores in the United States and, as a result, Family Historian's share of the U.S. market has been growing.
Family Historian performs all the standard features one expects of genealogy software: excellent reports, the ability to create web sites and CD/DVD-ROM databases to share with others, printed family trees that (optionally) can contain photographs or even video files, and even an "All Relatives" diagram that shows all descendants and all ancestors (and their spouses).
Not only is Family Historian fully GEDCOM compatible, but it even uses the GEDCOM format as its database. Yes, data is stored in GEDCOM format. As a result, Family Historian is one of the best programs to use to examine GEDCOM files received from relatives or downloaded from the Internet. Family Historian runs surprisingly quickly; data is normally retrieved from the GEDCOM database and displayed on screen in the blink of an eye on most systems.
Family Historian 4 sells for $48.50 as a downloadable product or for a bit more if purchased in a box with a CD. A free 30-day trial version is also available. For more information and a link to download the trial version, look at http://www.family-historian.co.uk. You can listen to an audio interview, or podcast, which I created a few years ago with Family Historian developer Simon Orde at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2006/05/podcast_an_inte.html.
Family Tree Builder
MyHeritage is an interesting company that produces two seemingly competitive products: the MyHeritage web site and the Family Tree Builder genealogy program for Windows. Both allow the user to enter data, store data, and generate reports. However, while these two may seem at first to be competitive, they are really complementary. Each one is better than the other at certain things; but, when combined together, a synergy exists. The two work very well hand-in-hand.
Family Tree Builder 4.0 is a free genealogy program for Windows that works well even if you never go online with it. Available in 35 languages, Family Tree Builder is produced by MyHeritage.com in the village of Bnei Atarot, near Tel Aviv, Israel. Family Tree Builder has a very modern user interface, supports pictures, movies, music, and other multimedia files, and has an excellent map interface that illustrates where your ancestors lived. It is also the only genealogy program I know of that supports face recognition technology to help you identify the people in your digitized photographs. The program also creates web sites, both public sites for everyone and private sites for which you can limit access to family members.
Again, Family Tree Builder 4.0 is a free genealogy program. You can learn more or even download the complete program at http://www.myheritage.com/family-tree-builder
Family Tree Maker
Family Tree Maker is perhaps the best-selling genealogy program in the world. The program has a long pedigree, having been produced by a long line of different companies. The program apparently has now found a home at Ancestry.com, which has owned the program and improved it for several years. While earlier versions of Family Tree Maker were free-standing programs that integrated proprietary CD-ROM databases produced by the owning companies, the later versions of Family Tree Maker have become integrated with Ancestry.com's web site. You can easily import your Ancestry.com family tree, along with attached photos, into your computer's database. Genealogy newcomers often report that they can often import hundreds of previously-unknown ancestors in minutes by using Family Tree Maker with Ancestry.com. Of course, as with any genealogy data, the user still must manually verify each record for accuracy. In fact, Family Tree Maker contains standard source templates to help you cite the right information every time.
Family Tree Maker also creates excellent print-outs, including timelines and interactive maps that highlight events and places in your ancestors' lives.
Family Tree Maker has a retail price of $39.95 when ordered directly from the producing company. However, many other retailers sell it at a bit of a discount. There is no free trial version. For more information, go to http://www.familytreemaker.com.
GRAMPS is best known as a Linux genealogy program, but it also has been ported to Windows and Macintosh operating systems. This free program is one of the few open source genealogy programs available today. GRAMPS gives you the ability to record the many details of an individual’s life as well as the complex relationships between various people, places and events. All of your research is kept organized, searchable, and as precise as you need it to be. It also has a rather nice multimedia capability that will store all photos, videos and other media referenced in your records, featuring thumbnail preview, media type, and more.
For more information about the free GRAMPS genealogy program for Linux, Windows, and Macintosh, look at http://gramps-project.org/. A mailing list devoted to the Windows version of GRAMPS may be found at http://sourceforge.net/mailarchive/forum.php?forum_name=gramps-windows.
Legacy Family Tree
This powerful program from Millennia Corporation is available in two versions: the free Standard Edition and the even more feature-packed Deluxe Edition. Both are excellent programs, and the Standard Edition has a surprisingly long list of features for a free program. Family trees containing millions of people can be recorded, displayed, and reported in a variety of styles and formats. Legacy 7.4 includes all standard genealogical reports as well as calendars, timelines, questionnaires, research logs, a multitude of blank forms and more. The program interfaces with Microsoft Virtual Earth to automatically pinpoint and plot important locations in ancestors’ lives from within Legacy. With this feature, you can see 3-D, satellite and bird’s eye images of where your ancestors lived.
One of the more impressive features of Legacy Family Tree is the ability to cite your sources easily and correctly with the new SourceWriter. SourceWriter makes it simple to select the correct input screen so that you enter all the pieces needed to correctly cite any source of information in the thousands of formats that exist for them. The information you enter is correctly and precisely formatted to match the genealogy industry standards for source citations when printing footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies. Multiple citations for an event can be combined into one paragraph, thus avoiding a long string of superscripted numbers within the report body.
Legacy Family Tree also has a wide variety of printed reports available, including some very impressive wall charts. Finally, the Interview Reports has to be used to be appreciated. It allows you to choose from over 1,200 carefully pre-written interview questions and memory triggers to help you capture your family’s memories before it is too late.
Legacy Family Tree also smoothly integrates with New FamilySearch, allowing the user to maintain all data on a local hard drive or to read and write data on the New FamilySearch online database or to do both. Individual records, or groups of records, can easily be copied from the local database to the online database and vice versa.Legacy Family Tree has many more features, too many to list here. The Legacy Family Tree Standard Edition is available free of charge while the Deluxe Edition sells for as little as $29.95. The program is often bundled with user's manual, books, and training videos. You can start with the Standard Edition and then later upgrade, if you wish. When you upgrade, all your previously-entered data is seamlessly moved into the Deluxe Edition database; nothing is lost. You can learn more at http://www.legacyfamilytree.com. You also might want to view my interview of Ken McGinnis of Millennia Corporation on Roots Television at http://rootstelevision.com/players/player_conferences.php?bctid=1423436164.
The Master Genealogist
The Master Genealogist, or TMG, is often referred to as the “industrial strength” genealogy program. Indeed, in a review that I wrote years ago, I referred to it as “the one that does it all,” and I have seen nothing to change my mind in the years since then. TMG seems to be the ultimate in recording your research efforts, including every fact uncovered. In fact, TMG can even be used to record the items proven to be untrue so that you don't go back at a later date and perform the same (wasted) research again.
Other genealogy programs are often described as places to record your findings whereas TMG is used to record your research while it is still in progress, even before conclusions have been reached. Do you have three different dates listed for an ancestor's birth and perhaps four different locations? Are you unsure which ones are correct, if any? No problem. TMG will record all of them and allow you to assign surety levels to each as to the “degree of believability” you feel is appropriate.
TMG also has perhaps the most powerful reporting available in any genealogy product today. Don't see a report you like? You can create a new one. Want to change an existing report to add more fields or to delete unwanted information? TMG can do that. It also produces spectacular wall charts, with or without pictures of the individuals listed.
The Master Genealogist sells for $34 to $69.95, depending upon the features selected. A 30-day free trial is also downloadable from the website. For more information, go to http://www.whollygenes.com/
MyBlood is a new genealogy program for both Windows and Macintosh. Developed by Vertical Horizon, a company in Belgium, MyBlood is a visual program: almost everything is oriented around pictures, graphs and historical timelines. The program's advertising states, "MyBlood visually represents information to help you discover incorrect information. Therefore there are several ways to look at data. e.g. Ancestors, TimeMaps, Chronology... From each view you can easily navigate to the information and modify it. For example, the Ancestors View - on the left - also shows the Timeline of 5 generations, and highlights the Person the cursor is moving over."
MyBlood also recently introduced a very powerful web publishing capability. It includes a set of templates, making an up-to-date family tree website only a couple of clicks away. For the more advanced users there is also the possibility of creating or importing your own template (using straight forward .css files).
MyBlood also features integration with Google Maps to display the exact location of places stored within the program's database. It also integrates with social network sites. Pictures and documents stored in the MyBlood media section can now be shared using the Picasa on line service.
A free trial version of MyBlood can be downloaded directly from the program's web site. The full program can be purchased for $59.95 US. More information may be found at http://www.myblood-line.com/.
Osk is the Icelandic word meaning “wish.” Osk is produced by Stuðlar Software, named after Stuðlar, a place near Reydarfjordur, Iceland. The letter “ð” in Icelandic is closer to the English letter “d” so the producer's name is pronounced as Studlar by English speakers.
Osk includes full unicode support (for languages that use non-European characters) and uses multiple CPUs (if available). It creates family trees, exports them as pictures, and exports your information as a Web site. The program also makes it easy to handle difficult information like same sex couples, adoptions, and other difficult data, such as when the same persons get married more than once. It also supports multimedia files, including sound, pictures and movies of a given person. It will track illness, deaths, education, and occupations throughout a family tree. Osk is available in English, Icelandic, Russian, German, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, and Italian.
Osk sells for $39.95 US.
You can learn more about Osk at http://www.studlar.net/en/software/
RootsMagic and RootsMagic Essentials
RootsMagic is one of the most popular Windows genealogy programs available today. It is also one of the easiest-to-use programs available. RootsMagic lets you add an unlimited number of facts for every person (i.e. birth, death, marriage, occupation, religion, description, etc). If you want to add a fact type that isn't in RootsMagic's predefined list, you can simply create your own fact types. RootsMagic also allows notes and unlimited source citations for every fact.
Every piece of information on a person is available from one screen: name, parent and spouse info, personal and family facts, DNA test results, alternate names, or LDS information. You can directly access the notes, sources, media, and more for every item.
RootsMagic also creates a large variety of printed reports, including pedigree charts, family group sheets, wall charts, 7 styles of narrative reports (where RootsMagic writes the sentences for you), numerous lists, mailing labels, calendars, relationship charts, individual summaries, and photo trees. And if that isn't enough, RootsMagic even provides a custom report generator, so you can create your own specialized lists.
RootsMagic also smoothly integrates with New FamilySearch, allowing the user to maintain all data on a local hard drive or to read and write data on the New FamilySearch online database or to do both. Individual records, or groups of records, can easily be copied from the local database to the online database and vice versa.RootsMagic sells for $29.95. For more information, go to http://www.rootsmagic.com.
The same company also produces RootsMagic Essentials, a free program that contains all the basics of RootsMagic but omits some of the advanced features. It has essentially the same easy-to-use interface. It handles an unlimited number of facts, notes, sources, and multimedia items for each person and family. It easily handles multiple relationships, such as adoptions, foster parents, and more. RootsMagic Essentials also supports photographs, sound bites, and video clips along with dozens of reports, charts, and lists.
You can learn more about the FREE RootsMagic Essentials at http://www.rootsmagic.com/Essentials/.
The above is NOT a complete list of all Windows genealogy programs. A complete list would fill perhaps 30 or 40 pages! Instead, the above is a list of the more popular Windows genealogy programs sold in North America. Several of them are produced in other countries, however.
Do you have any opinions about the above programs? Or would you like to mention another Windows genealogy program not listed above? If so, please post your words in the comments section below at the end of this article.