Free Genealogy Software

Everyone loves free, right? There’s good reasons for that, of course. The use of free genealogy programs can save a lot of money.

The free programs generally are not as powerful or full-featured as the programs that cost $25 to as much as $100; but, for many of us, the free programs are more than “good enough.” A free genealogy program also is very appealing to a genealogy newcomer who is not yet sure if he or she wants to invest money in what may turn out to be a passing interest. Of course, the newcomer can always later convert to a more expensive product with more features and use a GEDCOM file transfer to copy the information from the old program to a new program. See my GEDCOM Explained article at for details. One free genealogy program will also synchronize its data with a cloud-based genealogy service on the World Wide Web. (That is my preferred solution.)

Dozens of small genealogy programs and utilities are available free of charge. Many of them are not full featured programs that will record almost everything about an individual, provide all sort of printouts, and include multimedia libraries. The following is a list in alphabetical order of the better (in my opinion) and more full-featured free genealogy programs available today for Windows, Macintosh, and one program for Linux.

A side-by-side comparison chart of many of the available features in these programs is included at the end of this article.

Family Tree Builder for Windows and Macintosh

ftb_download_pageFamily Tree Builder for Windows and Macintosh from MyHeritage is a surprisingly powerful and full featured genealogy program that is available free of charge. It is not an entry-level program that is restricted in any manner. There is no upgrade to a paid version; everything is available in the free version. Family Tree Builder is free forever and is used by millions of people worldwide. The program helps you research your family history, build your family tree, and add photos, historical records, and more.

NOTE: MyHeritage is the sponsor of this newsletter. One of the reasons why I am delighted to have the company as a sponsor is because the company offers a number of free and reasonably-priced products and services.

ftb_download_page_02Family Tree Builder allows anyone to build a family tree visually and to even add thousands of people quickly. Not all free genealogy programs can store large databases. However, Family Tree Builder can handle an unlimited number of facts, notes, sources, photos, and multimedia items to each person and family. It also easily handles same sex marriages and other non-traditional families.

I am impressed with the capabilities of this powerful free program. You can enter information about ancestors from the keyboard, one at a time, or by importing a GEDCOM file that you have created from another genealogy program, or by automatically matching your tree to millions of others online at the MyHeritage web site. The program will also export a GEDCOM file if you wish to transfer data to another program or to a cloud-based genealogy site.

ftb-timelineI love Family Tree Builder’s capability to synchronize data with MyHeritage’s web site and to find matching records on that site. I believe it is the only free genealogy program that will synchronize data with a major genealogy web site. Family Tree Builder also takes advantage of MyHeritage’s Smart Matching feature, which searches the MyHeritage database looking for family tree profiles that match. Smart Matches check not only the name, but also the birth date, and parents of the entries in the database, and when it finds similar tree profiles, tells the user who may then confirm the match or not. This allows people to share their family trees and genealogy research with the entire MyHeritage community.

In my experience, MyHeritage’s “Smart Matches” have accurately identified relatives almost all the time, unlike some other online matching services. The accuracy appears to be the best in the industry. However, each person found by the automated software is presented as a POSSIBLE relative; the user can decide the actions to be taken for each identified potential relative: add to the database, reject the person, or save for future research without adding to the Family Tree Builder database at this time.

The free Family Tree Builder program allows you to add an unlimited number of people to your database. It will also synchronize data with the web site. However, free accounts on the web site are limited to 250 people in the web site’s database. While that is a limitation of the web site, it does not affect Family Tree Builder which always works well as a free-standing genealogy program. Again, the free Family Tree Builder program allows you to add an unlimited number of people to your database.

Family Tree Builder will create, customize, and print beautiful charts, timelines, and reports, including some gorgeous all-in-one charts. It also displays impressive maps showing where your ancestors lived and traveled. Migration paths become obvious when displayed on these maps. The program allows you to load your own discoveries back to the web site, where you can either share the information with everyone or else keep it in a private web site that only you can see.

Family Tree Builder also shares information easily with Android and Apple phones and tablets if you earlier synchrinized data with The free apps are available from the Google Play Store and the iPhone and iPad App Stores. These apps access data you synschronized on, not directly with the desktop or laptop Family Tree Builder programs. The result is that you have your data everywhere you want it: in your desktop computer’s hard drive, in the laptop’s hard drive, in your phone, in your tablet computer, and online at in your choice of a private or public database. Family Tree Builder is a powerful solution.

Not bad for a free program! There is no “plus version” or anything else that requires payment. It bears repeating: the free version includes everything.

You can learn more about Family Tree Builder and also download the free program at: Information about the free Android and Apple iOS apps for handheld devices may be found at

Family Tree Builder is now my preferred free genealogy program.

GRAMPS for Linux, Windows, and Macintosh

Gramps-01GRAMPS (an abbreviation for Genealogical Research and Analysis Management Programming System) is a free, open source genealogy software product available for Linux, Windows, and Macintosh. It was originally developed for Linux and then was ported to Windows, Macintosh, and even to BSD UNIX and to Solaris. GRAMPS is available without restriction, free of charge although donations are accepted. There is no “plus version” or anything else that requires payment. The free version includes everything.

GRAMPS includes all sorts of lists of people, places, and events. It also stores source citations, repositories, and notes, and it handles photos, videos, maps, and other media.

Gramps-02Installing GRAMPS on most of today’s Linux systems is simple. Ubuntu, Mint, RedHat, Debian, Fedora, and other Linux distributions usually include a built-in, simple-to-use application that will download and install Linux software automatically. With most Linux systems, you simply open the installation program (it may have various names, depending upon which version of Linux you are using), click on GRAMPS, and wait a few seconds for the program to download and automatically install itself. When completed, GRAMPS will be ready for use. That is simpler than installing most programs on Windows and is nearly as easy to use as installing programs from the Macintosh App Store.

There is one word of caution for Windows and Macintosh users however. While GRAMPS has been ported to Windows and Macintosh, installation on those computers may be a bit more complex than it is on Linux. Full details may be found at

Full documentation for GRAMPS may be found at if you would like to read about it before you try it.

You can learn more about GRAMPS by starting at

Legacy Family Tree Standard Edition for Windows

Legacy Family Tree is available in two versions: a free “Standard Edition” and a “Deluxe Edition” that sells for $29.95. (Watch for sales to see it discounted occasionally.) The free version is a powerful program all by itself. I suspect that many users of the free Standard Edition never find a need to upgrade to the extra features found in the Deluxe Edition. It is that good.

Legacy_Family_Tree_screenshotLegacy Family Tree is one of the more popular genealogy programs available for the Windows operating system. Its popularity is caused by three major factors: it is powerful, it is easy to use, and it contains most all the features that serious genealogists demand. However, it also works well for genealogy newcomers.

Legacy Family Tree is available in two versions: Legacy Family Tree Standard is a FREE genealogy program that includes all the basic functionality but omits some tools, reports, and advanced features of the full-featured Legacy Family Tree Deluxe program. You can use the free Legacy Family Tree Standard for as long as you like, and the program does meet the needs of many genealogists. However, should you decide to later upgrade to the full-featured version, your previously-entered data will be available immediately after upgrading. There is no need to re-enter all the information again.

Legacy-01Legacy Family Tree has a long list of features, including unlimited people in the database; unlimited alternate given and surnames; unlimited events; GEDCOM import and export as well as importing from Legacy, PAF 2.31 or 3.0, or Ancestral File; ability to specify individuals and information to be exported; onscreen views that include pedigree view, descendants view, and more; view up to six family/pedigree view windows simultaneously so that you can view different parts of the same file at one time; multimedia support for pictures, video, maps, and more; picture editing; slideshow capability; open two different family files simultaneously to compare and copy information from one to the other, including drag-and-drop feature to copy people from one file to another; source citation system; maps that plot important locations in ancestors’ lives; pre-written interview questions and memory triggers for interviewing family members; notes for general, research, and medical information; support for multiple marriages including adoptive lines, polygamous and sequential marriages, and incestuous relationships (Same sex couples are not supported either as parents or marriage.); individual and marriage tags; to-do list; up to 200 bookmarks for quick return to specific individuals; history list of the last 200 individuals displayed; a pop-up calendar containing a month and year calendar ranging from 1700 to 2099; date calculator; support for LDS-specific fields; and alternate names.

While there is no native Macintosh version of Legacy Family Tree, the Windows version reportedly runs well on Macintosh and Linux machines with a Windows virtual computer such as Parallels, VMWare or VirtualBox. VirtualBox is available free of charge at while Parallels and VMWare Fusion are commercial products that cost money. All three of these products also will require a legal copy of Microsoft Windows so none of them can be considered “free” unless you already have one of them installed for other reasons and simply want to add Legacy Family Tree to the programs you are already using in the Windows virtual computer.

A video tour of the many features in Legacy Family Tree Standard Edition is available at

You can learn more about Legacy Family Tree Standard Edition by starting at (Information about both the free Standard Edition and the $29.95 Legacy Family Tree Deluxe Edition is available on that page.)

Personal Ancestry Writer II (PAWriter II) for Macintosh

PAWriter-screenshotMacintosh users may be interested in Personal Ancestry Writer II. That program’s name is often abbreviated to PAWriter II. It is a native Macintosh program, not a Windows program that has been “ported” to Macintosh. PAWriter II is a rather basic program and does not have all the “bells and whistles” of the other Macintosh programs. However, it certainly has a good price tag: free!

Personal Ancestry Writer II is also super easy to use and is based upon the now obsolete LDS Personal Ancestral File program (PAF) for the Macintosh. The Personal Ancestry Writer II has all new code, but its “look and feel” strongly resembles the old PAF for Macintosh. If you used and liked PAF for the Macintosh, you probably will like PAWriter II. Don’t look here for automated uploads to cloud-based services, searches on the web, or multimedia tools. While PAWriter II will produce a number of printed reports, there aren’t as many reports as found in other Macintosh genealogy programs.

You can learn more about Personal Ancestry Writer II by starting at

RootsMagic Essentials for Windows and Macintosh

RootsMagic Essentials is a free Windows and Macintosh genealogy program that contains many core features from the commercial RootsMagic family tree software. A list of features comparing the two can be found at RootsMagic Essentials is absolutely free forever although the program will occasionally invite the user to upgrade to the $29.95 version. The program has friendly screens and menus to allow even the most inexperienced computer novice to get up and running quickly. It also produces a wide variety of printed reports although not as many as can be produced with the commercial version. RootsMagic Essentials makes it easy to track multiple relationships such as adoptions, foster parents, and more.

RootsMagicMainScreenNot all free genealogy programs can store large databases. However, RootsMagic Essentials can handle an unlimited number of facts, notes, sources, and multimedia items to each person and family. The user can add photographs, sound bites, and video clips to bring your family history to life. RootsMagic Essentials will also include your photographs in your printed reports.

RootsMagic Essentials also has an excellent SourceWizard that writes and manages sources and citations for you. Built-in templates based on Evidence Explained make citing your sources as easy as “filling in the blanks”. Even the free program includes multimedia support for photographs, sound bites, and video clips.

Not only can RootsMagic Essentials import GEDCOM files, it also can directly import databases from Family Tree Maker, PAF, Legacy, The Master Genealogist, and Family Origins without using GEDCOM. Direct imports generally provide better results than do the (imperfect) GEDCOM imports. RootsMagic Essentials will also export GEDCOM files. LDS users will appreciate that RootsMagic is also certified to reserve and request LDS temple ordinances. You can find, reserve, and track needed ordinances from the comfort of your own home.

Again, not bad for a free program! You can learn more about RootsMagic Essentials at

As I write these words, the full commercial version of RootsMagic is available as part of a a special for Family Tree maker users who would like to switch to RootsMagic. Details may be found at I have no idea how long this “special” will last.


If you are looking for a free genealogy program to run in your computer, you have choices for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux! All of the programs listed above are capable of storing unlimited numbers of people in their databases. They all have a variety of printed reports. As I wrote earlier, the free programs generally are not as powerful or full-featured as the programs that cost $25 to as much as $100 but, for many of us, the free programs are more than “good enough.”

Here is a comparison chart of many of the features available in these free genealogy programs:

Family Tree Builder RootsMagic Essentials Legacy Family Tree Standard Edition GRAMPS Personal Ancestry Writer II
Available for Windows X X X X
Available for Macintosh X  X X X
Unlimited people in the database X X X X X
Unlimited events X X X X X
GEDCOM import and export X X X X X
Can import from other genealogy programs without GEDCOM

Yes: Family Tree Legends (.FTL), Family Tree Maker files (.FTM/*.FTW/*.FTMB) prior to the 2014 edition, Personal Ancestral File (.PAF), and Legacy (.FDB)

Yes: Legacy, PAF 2.31 or 3.0, or Ancestral
PAF only
Onscreen views that include pedigree view, descendants view, and
Multimedia support for pictures, video, maps, and more; picture
Source citation system X X X X X
Maps that plot important locations in ancestors’ lives X X X X
Notes for general, research, and medical information X X X X X
Support for multiple marriages including adoptive lines,
polygamous and sequential marriages, and incestuous relationships
Same sex marriages supported X X X
Automatically eliminates or merges duplicate records X
Support for LDS-specific fields  Not yet available but planned for a future release X X X C
Automatically search online and for records that match your people X X X
Automatically finds records in FamilySearch and MyHeritage
that may match a person in your file plus’s tree plus’s tree X

In addition, two of the listed genealogy programs also provide their own side-by-side comparison charts:

Legacy Family Tree:


Finally, Wikipedia has a side-by-side comparison chart of both free and paid genealogy programs at However, many of the programs listed have been obsolete and unavailable for years. It also does not list Personal Ancestry Writer II at all.


Nice comparison table. However, the Mac version of RootsMagic Essentials IS free. Just enter your name and email address on the Download page, and you’ll be offered both the Windows and Mac versions. Also, in addition to GEDCOM import & export, GEDCOM standard compliance is an important criterion. If some of your data get truncated or mangled when you import or export to GEDCOM, that’s a serious problem.


Excellent, helpful summary.

I began my genealogy work with the free PAF program, solely because I “inherited” a data set a distant cousin had created for my family, using PAF. After many years, I was used to it, and had added multiple people, and many pictures, some photos, some images of things like census data. When PAF dropped its support, I made the transition to the pay version of RootsMagic 6. RM created the same sort of arrangement they’re now offering for FTM users. The transition was quick and smooth. All my data and notes, etc, came across perfectly. However, ALL my photos were lost in the transition. I might have done something wrong, but there appeared to be nothing I was supposed to do to have my photos come along. I had many hundreds. A couple of years later, I still haven’t taken the trouble to go back to my hard drive to add them in. I do add new ones as I come across them.

Personally, I find the source/citation function hard to use. It’s better than what was available in PAF, but it’s just too complicated. I copy the citation into the notes section. This “works” for me, since I’ve no intention of ever writing a book that will require footnotes/endnotes. Should I change my mind, I will be very sorry I didn’t learn how to use this feature, or that it’s not easier to use in RM. This feature, I presume, is the same in the free version and the pay version, which is the one I have.

Other than those two issues, I find RM to be very intuitive and easy to use. Adding new people/families is easy, as is adding new facts on “old” people as I research.

Thanks for your calm, reasoned approach to helping FTM users make choices, given that at some point they will need to do so. I keep suggesting to those on Rootsweb lists who are in a panic that they read what you’re saying about this issue. And I provide the URL to get to your posts.


I think your table is inaccurate for RootsMagic in the last two rows. It’s WebHints works in the background on people visible in the main view to find record matches and tree matches in MyHeritage in addition to FamilySearch.


Since Gramps began with a focus on bloodlines, you are correct that actual polygamy and serial marriages aren’t supported. However, adoption (which is an attribute of the parent-child relationship, as are Birth, Foster, None, Sponsored, Stepchild and Unknown), same-sex marriage and incest *are* supported (the controlling hierarchy is Father/Partner1 and Mother/Partner2, *not* Husband & Wife). This means that a child can have an unlimited number of parents (and a lifetime of therapy).

Note also that Gramps shares Events, Places, Citations, Sources, Media and Notes with Persons and Families and other Events, Places, etc wherever it makes sense to do so.


    You beat me to it, but I just wanted to add this. Although I haven’t needed it yet, it looks to me like Gramps would let you unite in marriage any two people in the database even if that union overlapped in time with another one, thus allowing polygamous marriages. But I don’t know how it would show up in reports.


Another interesting feature of Gramps are the Place hierarchy (Texas is only stored once, instead of 800 times) and time ranges on Places. Thus, an old Colonial town which has been in multiple counties because the huge original county kept getting subdivided can be “enclosed” by multiple counties, all kept separate via date ranges.


Can you make complete web sites of the information in these programs, and upload it to any web site you want?
Or, like FTM’s current abilities with Ancestry, or My Heritage (it seems from your description), can you only upload your data to their web site, no options to put your data on your own web site?
e.g., With Reunion (works only on Macs, I paid about $100 some 12/13 years ago so the version I have is pretty old in ‘internet time’) one can make a complete web site with two clicks on a menu, edit the home page, then do an ftp upload it to a free or paid web page/site of one’s own choosing. Aside from the fact that whether adding data or doing printouts that look much like the family group sheets + notes that mimic the old notebooks I had pre-computer days, the ability to put my data anywhere I want was the primary selling point for me to purchase Reunion many years ago: I have complete control of my data and can upload a complete web site, take it down, and put back an edited version if I added info, corrected data, etc.
The ability to put a complete genealogy web site of one’s own on any web page (free or paid for – some private ISPs have free space for web sites with each email address) also prevents one from panicking when corporations stop hosting genealogy software they invented, at which point one loses control of one’s own data, so if there are future corrections one can’t even edit one’s own data.
The ability to control where and when I put my data online means I am not at the mercy of corporations and their many quirks, sell-outs, or hostile takeovers (if I hear my local ISP is going to sell, I can pull my data offline immediately). It will be interesting to see what happens if/when TPP corporations start controlling data world-wide, since very little of it concerns trade as much as it gives control of data and information to corporations and would give them the ability to sue governments.


    —> Can you make complete web sites of the information in these programs, and upload it to any web site you want?

    Yes, although in some cases you will need additional software to do that. You normally will need to generate a GEDCOM file and then export that to the web site you wish to use. The one exception I can think of is Family Tree Builder which will copy data directly to without using GEDCOM.

    If the web site is a genealogy web site (FamilySearch, Ancestry,,, and more), a GEDCOM will usually suffice. However, you said “put your data on your own web site?” If it is your own web site you will need to create HTML files. Some genealogy programs have that capability built in (such as in Reunion) while others do not. However, there are a number of small utility programs that will convert any GEDCOM files to HTML files that can then be uploaded to your web site.


    RootsMagic generates two styles of websites that can be hosted anywhere plus uploads directly the SQLite database file and associated images to the RootsMagic Inc host which generates pages on the fly for a third style. One of the static sites is pure HTML; the other uses more advanced HTML, XML, and CSS.


    According to the RootsMagic page at the free RootsMagic Essentials does NOT create HTML files. However, the (paid) full version of RootsMagic will create both HTML and PDF files. That is a significant difference between the free and the paid versions.


    Note that Gramps creates seven different kinds of web sites, and lots of different pdf files. (I regularly send “Detailed Descendant Reports” to cousins.)


If this article is meant (at least in part) to address the Ancestry users who are wondering what they will do when Family Tree Maker is no longer available, it is both welcome but at the same time a false sense of security.

What isn’t addressed is mostly the fault of for neglecting to correct issues with their web-based gedcom exports (which they have known about since 2007), and the upcoming inability to loose (easy) download of their collected/uploaded/posted media and “story” files without the aid of FTM to serve as a go-between to download and export gedcoms that are importable into other software (and thereby cloud products) without loss of material and descriptive embellishments. Many of which were painstakingly created over long periods of time.

Currently, NONE of the software products you mention can import a users Ancestry trees without loss of media, stories, and/or other important notations WITHOUT using either FTM2012 (preferred) or FTM2014 as an intermediary for producing a proper gedcom and saving web tree media locally for use with the produced gedcom.

In plain English, Ancestry’s web-based gedcom export is severely flawed and has been for 9 years. Cutting off sales of the only way to locally save and thereby preserve an online tree with 5 days notice is unconscionable, but I think may be an untold shock to more people than I certainly would have guessed, judging from questions I’ve seen on Ancestry forums. Who would have thought so many people would have “cloud” trees and no local copy? Oh, wait you (Mr Eastman) suggest that’s the way to go. Well, now what say you to those after Dec 15, if Ancestry follows the practice I’ve personally seen from them since 2007, and does not correct their flawed web-based gedcom export? PC software choice is almost a minor point if you have to rebuild 50% of your tree, yes?


    What you’re complaining about is “vendor lock-in”, and you’ll suffer from that no matter what commercial software you use.


Reunion’s pages are created as htm or html (individual’s choice off of menus when pre-selecting which data is included) and linked in the process of creating the web site, so there’s not much to do other than minor edits and uploading the entire thing to a web site of one’s choosing.


Dick –
I know Reunion is not free. I’m only wondering if the free versions of any programs have the same capability as Reunion.
Before I bought Reunion, I downloaded and tried out the various free/trial versions of several genealogy programs – and uninstalled them. I couldn’t find any that had menus that let me make a web site (since I have had no formal html training or experience), and none were that easy to use…, so paying for Reunion which also had the best easy-to-use elements and displays (with fonts I like and photos, etc.) that made me happy ended up being a good bargain for me.
Someday my old Mac will give up the ghost, there will be no way to repair it and get to my genie data, so I’ll be looking around for a new program, and at my age and fixed income level, it will probably have to be a free version. Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh….


    —> I know Reunion is not free. I’m only wondering if the free versions of any programs have the same capability as Reunion.

    In my opinion, the answer is “no.” The free programs I listed in the article all are good ones but generally do not have all the capabilities of the programs that cost money. Reunion is the most expensive of all of today’s more popular genealogy programs so it should have the most capabilities. I believe it lives up to that assumption.


Does the Family Tree Builder require you to put your data on their site?


    —> Does the Family Tree Builder require you to put your data on their site?


    That is an option but is not required. You can use it as a freestanding program for years without ever copying or synchronizing your data anywhere. There is an icon in Family Tree Builder to synchronize with’s web servers. If you don’t click on that icon, it doesn’t synchronize. You remain in control of your data at all times.


I recently switched from pc to i mac and from family Tree Maker to Reunion as my genealogical program. I am new to both and would like your opinion of Reunion as it is never mentioned. Thanks


    —> … and would like your opinion of Reunion as it is never mentioned.

    Reunion is not a free program so it was not mentioned in the Free Genealogy Software article. My quick opinion is that Reunion is a very powerful genealogy program with many more features than Family Tree Maker. Apparently a lot of people agree with me as it is very popular, especially in the United States. However, it is also the most expensive genealogy program available these days at $99 US.


Thank you for your clear and concise statements. Do any of the programs have a way to import all the media from FTM?


Your RootsMagic review states it will import FTM database files, but your chart does not list that capability for RootsMagic. What about the media?


Dick, good article, once again. One point — you write:
“Not only can RootsMagic Essentials import GEDCOM files, it also can directly import databases from Family Tree Maker”

I don’t believe it can import FTM databases, can it?


My family just gave me a new PC for Christmas [Windows 10]. I have not had a computer to work with/on for almost 2 years. On my old computer, I had FTM 11. When that computer started acting up, my grandson [an IT Geek] transferred the entire hard drive to an external hard drive to save until I could get another computer. My problem is that this new computer will not let me open the FTM on the external hard drive. It will show that it is on the external but not open it. I am the family genealogist and I have over 30,000 people on it. What can I do to bring up my FTM and install it on the new computer so I can use it? Would like to upgrade to a newer program; what would be a good one to use in this case? I still have the installation disc for the FTM and I also have an OLD Legacy program with the installation disc. My grandson does not live here anymore, so I have no one to assist me in this problem. A distant cousin in TX sent me your link to read and study. Thank you for any advice or assistance.


    If you live near Oklahoma City, I may be able to help you. Do look for a local genealogy society. You may be able to find a member who will help you. You can copy files from an external drive to the internal drive.


    Off the top of my head, I would suggest trying to install FTM 11 from your installlation disc and then ask it to open the files on the external drive. If it does so, it should put them in a new folder on the new computer’s hard drive. If it asks you if that is what you want, say yes.
    That may not work because FTM 11 might not run under Windows 10.

    Second choice: do you have a gedcom backup of all your data, not FTM format, but plain gedcom. If so, install the Legacy disc and open the gedcom. But you really should get up to date software. If it opens with the old version, update to an newer version of Legacy from their website.

    Third choice: someone somewhere said that Roots Magic will directly import the FTM format. Get a current copy of Roots Magic, install it, and then ask it to open the files on the external drive. Same as FTM 11 above, let it create a new database on your new computer’s hard drive.

    Fourth choice: find a data recovery service, maybe at a local computer tech store or person. See if they have any ideas to get a working copy of FTM 11 into your new computer system, with the data from the external drive.

    As Mr Eastman always says, at least once a month: backup, backup, backup. Keep backups in formats that are useable by other programs, keep .html backups as local websites, keep printouts, etc. The more formats and the more locations you have your backups in, the fewer times you will get stuck without your data.


    at least once a month: backup, backup, backup.

    There’s a whole lot of changes that can be lost when you do monthly backups.

    Besides the regular graphical program, Gramps has a command line which lets you back up an open tree. Thus, with a bit of cleverness, I have Linux version of the Windows Task Manager run a script every 3 hours which looks at each of my trees, sees if any changes have been made, and only if there were changes does it backup that tree. A timestamp is in the file name, so that the backups don’t overwrite each other.

    Thus, nothing happens when I’m not in a “genealogy mode”, but when I am, backups are guaranteed without me having to remember them.


    First thing I would do is to clone the external drive.


I am surprised you did not mention Ancestral Quest; the “successor” to PAF


You left out Brother’s Keeper. It has a free version. I have been using it for 25 years.


    Yes, there are many other free genealogy programs that were not mentioned. As I wrote in the article, “The following is a list in alphabetical order of the better (in my opinion) and more full-featured free genealogy programs…”


I prefer software that is hosted in the cloud so I can access it anywhere, anytime and not have to worry about my hard drive crashing.


Can I download Family Tree Builder for Windows on both a desktop and a laptop and synchronize the data between the two using Dropbox?


    I haven’t tried that. I always sync through the web site. Has any other Family Tree Builder user who is reading this message tried that? If so, please let Lorna and me know of your results.


Note that the paid version of Rootsmagic 7 runs very nicely on Mac OS X without buying windows and virtualization software. They use a special crossover bottle while they work on a native mac program. MyHeritage also has a mac crossover version.


a bit off topic but I am interested in Family Tree Builder, but My Heritage will not display their cost of membership without starting a tree. Is there some way to find their charges without actually joining? I don’t like to have to start a tree before knowing the cost.


It is my understanding that only a FTM GEDCOM contains the records attached to a tree in Ancestry. When people are using the word “media” do they mean the Ancestry records? Once I have a synced FTM GEDCOM, will I be able to transfer it – records and all – to another program like Heredis?



Thanks Dick. Great and timely article!
1) I have FTM3 (~FTM 2014) and my biggest concern is all the media (pdf’s, jpg’s, etc) files that I will need to transfer to a replacement program. Which (free or paid) program(s) do you recommend for doing this transfer most accurately? Please elaborate – I think many other readers have this same question.

2) Also, does Family Tree Builder and Roots Magic use a similar bridge (non-native) technique for their Mac versions?

3) Finally, if I sign up for the free version of FTB, will that entitle me to unlimited access to MyHeritage’s large (online) records database?


    —> …and my biggest concern is all the media (pdf’s, jpg’s, etc) files that I will need to transfer to a replacement program. Which (free or paid) program(s) do you recommend for doing this transfer most accurately?


    The problem is in GEDCOM specifications, written years before the addition of photographs and other images to genealogy programs became common. GEDCOM is very old fashioned. To be blunt, I hate GEDCOM. However, there is nothing else available in common use.

    There have been several better methods of transferring genealogy data that have been invented in later years. GenBridge was one that worked well but there were others as well. The problem is that none of them ever became popular. Both the originating service or program AND the receiving service or program must support a standard before it can be used. The only standard in common use is GEDCOM, complete with all its weaknesses and drawbacks.

    Family Tree Maker only supports GEDCOM export. The same is true for most other genealogy products.

    —> Also, does Family Tree Builder and Roots Magic use a similar bridge (non-native) technique for their Mac versions?

    Both of them use a “bridge” product to convert their Windows programs to run on a Mac.

    —> Finally, if I sign up for the free version of FTB, will that entitle me to unlimited access to MyHeritage’s large (online) records database?

    Yes, but only of you follow the instructions in the announcement. You have to send an email message to MyHeritage’s customer support department to have them enable the unlimited option in your account.


    There are at least two MyHeritage subscription products: Trees is one and Historical Records records is another. I think the FTM refugee inducement is for a higher limit on the number of people in your free personal tree. I seriously doubt that they are offering historical records for free.


Regarding your above response to my question about exporting my FTM3 media files (not GEDCOM files) to FTB, I just noticed that in my main Documents folder there is a separate FTM Media folder with all of my jpg and pdf files in it! Is it possible to easily move these to FTB?


    I believe you will have to do that manually. However, it should be a simple click-and-drag operation. That’s no big deal if you have a dozen or so documents but if you have a few thousand…


Hi Dick, I know this is old but hopefully you will still see my question.
A comment above is a bit confusing.
—> Finally, if I sign up for the free version of FTB, will that entitle me to unlimited access to MyHeritage’s large (online) records database?
Your answer:
Yes, but only of you follow the instructions in the announcement. You have to send an email message to MyHeritage’s customer support department to have them enable the unlimited option in your account.
>>>> Which instructions in which announcement are you referring to? Is this still the case?
Your article above makes it look free to get content but when I check elsewhere (Wikipedia*) it doesn’t look like it. I am tired of trying new things only to find out later I’m being held hostage for my own data. People want someone to be honest and upfront. Leaving details out about costs or potential downsides isn’t really helping folks out. I realize they are sponsors for you but it seems like users need to resurrect Walter Cronkite to get truly impartial, honest reviews. Seems people would at least be more informed before embarking on major data transitions only to find they didn’t get the fine print…
Thanks for your reply.

* “The company’s website,, works on a freemium business model. It is free to sign up and begin building family trees and making matches. The website will provide excerpts from historical records and newspapers, or from other family trees, but in order to read full versions of those documents, or confirm relationships, the user will have to have a paid subscription. Additionally, only paid users can contact other members.”


    OK, I guess I do not understand the question. You asked about MyHeritage and then referred to Wikipedia, which is not affiliated in any way with MyHeritage.

    While I am comfortable with most of MyHeritage’s policies, for really detailed questions, such as yours, I recommend contacting MyHeritage for an explanation. They know much more about their service than anyone else does. MyHeritage Customer Service has a rather good reputation for answering questions and supporting users.

    Next, Family Tree Builder and the online are two separate products with separate policies. The two products will synchronize data together (I use that feature frequently) but otherwise have different policies regarding free usage. Family Tree Builder is a free genealogy program. Period. It is free forever, even if you have hundreds of thousands of names in your database. is different. It has a free offering that will hold a smaller number of names (250 names maximum in the free version) and then has paid options for up to and including unlimited names.

    If you use Family Tree Builder by itself, you can store hundreds of thousands of names. However, if you want to use Family Tree Builder and MyHeritage together by synchronizing data together, you can do that at no charge for up to 250 people that can be entered in the tree and the limit of storage space is 500 megabytes (mostly a limit for photographs, videos, and similar attachments). Anything bigger than 250 people and/or 500 megabytes of storage space requires payment on

    Details are provided at:

    If you wish to SYNCHRONIZE more than 250 people, you will need a paid version of MyHeritage.

    Some people seem to have the idea that they have to pay for Family Tree Builder but that has never been true. Again, Family Tree Builder is always free, even for many thousands of records.


I discovered today that when you buy the premium version of Roots Magic it is not yours forever. Now that they have version 7 to sell, the company has altered the program I bought and installed on my computer so that some features are no longer available. Not very nice!


    That is a very odd complaint. Your licence for RootsMagic 6 is perpetual. Someday you may not have any hardware on which you can run it but RM Inc. has no obligation to provide you with a revision that will work on the hardware of that day.

    And RootsMagic 7 does not do anything to your RM6 application. It does not even alter the structure of your RM6 database files. Even if you use the free RM7 Essentials on your database you can continue to work on it with your full-featured RM6. Of course, there are features in the later version that will not magically appear in your RM6 application.


We have always used Ultimate Family Tree but unfortunately can no longer use it because we have windows 10. We like simple straightforward things and do not understand technical matters, so would you think Family Tree Builder or Ancestral Quest could be a suitable replacement for us, please?


    Recommending a specific genealogy program as “your best choice” is difficult. Everyone has different needs, different impressions, and other differences as well. One person might be interested in printing fancy wall charts but doesn’t care about other features. Another person might want super easy-to-use program. A third might be concerned with tracking and matching DNA information. A fourth might want a program that has outstanding source citations. And so on…

    There are probably a dozen or so very good genealogy programs available for Macintosh, Windows, and for use in the cloud. I cannot think of any one of them that I would suggest as being “the best” for everyone.


    Just a thought.. Have you tried running your tree software in “compatibility mode” under Windows 10? Once it’s installed you open Windows Explorer (start menu; Windows System; Windows Explorer) and look for the .exe file in it’s folder. Then you right-click the .exe file and select “Troubleshoot compatibility”. It will ask you what the last Windows version it ran OK on and will usually set it up to run ok under Windows 10.


    Thank you. I just tried that but, unfortunately, “The system is out of memory or resources” appeared.


Thank you.


How is it that FTB “Automatically eliminates or merges duplicate records”? I would love to use this function but have never seen it. Where do I find this on FTB?


Family Tree Builder is quite a decent program but one very strange ‘feature’ (I am using version, current at this time, on Mac OS X Mojave) is how it handles individuals who have been married more than once. In the main display page there is no indication that a person has had more than one spouse and the only way to have an alternate spouse (and any offspring) displayed is to go through a silly process of changing the default spouse. I don’t think I’ve seen that behaviour in any other program of this type, free or paid.
Although I do have several different genealogical programs on my Mac, both paid and free, my base program, and the reference program in my opinion, is Reunion, which I started using in about ’95; I still have the 3.5 inch installation floppy for what I believe is ver. 5, which was of course for the original (“classic”) Mac OS.


    We would still like to use the Ultimate Family Tree Programme, that we used for many years and are comfortable with it, but Windows 10 seems incompatible with it.


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