Genealogy Software for the Macintosh

Mac_OS_XA newsletter reader who is moving from Windows to Macintosh OS X sent an email asking if there are any good genealogy software programs for the Mac. He thought he would need to use VirtualBox or Parallels or VMware Fusion and then install a Windows genealogy program on his new Mac. I suggested he not do that. Doing so strikes me as being similar to playing tennis with one hand tied behind your back. Yes, it can be done but it is difficult, boring, and doesn’t really accomplish anything worthwhile.

Indeed, there are several excellent genealogy programs available for the Macintosh. My correspondent expressed some surprise when I stated that. These are all excellent genealogy programs for the Mac, along with links to some of my previous articles about each program:

Heredis: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+heredis

Mac Family Tree: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+Mac+Family+Tree

Reunion: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+Reunion

Family Tree Maker for Macintosh is in a state of flux right now with new owners but should continue to be a leading product. See my article at: https://blog.eogn.com/2016/02/02/who-is-the-software-mackiev-company/

All of the above are as good as most Windows genealogy programs and all of them are native Macintosh programs. None of them need VirtualPC or Parallels or VMware Fusion.

In addition, a program called Personal Ancestry Writer II, or “PAWriter II,” deserves some special attention. It is a simpler program and does not have all the “bells and whistles” of the above four. However, Personal Ancestry Writer II does have one great feature: it’s price tag. It is available FREE of charge.

You can learn more about Personal Ancestry Writer II by starting at http://www.lanopalera.net/Genealogy/AboutPAWriter.html.

Finally, GRAMPS is a powerful genealogy program that is available for Macintosh, Linux, and Windows. It is also available FREE of charge. Many people use GRAMPS and never see any reason to upgrade to a more expensive program. The one downside is that GRAMPS is a bit more complicated to install than the others.

GRAMPS (an abbreviation for “Genealogy Research and Analysis Management Programming System”) was originally developed as a Linux program and then ported to Macintosh, Windows, BSD UNIX and Solaris. As such, the Macintosh version does have some prerequisites left over from its Linux implementation and requires some technical expertise to install it properly. I would suggest a Mac user read the page at https://gramps-project.org/wiki/index.php?title=Mac_OS_X:Application_package before starting installation. If you are familiar with the terminology used on that page, then go ahead and get started. However, if you are not familiar with “Intel 4.2.2,” “Power PC 4.0.1,” or use of the command line as detailed under “Advanced setup,” I would suggest you select a different genealogy program for your Mac.

For more information about GRAMPS, look at https://gramps-project.org.

None of these programs will be exactly the same as your favorite Windows genealogy program. There may be some features omitted but possibly new features are available in the Mac products that were not in your old Windows product. The “look and feel” undoubtedly will be different as well. However, whichever program you select, you will find a number of excellent genealogy programs available for the Macintosh. No VirtualPC or Parallels or VMware Fusion needed!

In addition, several Windows genealogy programs have been ported to Macintosh by using WINE, CrossOver, or some similar Microsoft Windows compatibility layer. Examples include RootsMagic, Family Tree Builder, AncestralQuest, and maybe some others I do not recall right now. In all cases, these are not native Macintosh programs. Instead, they are Windows programs that will operate on a Macintosh system because of the compatibility layer software that has been added.

Windows genealogy programs have been ported to Macintosh by using WINE or CrossOver will still look, feel, and operate like a Windows program. They will use the Windows keyboard shortcuts and icons, not that of Macintosh. They normally will add “drive letters” in the same manner as a Windows system, not using names like a normal Mac computer. They may or may not be able to use all features of the program while operating on a Mac.

If you are an experienced Windows user who has recently converted to a Macintosh, you probably will be comfortable with the mixed-mode characteristics of having to use both Windows and Macintosh user interfaces simultaneously. However, if you are not experienced with Windows, you probably will not want to use one of these Windows programs that uses a Microsoft Windows compatibility layer.

22 Comments

a more general question: will any mac genealogy program create a tree of everyone in a file?

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    I’ve been a Reunion for Mac user for years now, and I’m fairly sure that you can generate an ‘all’ chart, if you can pick the right ancestor or descendent to generate it from. I know you can choose the number of generations to cover also, so some tweaking of those report settings should run this for you.

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Reunion has my vote. Very intuitive to use.

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I would like to add “iFamily for Mac” to the list. I have been using it for 8 years and like it very much. It is no longer under development, but they update it for each Mac release.

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Another Macintosh program that seems to always be ignored, is GEDitCOM. It is a highly capable program with lots of excellent features.

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Did you not just run an article in the last few weeks on rootsTrust, a genealogy software with a Mac version? Can it be interpreted that leaving it out of your current article implies you don’t suggest your readers use it?

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    RootsTrust shows a lot of promise but it is new and I have not yet received much feedback from the program’s users. As such, I do not yet feel comfortable recommending a program that I am not yet familiar with. I hope I can change my mind in the near future but will not do so until I hear some success stories from rootsTrust users.

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    That’s fair. I was planning on giving rootsTrust a try but I haven’t found the time yet. I will provide honest feedback once I do. I currently use Reunion and Heredis.

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RootsMagic is also available for Mac which is the one I use.

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    I also use RootsMagic, I have it loaded on my MacBook. My database is on Dropbox, which allows me to read the file from my iPhone or my Android tablet as those devices have the free readers on them. Useful if away from my laptop and I want to check a family fact.

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Ancestral Quest for the Mac was released early in the fall of 2015. It is currently available as a free download, but there will be a charge for it in the future. I have been using AQ on my PC since 2008 and find it to be a great program. I graduated to it from PAF. AQ is able to open and update PAF files, although to use all of AQ’s features one needs to convert the PAF file to AQ — which is very easy.

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I have been Reunion for perhaps 15 years and it has been great for me.

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I am just a few months short of 20 years as a Reunion user. I like it because it is simple, flexible, and appears to be unlimited. I have nudged some boxes a bit…it deals with it. I have some pages with only a name, some with gobs of info. If there is no box with the title Ithat I need, I can create one. And the support from the Reunion “family” is terrific…from those barely begun to the program writer himself. I have 51,500 names in the database as of today…and have updated several times without any glitches to my knowledge. I have heard some say it is too complicated. I did not find that so. There are some more complicated areas but all one really needs to do to start is to fill in the blanks: Last Name; first name; and dates of birth and death. From there you can learn other “blanks” one at a
time as you feel more confident. If you are new to programs in general, this one will lead you by the hand. If you are experienced with other programs, you will soon see what you want to do with this one.

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I’m a long time Reunion user and have also downloaded Roots Magic. Reunion is a much easier application for a Mac user than RM. The advantage of Roots Magic is that it links to data from MyHeritage and FamilySearch data, but it’s user interface is definitely Windows centric. I hate the look and feel of the program and just use it for the linking. Reunion has an active user group and tech support that are both very helpful in learning the program and resolving issues.

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Margaret Rutledge March 19, 2016 at 6:12 pm

I too am a long time Reunion user and have been very, very happy with it because it is totally integrated into the Mac environment. It is very easy to use as everything is intuitive. It is also very flexible. I have exported gedcoms to people who use other programs and they’ve always been able to read it. The support is terrific, as is the Help feature for the few times I’ve needed it.

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Nancy Lee McDaniel March 19, 2016 at 11:41 pm

I have been using Reunion for the Mac for at least 20 years and I just LOVE it as it is so easy to use!!

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    I love the iPad/Mac real-time sync via a Dropbox account – so that an edit on one device is always mirrored over to the other because they’re both referencing the same file. Saves lugging my iMac to relatives houses, or having to remember who i’ve edited and copy them across.

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Perhaps recently, Gramps seems to have made Mac installation easy. There’s a link for the current Mac installation package, which unpacks an app you can “drag and drop” into the Application folder. That’s much improved over having to manually install a list of prerequisite packages, which some of the doc describes. At first blush, Gramps looks quite reasonable – it’s certainly an easy install.

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GRAMPS is NOT easy to use at all. It took 3 hours to start a stinking family database, 2 more to correct the name spelling typo, another 2 to enter the base parents and 4 to give them one kid. I still haven’t been able to marry the parents properly or enter the names parents of either of the base parents. At this rate it would take 20 years to complete a rebuild of what took me a week on another software. GRAMPS is NOT user friendly. GRAMPS should be banned from genealogy as a viable software solution since you need to be a GRAMPS programmer to know how to use the software. Anyone who says different either works for GRAMPS, is paid by them to say it or is a complete liar.

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