Free Genealogy Programs

A newsletter reader wrote recently and asked if there are any free genealogy programs available today. I thought perhaps others might have the same question so I will respond here in the newsletter where anyone interested can read the answer.

In fact, there are many free, full-featured genealogy programs available for Windows, Macintosh, Chromebooks, Linux, or even for installing in a web server you control. The various programs do vary widely in features and capabilities.

In addition, the handheld systems that run Chrome or Apple’s iOS operating system also have many free genealogy apps available although most of them are somewhat limited in capabilities. I would not describe any of the genealogy apps for handheld devices as “full featured” programs that compete with the desktop genealogy products for Macintosh, Linux, and Windows. However, even that is changing.

The following is a list of free genealogy programs that may meet your needs. However, the paid programs usually offer more features.

For Microsoft Windows, there is RootsMagic Essentials, Legacy Family Tree Standard Edition, Family Tree Builder from MyHeritage, Gramps, AncestralQuest Basics, and maybe some others that I do not recall right now.

For Macintosh, there is: Family Tree Builder from MyHeritage, Gramps, and Personal Ancestry Writer II.

For Linux, see Gramps. Don’t bother with anything else. Other Linux genealogy programs do exist but pale in comparison to Gramps.

For Chromebooks, see my article, Genealogy Applications for Chromebooks, at: https://blog.eogn.com/2017/04/19/genealogy-applications-for-chromebooks/ and the list in the Google Play Store at https://play.google.com/store/search?q=genealogy&c=apps.

I am sure you can find other free genealogy programs as well. However, the above list shows the ones that have been around for a while and have become popular.

For Android or Apple’s iOS operating system, see the App Store for your system. It should list a number of free genealogy apps but, again, I would not describe any of them as “full featured” programs that compete with the desktop genealogy products for Macintosh, Linux, and Windows.

My Solution(s)

As for myself, I don’t use any genealogy program installed in a personal computer. My favorite method of keeping my own genealogy database is to store all the data online where it is accessible to me when I use any computer and (optionally) accessible to the people that I allow to see the data. I would suggest you use an online genealogy service that is designed for the purpose. Using an online genealogy service is easier and more reliable than installing, maintaining, and updating software in a personal computer yourself.  There are several ways of accomplishing that.

My favorite genealogy “program” is MyHeritage.com, the sponsor of this newsletter. I will quickly admit that I am biased to the company that pays the bills for this newsletter. However, I honestly believe that if this newsletter had a different sponsor or no sponsor at all, I would still use MyHeritage.com as my primary genealogy “program.”

However, with MyHeritage.com or any other genealogy program, I do make complete backups of all my data at least once a month and store the backups in my home computers and also in at least two different file storage services in the cloud operated by other companies. (That’s one copy at MyHeritage.com, more than one copy at home, plus at least two copies in two or more file storage services in the cloud, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and others.) That’s cheap insurance. I cannot imagine any disaster that would lose all four or more copies simultaneously!

I prefer MyHeritage simply because I have my own, separate database on the service. Nobody else can ever change any information in my database without my permission. That’s not true of all the online genealogy services. In addition, nobody can even SEE my data unless I give permission. I can give read-only permission to only one person, to a group, to everyone on the World Wide Web, or to no one. I like those choices.

Using MyHeritage.com as a genealogy program is free for small databases of up to 250 people. However, for larger databases, you do have to pay fees. Pricing may be found at: https://www.myheritage.com/pricing.

Another Solution: Install a Genealogy Program Online

For anyone with some technical expertise, having your own personal online genealogy program installed in a web server you control can be very attractive. Again, as the owner, you can give read-only permission to only one person, to a group, to everyone on the World Wide Web, or to no one. You can also give full read/write permission to anyone you wish. That is a great feature for group efforts when several people are cooperating at researching the same family.

For more information about having your own genealogy program installed in a private web server that you control, look at The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding (“TNG”) at http://www.tngsitebuilding.com/. TNG does cost a modest $32.99 US. Also, look at Webtrees, a free genealogy program that installs in a web server at https://www.webtrees.net/index.php/en/.

 

15 Comments

Very useful information. Thanks.

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The following free programs won a GenSoftReviews Users Choice Award in 2018: Ahnenblatt, webtrees, Familienbande, Ancestral Quest (has a free version), Ancestris, Famberry, RootsMagic (free version), Oxy-gen, and Family Tree Builder.

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AncestralQuest allows user to have “my own, separate database . . . Nobody else can ever change any information in my database without my permission. That’s not true of all the online genealogy services. In addition, nobody can even SEE my data unless I give permission. I can give read-only permission to only one person, to a group, to everyone on the World Wide Web, or to no one. I like those choices.”

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I have a small tree at Wikitree.com. That is another free option for people. It’s a collaborative One World Tree, but unlike familysearch.org, others can’t change the information you have posted without your consent.

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RootsMagic Essentials also runs under macOS.

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Thank you, Dick. Since 1997 – has it been 20 years? – and the start of U.S. GenWeb and RootsWeb, I’ve gone through three genealogy programs starting with PAF and become an Un-Windows person. I don’t care so much about how many names I have in my family tree, but more about who those names are and their stories. The technology can be hard to understand – I have visited with people with three computers full – literally – of information because they started before the era of flash drives. I don’t want a lot of bells and whistles – some may – and MyHeritage seems to be fitting what I want to do. And I still don’t understand The Cloud. 🙂

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What about Ancestry I pay alot to use it.

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    Mmy issue with Ancestry is that any family tree II posr there goes behind the paywall, so that my family members cannot see any of it without buying a subscription to the Ancestry.com site. I resent the fact that Ancestry structures their site so that the company basically takes the personal work product I have essentially donated for free, and then sells it back to members of my own family for their own profit. I’m willimg to put up with the inconvenience and headaches of the crowd-sourced sites like WikiTree and the FamilySearch Family Tree in order to allow family members who can’t afford the price of admissiom the Ancestry.com to access my personal research results. That said, it would br nice if users of the free sites would remember to say “Thank you,” and give credit when they find the information useful, and offer reasons for suggested additions and corrections when they think it’s incorect..

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I use Reunion – a wonderful Mac program! However, it is difficult to keep up multiple trees – I’ve used Ancestry, but am considering moving to MyHeritage….

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How do you get your own separate data base on the my Heritage service?

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    —> How do you get your own separate data base on the my Heritage service?

    When you sign up for MyHeritage, you are given a private database that only you can access, only you can add information, and only you can see it.

    Then you are given options:

    1. You can allow one, two, or more people to view the information in your database, if you wish. You can allow dozens of people to view it, should you wish to do so. You can even make it visible to everyone on the World Wide Web, if you wish. Or you can leave it completely private, only visible to yourself. Those are your options. Your choice. That is different from some of the other web sites that allow you to upload data but then everyone can see it.

    2. If you give some people or even everyone else to VIEW your data, you then have an option to allow some people to CHANGE the data or to add NEW data. This might be useful if you and one or several cousins are working together on a collaborative family history project. But NOBODY can CHANGE your data without your permission. Again, that is different from some of the other web sites that allow other people to change your data.

    As for me, I allow a few of my relatives to see my data but I don’t allow anyone else to add or change any of my data. If someone else thinks they have updates or corrections, they need to send the information to (probably by email) and then I review it. Then I may or may not change the data myself to agree with what the other person suggested.

    I will never upload anything to a service where someone else could come along later and change things without my permission. Why should I contribute information that probably is later going to be folded, spindled, or mutilated? There is no incentive for me to do that.

    With MyHeritage, everything remains under my control.

    Other people may chose other options. That is their choice.

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Gigatrees, while not a general genealogy software, has great DNA features and does also produce family tree web pages. It is also free.

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Yes, I know. But PAF5.2 (Windows) still available. It is simple, basic, but flexible enough. And it will export to all those bells and whistles apps. The end game is documentation, notes, verification– and backup, of course, of course.

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Also, I’d like to add some great tools connecting with genealogy and family trees. I have been using Forever.com to organize my memories for years and I absolutely love it. Forever also offers media conversion services, photo book printing, digital scrapbooking, and photo management software. But there is another one family tree creator that I like. It is Treemily.com. They provide people seeking to eternalize their ancestry in a tangible form with a one-of-a-kind tool for building stunning family trees.

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I stumbled upon geni-like family tree php application on github github.com/malamalca/famiree. Maybe a bit basic but nice looking.

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