Ask The Experts: Genealogy Packages

There are a whole host of software options available to enable you to record your family tree. These range from database solutions, to online tree builders. How do you chose which one to purchase? Many come with free samples, so you can experiment with which brand suits your needs.

To help you get started I asked the experts for their opinions:


Natalie Pithers – Me!

About Natalie – Genealogy Stories

Professional genealogist with BA (Hons) in English Literature. I offer a range of research services and one-to-one genealogy lessons.

“I use Rootsmagic mainly because I love it’s “shared facts” functionality. You can use one of Rootsmagic’s fact templates or create your own. You can add a fact for any individual and share it across multiple persons. For example, enter a census address against the Head of Household and then share this with all the children listed on the census. For me this is a real time saver. In addition, for each fact Rootsmagic creates a sentence that can be included in narrative reports. These sentences can be customised and even include if / or possibilities if you use basic SQL language. It’s probably not something a new user would want to start with, but once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s a feature worth exploring.”

RootsMagic edit person screen

RootsMagic Edit Person Screen


Robert Parker

Robert Parker

About Robert – myfamilygenealogy.co.uk/blogs

Robert is a professional Genealogist and Trainer, based in Cambridgeshire. He delivers courses, guidance (coaching), talks, and research services for those interested in tracing their ancestors. What stories might your ancestors tell?

“I love Rootsmagic as my family history software for many reasons; its look, feel and robustness for a start. However above all of these is its ability to record your sources in as much detail as you like. You can even create your own template for source recording. We all know we should record the source of the information we have found on our ancestor (where found, when, who, where stored, what, record/reference number) just in case we need to go back to the information sometime. Rootsmagic allows you to do this with pre-created templates for almost every type of record. And if the template isn’t provided you can create your own. “

Rootsmagic Source Templates

RootsMagic Source Types Screen


Paul Chiddicks

About Paul – Chiddicks Family Tree

With a keen interest in military history and 15 years experience in genealogy, Paul is an avid blogger, updating his own site regularly and often featuring in Family Tree magazines online blog.

“I use Family Tree Maker 2017 (FTM) for Mac. Previously owned by Ancestry, the software is now owned by MacKiev, who were kind enough to send me a copy. MacKiev have been able to continue the tree-sync facility with Ancestry. Although the hints still have room for improvement, tree-sync is a crucial feature for me! FTM 2017 also connects to Family Search and other useful features include the ability to colour code your ancestors and link a web search from your tree. The new version also has a limited, but great feature, of being able to edit and enhance images.

FTM currently doesn’t support a trial version, which could be a problem for those that like to try before they buy. The main interface hasn’t really been updated since 2010 and is probably looking a little bit tired now, but that said familiarisation can also be regarded as a plus point. As a Mac user, for me FTM 2017 is still the best option available. I’ve also found, despite what you might read elsewhere online, that MacKiev’s live chat is absolutely helpful with questions answered quickly and concisely.”

FYI – MacKiev have just launched a brand new comprehensive user guide for FTM 2017 which can be preordered online.

FTM 2017 Working Screen

Family Tree Maker 2017 Main Screen


Genealogy Jude

About Genealogy Jude – Twitter @GenealogyJude

A professional genealogist since 1993 with an IHGS Diploma in Genealogy, Judith is dedicated to sharing her passion for family history.

“I’ve actually just started to use the genealogy package, Heredis. However, I use the software in conjunction with Ancestry’s tree-builder functionality. I build my tree within the website and find it much speedier to do this first. I mine the deep resources within Ancestry before looking to other sites, so it makes sense to build my tree directly within the website. You can add other source information to your Ancestry tree, although there is a little more legwork involved. For my offline database, I chose Heredis because it seemed a good software package for a Mac, which is what I have. It was also very reasonably priced. So far it seems easy enough to use. I hate reading manuals so I want a program that is intuitive. I’m just starting out with the software at the moment. Heredis offer a trial version for those interested in trying it out before they buy.”

Heredis Screenshot

Heredis screenshot retrieved from PC Mag


Emma Jolly

About Emma – emmajolly.co.uk

Emma Jolly MA is a professional genealogist, writer and historical researcher, based in London.

“On my home PC, I have been using Family Historian for some years, recently upgrading to version 6. I find it relatively easy to use, particularly the various reports (including sources) and chart options. One drawback for me is that I can’t use it on my web-based Chromebook. As this as my sole laptop, when I’m away from home I rely on Ancestry Trees. There are no diagram or report options on Ancestry itself, but you can export the gedcom file of each tree created to your software programme of choice. I find this system works well with Family Historian. On the occasions when I find the options on Family Historian confusing, I check out the forums in the FH Users Group.”

Family Historian screenshot

Family Historian screen


As you have seen, the experts use a variety of different packages. There are advantages and disadvantages to all options – and really its about finding the solution that best meets your needs or best suits your way of working.

The genealogy packages mentioned in this article are by no means the only options.

To help you start your search, please see below links to the packages included in this post plus some additional solutions you may want to explore:

For more reviews try: