85. Gen: Best Free Genealogy (Family Tree) Software


Submitted by okrick
Last update on 1st January, 2015 - 6:28am

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Introduction
Genealogy software provides a method for recording the subjects of our research, e.g. their names, relationships, and events of their lives. Evidence (citations and sources) should be recorded to support the conclusions reached. They also print the reports and charts to show off the results of our labor. This article reviews stand alone programs which run on your PC. If you are interested in web based applications please see my companion review at Best Free Online Genealogy / Family Tree Applications.

Several free genealogy programs will do a reasonable job for the novice or advanced genealogist. Unless otherwise noted:

They support unlimited entry of individuals, birth, marriage, death, burial, and other events together with their associated dates, locations, and source citations.
Alternative names can be entered but are not necessarily searched.
Marriages are not numerically limited, i.e. multiple spouses (sequential or polygamous).
Polygamous relationships are not completely displayed, e.g. only one pair can be viewed at a time.
Multiple parents are supported (adopted, foster, or other possibilities). However, only one pair of parents can be displayed at a time.
Incest is supported, e.g. a child can be married to one of their parents and/or be both sibling and parent of another sibling.
Same sex marriages and parents are supported by several of the recommended programs.
They support family group, pedigree, and descendant reports and charts together with the associated foot- or end-notes.
They support multimedia attachments but not all support photos in reports.
They support import and export of GEDCOM (GEnealogical Data COMmunication) format files.

Discussion

Gramps

Gramps should be able to run on any operating systems that supports Python, e.g. Windows, Linux, Mac OS (disclaimer--I only tested in Windows). Easily navigate or filter by people or name list, family, relationship, ancestry, events, places, sources, repositories, media, and notes. An undo function allows easy correction of the most recent entries.


The place entry is especially outstanding. Places have distinct fields for street, city, latitude, church parish, etc. Alternate locations can be entered for each place, e.g. one could enter Virginia as an alternate for some West Virginia locations prior to the Civil War. Sources, notes, multimedia, and internet links can be linked to each place. Also all events linked to the place are displayed and can be navigated to.


The date support is superior. Dates can be based on several different calendars, e.g. Gregorian, Islamic, etc. The date can have a quality of regular, estimated, or calculated. And finally the type can include before, after, range, span, etc. Events support roles, e.g. bride for a marriage event. Oddly there is no date calculator so, for example, a birth date calculated from the age at death would need to be manually calculated.

Gramps can create narrative style web sites. You can select a standard copyright or from any of the Creative Commons copyrights. Not only can living people be excluded, entirely or name only but also a date range to restrict recently deceased people can be selected, e.g. people who died within the last five years could be treated as if they were still living.

Gramps can create large format reports which could be sent to a facility with the ability to print large sheets. Alternatively, large sized reports can be printed on individual pages which can be put together like a jigsaw puzzle, with the pages numbered according to their location in the overall report.

Sources can be attached to people, families, events, and multimedia. Citations can be copied and pasted.

Gramps directly supports patronymic and matronymic style names, e.g. ap Robert, verch Evan, etc. It also supports multiple surnames, e.g. Ramón y Cajal.

Gramps supports multiple parent relationships, e.g. adoptive. Same sex marriage is supported and each partner is labeled as "spouse." Same sex parents are also supported but one parent will be labeled as father and the other as mother. Marriage is not assumed for parents. Gender need not be specified for parents or married couples, e.g. a marriage can be entered for J. Roe and A. Smith with both listed as unknown gender. Genealogists worried about how to enter the parents of cloned individuals will be relieved to know that the same person can be entered as both father and mother:)

The family group text report did not have foot or end notes.

Gramps provides Unicode support.

Scion PC

If you're interested in an easy to use portable application then ScionPC should be at the top of your list.

I love the lack of gender constraints, e.g. I can add both of my grandchild's same sex parents without resorting to tricks such as changing the gender of one of the parents. Both members of marriages are referred to as partner's. (There is a warning that the couple is the same sex.) I wish other genealogy programs would adopt this standard. Can document a Sex Change.

ScionPC has exceptional date format support, e.g. Circa, Before, After, Estimated, and Date Range modifiers as well as Georgian, Julian, Hebrew, French Revolutionary, Islamic, Persian, Indian National, Coptic, User Defined and Unknown calendars. I like the pop up calendar for use when entering dates.

The program creates a complete web site for upload. Supports CSS.

Only one source citation is permitted per event. Only one source format. No book print function.

Legacy Standard

Legacy Standard is fairly easy to use, flexible, and has plenty of capabilities. The free version supports family, pedigree, and index views. Easily navigate to younger or older generations simply by clicking on the individuals. Clicking on Events icon displays all of the events for an individual.

You can attach photos or any other type of document. The source templates are well structured. The location field is unstructured but the Master Location List can help keep the locations consistent. The merge feature for people, places, sources, repositories, etc. is easy to use. You can select specific individuals, families and entire family lines for export or reports by placing them in a Focus Group.

Strong report generator supports many general report types including citation and to do lists. Legacy can print narrative book style reports using generic sentence templates. Creates stunning graphical charts, ancestor, descendant, fan, hourglass, and bow tie charts. Cannot save some reports to RTF (Rich Text Format); however, text format (ASCII) is supported. Saving reports to PDF format is not supported.

The program provides Internet Search links and a To Do List.

Legacy creates good looking web pages. Supports photos and CSS.

Same sex couples are not supported either as parents or marriage. Polygamous and sequential multiple marriages and incestuous relationships are supported. Multiple parental relationships such as including adoptive parents or guardians are supported. Supports multiple names.

Many menu items when selected display a nagging message that the feature is available only in the Deluxe Edition. Greying out and disabling the unavailable options would have been less obtrusive.

Myheritage Family Tree Builder

I love MyHeritage Family Tree Builder's hour glass view that can adjust from just one generation above and below the focus person to three generations. This eliminates the need for separate person, pedigree, and descendant views. There is a handy list for navigation just to the left which can be expanded or retracted out of the way.

MyHeritage automatically checks for possible duplicates when entering people. This feature mitigates the absence of a merge duplicate people tool. Good tree consistency checker.

A button appears next to the place entry field when clicked will offer suggestions from similar places already appearing in your database. A pop-up calendar is available when entering dates.

Reports can be saved to HTML format. Supports a direct upload to the MyHeritage web site but no other independent web site creation. Imports Family Tree Legends as well as GEDCOM format files.

Marriage is assumed for parents but can be changed to another type of status such as Friends, Engaged, or Other. Gender need not be specified for parents or married couples, e.g. a marriage can be entered for J. Roe and A. Smith with both listed as unknown gender and "husband."

No place or individual person reports.

The PDF format manual is very helpful substitute for context sensitive help.

Launches a browser window on program launch and displays nag screens when options unavailable in the free version are selected. Registration adds your email to several mailing lists. Some features require syncing to MyHeritage.com.

RootsMagic Essentials

RootsMagic Essentials has a variety of source templates based somewhat on Elizabeth Shown Mills Evidence. I was able to open multiple databases or the same database multiple times and display them side by side.

RootsMagic can import directly from several other genealogy programs as well as from a GEDCOM file. This functionality should be more widely supported as a lot of detail is lost in transfers with the GEDCOM format.

Unicode characters are supported.

All parent relationships assume that the parents are married. With same sex parents one of the individuals is denoted the father and the other as the mother. I'd prefer to be able to list both as parent, both as mother, or the actual mother as mother and the other as parent.

The reports and charts produced by RootsMagic are generally better in appearance than the other programs listed here. Place, citation, to-do list, and narrative reports are supported. Bibliographies are available for some reports. Saving reports to other file formats is disabled--viewing and printing is allowed. There is no option to hide living people or events for living folks and no option to exclude private notes in reports.

I like the copy and paste citation functionality. There is no optional surety assessment for citations. There is no relationship calculator.
RootsMagic displays a nagging splash screen at every start up requiring the user to chose between the free and the Full version. This is immediately followed with a RootsMagic News screen. Many menu choices are not functional in the free version but I do appreciate that they are highlighted in a reddish color.

Related Products and Links

GEDView

GEDView is a portable viewer for GEDCOM files. Save your GEDCOM to a USB drive with this utility and you'll never be without access to your research. Provides name listing, individual screen, and pop up pedigree, descendant, Mitochondrial DNA, and Y Chromosome views.

Ged2Web

Ged2Web converts GEDCOM files to HTML files for uploading to a website. More features than PAF but either Legacy, Gramps, or ScionPC produce better formatted web sites. If you don't want to install Legacy, Gramps, or ScionPC then you might try this utility.

GeneaQuilts

"GeneaQuilts is a new visualization technique for representing large genealogies of up to several thousand individuals. The visualization takes the form of a diagonally-filled matrix, where rows are individuals and columns are nuclear families. The system includes an overview, a timeline, search and filtering components, and a new interaction technique called Bring & Slide that allows fluid navigation in very large genealogies." I suggest watching the demonstration video if you're interested in trying this program.

Ancestry

The Ancestry Android and iPad Apps offer a mobile method for accessing your Ancestry.com family trees.

Horizontal pedigree chart with individual and family displays that can shown at the right side. Displays, adds, and edits individuals and events. Easy to search by name. Can add photos to the tree. With internet connection, edits are posted to Ancestry.com, locations are prompted, and Ancestry.com can be searched. Location aware devices can also supply current city for event location.

Does not support sources. No descendant, people, or place list view. No bookmarks or history list of viewed people.

Requires (free or paid) Ancestry.com registration.

Find Grave (beta)

Find Grave (beta) Android App offers a mobile method for searching FindaGrave.com for cemeteries and memorials. Add a memorial if you are registered at the
Find A Grave website.
Requires internet connection.

Other Related SW

Best Free Online Genealogy / Family Tree Applications

1. RootsWeb WorldConnect
This site hosts a large number of family trees prepared by amateur genealogists. These are disjoint trees. The information in them is not linked together. However, searches can be made of all the family trees for an individual; the results are all listed. A search can be more detailed to narrow down the results. If your family tree is in GEDCOM format, it is very easy to add your family tree to those already at this site.

2. RootsWeb Freepages
Genealogical information can be stored at this site. This site provides free web pages for information not in GEDCOM format. Some genealogists store family photos at this site.

3. Family Search
This site contains three types of genealogical information. Genealogists can manually add their information to the "world family tree" at this site, but GEDCOMS cannot be loaded in bulk. The Mormons have accumulated many official records which can easily be attached to the "world family tree" at this site. Photos can be attached to the data at this site. The Legacy software can be used to automatically search the data at the Family Search site while you are working on your family tree. This is very useful.

4. WikiTree
This site contains a "world family tree". Genealogists can manually add their information to the "world family tree" at this site, but GEDCOMS cannot be loaded in bulk. But wikiTree does not load any other related data.

5. Cyndi's List - Genealogy Software

Quick Selection Guide

Gramps 5


Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer

The best location and date support of tested programs. Best program for creating websites. Supports other languages and Unicode characters.

No foot or end notes on family group report. Lacks people list, place list, source list, repository list, and citation list reports.

Gramps Web Page

Gramps Download

3.4.8-1

51.1 MB

32 and 64 bit versions available

Open source freeware

A portable version of this product is available but not from the developer.

Portable version available at http://portableapps.com/apps/education/gramps_portable

ScionPC


5

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer

No gender constraints. Sex Change fact. Supports date range and many other calendars. Pop-up calendar. Can create a web site. Portable. Lists include repository, note, and media.

Only one citation per event. Only one source format. No private notes. No book print function. No history list or back button to revisit previously viewed pages. No fan charts. Database format is XML compliant yet Unicode characters are not supported.

Scion Web Page

Scion Download

8.2

7 MB

32 bit but 64 bit compatible

Unrestricted freeware

This product is portable.

Legacy Standard


4

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer

Web site creation support. Internet searches. Merge and search & replace features for people, places, sources, repositories, etc.

Does not support same sex parents nor same sex marriages. PDF reports are not supported. Multiple names supported but not searchable. No Unicode support.

Nags when unavailable menu items are selected.

Legacy Web page

Legacy Download

8.0.0.458

67.6 MB

32 bit but 64 bit compatible

Feature limited freeware

There is no portable version of this product available.

Win 98, and Win Me need all available Microsoft Service Packs installed.

MyHeritage Family Tree Builder


4

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer

Hour glass view adjustable from one to three generations. Pop-up calendar. Supports Hebrew and French Revolution calendars. Checks for duplicates upon entry. Unicode support.

No merge tools. No individual or place reports. No date calculator. Can not create a complete web site file set for upload to a third party site. Only one source format.

Opens MyHeritage web site on every program start. Nags when encountering feature limits. Some features require syncing to MyHeritage.com.

Family Tree Builder Web Page

Family Tree Builder Download

7.0.0.7138

35.3 MB

32 bit but 64 bit compatible

Feature limited freeware

There is no portable version of this product available.

Please note that the MyHeritage online website was not recommended in my companion review of the Best Free Online Genealogy and Family Tree Applications. I felt that the online limit of 250 people was too constraining. Also your research is in a sense held hostage since one must pay to retrieve a GEDCOM.

Brother's Keeper


3

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer

Automatically checks for duplicate people. Supports other languages (but lacks Unicode support). No nags.

No date formatting. No people list view. Only product which did not support pictures or other media. Reports cannot be saved to formats other than html. No bookmarks. Supports same sex parents but labels are Father/Mother. Does not support Unicode. No duplicate merge tools. No custom facts. No pop-up calendar. No private notes. No people bookmarks.
http://www.bkwin.org

Brothers Keeper Version 6

7.0.38

15 MB

32 bit but 64 bit compatible

Feature limited freeware

There is no portable version of this product available.

RootsMagic Essentials


3

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer

Able to import from other genealogy programs as well as GEDCOM. Source templates. Place and citation list reports. Copy & paste citations. Nice looking reports. Nice method of indicating which functions are not supported in free version. Unicode supported.

Nags at start with a splash screen. Reports cannot be saved to other file formats. No book print function. No private notes. No relationship calculator. Same sex parents labeled as Father & Mother. Assumes marriage of parents.

RootsMagic Web Page

RootsMagic DownLoad

7.0.2.2

30.5 MB

32 bit but 64 bit compatible

Feature limited freeware

There is no portable version of this product available.

Don't bother selecting the 68M place database download. The free version does not support the function.

Ancestral Quest Basics


2

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer

Automatically searches RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project and Ancestry.com in the background and displays number of matches. Performs individual Internet searches of Ancestry.com, Rootsweb.com, and Familysearch.com (some types of search available only with paid version). Supports other languages (but lacks Unicode support).

Only product reviewed which did not support unmarried parents or incestual relationships. Same gender relationships not supported. Only search by primary name is supported. Bookmarks and history of people viewed is not supported. Only product which did not support box type charts. Nags with each startup and whenever a feature available only in paid version is selected. No Unicode support.

Ancestry Quest Web Page

Ancestry Quest Download

14.0

35 MB

32 bit but 64 bit compatible

Feature limited freeware

There is no portable version of this product available.

Internet connection and browser required for internet search functions.

Quick Selection Guide-Mobile

Ancestry


3.5

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer

Horizontal pedigree chart with individual and family displays that can shown at the right side. Display, add, and edit individuals and events. Easy to search by name. Add photos to the tree. With internet connection, edits are posted to Ancestry.com, locations are prompted, and Ancestry.com can be searched. Location aware devices can also supply current city for event location.

Does not support sources. No descendant, people, or place list view. No bookmarks or history list of viewed people.

http://ancestry.com

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ancestry.android.apps.ancestry or http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ancestry/id349554263
Android 1.1.116 / Ipad 3.1.2

3.6M

Unrestricted freeware

This product is portable.

Requires (free or paid) Ancestry.com registration.

Editor


This software category is maintained by volunteer editor okrick. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or questions they might have by clicking here.

Tags

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Amateur Genealogy Research (by David Cole)

It is not necessary to be a professional genealogist to gather family tree information. But it is important to contact your oldest family members, to interview them and to take written notes. If someone in the family has already begun to do genealogy research, contact them and exchange information. It is very important to keep track of your sources. Every written note should be accompanied by a record of who discovered the information and where the information was found.

I have created a web page with many genealogy hints and recommendations. It is Source 2 and can be found here: Gen: Cole Family Genealogy (33.html).

Its Table of Contents is:

The Cole Family
Current Genealogy Research
Tips and Recommendations about Genealogy Research
Special Persons Named COLE
Additional Family Information
Other Genealogical Information
Coat of Arms
Images/Photos
Cole's Memorials
Find A Grave Tombstones
Additional Information
Additional/External References

You may find that this web page contains too much information. If so, browse through it now and then read it in more detail at a later date. (Keep in mind that I have been doing genealogy research for many years.) You will undoubtedly find other sources of information and other ways to do your research. The Web is a wonderful source of information. By uploading my information to the web, others can see it. Some of them get in touch with me and offer to share their information with me.

Sources:



WebMaster: Thou Old King Cole

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