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A Review of Three Computer Software Programs For Genealogy Or Family History

Updated on December 13, 2010

Genealogy is the study and tracing of families.

The word itself originates from the Greek translation of "genea", meaning family and "logos" meaning knowledge. Finding out where one comes from, or their roots, helps one to grow stability and strength from simply "knowing who you are."

The Old Way

Typical document that was searched.
Typical document that was searched.

In times past the process of finding ones roots was a slow and tedious job.

To do family research required a trip to an authorized "family history center" with hours of searching in volumes of books and other data just to find clues about family lines. The monotony of searching manually through stacks of census records that were recorded on microfilm was a boring and time consuming job, which quite often resulted in sore eyes and a stiff neck only. All of the record keeping was done manually by handwriting or typing in information on large "family group sheets." Stacks of notes and paper files were overwhelming, and filing systems were at best another searching process. With the computer technology of today all of that has changed drastically.

Computer Programs Available

If one has a computer available, most genealogy research today can be done in the confines and comfort of your own home. There are a number of genealogy programs available to help you get started recording your information.


My number one favorite computer program for recording my family history is the Legacy program. It is extremely user friendly and offers several different options for reports and record storage. It even has a way for you to make a picture photo album included in your research. It is compatable with most other programs on the market, making downloading of information quick and easy.

Samply View of Legacy Program

Image of computer screen in the Legacy program.
Image of computer screen in the Legacy program.

Personal Ancestral File

PAF is another program that is very popular and is user friendly also. It is distributed by The Latter Day Saint Church.

Features allow users to:

  • Type each person's information only once.
  • Link individuals to families.
  • New: Type names and places using characters from any language.
  • New: Create templates to customize data entry.
  • Print pedigrees, family groups, or lists.
  • Track your research sources.
  • Use photos, sound clips, video, and notes to add interest and value.
  • Search, find, and correct information.
  • View family information in different ways.
  • Match/merge duplicate entries.
  • Filter searches.
  • Share your information with others.
  • New: View screens and print reports in either English, German, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, or Swedish.

Personal Ancestral File

This is a page view of the PAF program.
This is a page view of the PAF program.

Family Tree Maker

This program is affiliated with the program. It is compatible with their search engines. I have used this program and find it to be a little more confusing.

With Family Tree Maker 2008, it is easier than ever to organize and preserve all the information you've collected about your family.

  • A new interface makes it much easier to enter, view and edit your data.
  • Media features make it easy to manage photos and other media files and incorporate them into charts and reports.
  • Timelines highlight personal, family and world events that occurred during your ancestors' lives.
  • A robust tool helps you sort and manage your to-do list.

Family Tree Maker

This is the view of the computer screen for FTM program.
This is the view of the computer screen for FTM program.

Just Try IT, You'll Like IT

Whatever program you choose, make sure to just jump in with both feet and experiment. The more you use the program the more familiar you will become with it. I am partial to Legacy because that is the program I have spent the most time in. All the programs have so much to offer that you can't go wrong with any you choose.


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    • profile image

      leonor 6 years ago

      thanks for sharing that with us i really appreciated it, it helped me learn a lot!

    • brennawelker profile image

      brennawelker 6 years ago

      Informative hub.Thanks for sharing this.

    • scauthor1969 profile image

      scauthor1969 6 years ago from Upstate South Carolina

      I use for my genealogy work so I have been considering buying the Family Tree Maker prgogram for a while now. Thanks for the comparison of the programs.

    • Norfolk Tours profile image

      Glynn Burrows 7 years ago from Norfolk England

      I use a computer but there is nothing better for my family history files than paper. I have all my families in files and I can find things without waiting for it to all load up.

      Also, I have found, that as I started my researching in 1977, I have not got the time to put it all on the computer anyway! It takes ages to put stuff into the programmes.

      Norfolk ancestry is my strongpoint, 99% of my ancestors are from this good old County on the East of England and I love it. Come and check it out.


    • amborg profile image

      amborg 7 years ago from Italy

      I used to be a die hard windows user and used Family Tree Maker, which is only available for Windows. This program was the only reason why I would not switch to Mac. Then the iMac's came out with Windows. The other day discovered Reunion, specifically for Mac, which seems to work just as well as Family Tree Maker.

    • profile image

      Genealogy Data 7 years ago

      I agree with you completely. I am also working on genealogy research and making my own family tree. I am using Family tree program to manage my tree and to keep everything organized.

    • profile image

      Nikki Dee 8 years ago

      Thanks for the useful links. Is anyone out there familiar with the MacFamily Tree? I'm a dedicated Mac user, and that's the program I'm thinking of buying.

    • profile image

      Tiffany 8 years ago

      I have been playing with lately. It's for your more casual genealogy, but still a fun way to get people interested. And, the user interface isn't so intimidating...more like a social network for family.

      Great article, I will bookmark it.

    • profile image

      Richard Kay 8 years ago

      I just found a (3 floppy disc) copy of Family Ties from 1995 that I loved cause it was so simple to use. BUT I can't copy it to my computer running XP nor my laptop running XP Professional. Something to do with "bits" too many or too few. Does anyone have a later version that might load??? Need some help.

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California

      Hi Bob,

      I am not familiar with Master Genealogist. I am a Legacy user and prefer that to any other program I have used. Sorry I can't help you with that!

    • profile image

      Robert 8 years ago

      Are you familiar with a program called Master Genealogist? My Family Tree program is 1998 and I'm planning to update to something.... (?)



    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California


      The computer has revolutionized the art of family history. I love searching for my ancestors, and now it is easier than ever with the help of the internet. Thanks for visiting and keep on searching and writing!

    • TetonRose profile image

      TetonRose 9 years ago from Utah

      In The Doghouse: Thanks for all the great information. It will save me a bit of time on another pending project, today! Like you, I spend a lot of time on the internet, searching for ancestors, family stories, etc. I've found that a good computer genealogy program not only saves many hours of time but also keeps the interest better than the old laborious "write everything by hand" method!

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California


      Thanks for all the additional information and reviews of the programs. I do love Legacy. I agree, sometimes they just are a few steps from being found aren't they. lol Have fun!

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 9 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Great hub, Doghouse! I too am a die-hard LEGACY user and have been for years. Tried every other genie program and found Legacy to be the most user-friendly, also I like that they continually improve it and make updates available...FREE...every few months, which you can download or not. Unless it's a MAJOR improvement, I usually don't. However, I do have the Deluxe version, which isn't free but the extra features are definitely worth the $30 or so.

      As for FTM (FamilyTreeMaker) the "new, improved version" ISN'T. A total dog, a memory hog that's slower than cold molasses. Not worth the time to install and then UN-install, not to mention calling FTM customer service for a refund. Which oddly, they grant without a fuss, if that tells you that already knew it was a dog. (I know this from the trials and tribs of a friend who'd used their previous versions since Day One, plus the comments posted by EX-users on

      btw, I don't do "family history research", my idea of fun is CHASING DEAD ANCESTORS, some of which are darn fleet of foot when they choose to be. :)

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California


      Totally! Actually my favorite thing to do on line, believe it or not, is family history research. I would die without the internet. Thanks for reading.

    • C-Lee profile image

      C-Lee 9 years ago

      Perfect! I actually searched for these myself several months ago when looking for a gift idea. Aren't we lucky to live in the age of technology?

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California


      I haven't heard of that program. I will have to check it out. I truly am a Legacy fan through and through. My aunt searched the old way "bless her heart" and it was horrific. I am glad that I have the computer to help me today. :)

    • profile image

      optimisticbob 9 years ago

      I use a program called One Great Family that gives me search access to the four big databases. You are right, the work would have been onerius without these tools.

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 9 years ago from Connecticut

      What a great hub, Doghouse! This is a topic I have always wondered about, but never really knew where to start. Thanks:)