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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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