Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What Family Tree Program Do You Use for Your Genealogy Research?

I am often asked by society colleagues, and email correspondents, "what family tree program do you use?"  

My response is usually "I use RootsMagic to manage my genealogy research, but I have and use Family Tree Maker and Legacy Family Tree for certain features (e.g., charts, reports, statistics), and I use online trees at, MyHeritage,, FamilySearch Family Tree, WikiTree, WeRelate and FindMyPast to be a cloud backup, to find research leads, and to provide cousin bait."  Whew!

I have often wondered which software programs and online trees are the most "popular" or most used.

The Weekly Genealogist email newsletter from the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) asked the question last week, and this week they have tabulated the responses from 4,530 society members.  The results are:

Putting them in order:

*  50%: online family tree
*  47% :  Family Tree Maker software
*  18%: online family tree
*  13%:  RootsMagic software
*  11%:  Legacy Family Tree software
*  7%:  Reunion software
*  7%:  Another software program not listed
*  6%:  Don't use an online tree or software program for research
*  6%:  Personal Ancestral File software
*  6%:  The Master Genealogist software
*  3%:  WikiTree online family tree
*  3%: online family tree
*  3%:  Findmypast online family tree
*  2%:  Ancestral Quest software
*  2%:  Family Tree Builder software
*  1%:  Gramps software
*  1%  Ancestris software
*  1%  Heredis software
*  1%  Mac Family Tree software

Responders could vote for any number of responses.

UPDATE:  I added the other two items to the list per Tony Proctor's suggestion.

It appears that they did not include MyHeritage, WeRelate and other online trees and Family Historian, Brothers Keeper, and other software programs on the list for some reason (perhaps they were overlooked), which is unfortunate.  They may be reflected in the 7% for another desktop or online tree program.

The high Family Tree Maker response (47%) may reflect both platforms - the old (Version 16 and before) and the new (Version 2008 to 2014).

I was surprised by the 18% vote for FamilySearch Family Tree because it is relatively new, and is not a GEDCOM upload (although some software programs can interact with it)..

I have not heard of Ancestris, but it has 1% of the responses.  Their home page is  It is free to use, works on all platforms, has many language versions, etc.  I may have to look into this!

Have any readers seen a similar survey with as many respondents?

For my readers:  What desktop software programs and/or online family trees do you use for your genealogy research?  Please tell me in Comments.  It's OK to have more than one response.

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Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver


Janet Iles said...

I use Brother's Keeper. I also have Legacy.

Diane Gould Hall said...

I use Legacy. Switched from FTM in 2007 and glad I did. I do have a tree on Ancesrry, in fact two public and one private tree on that site. However, I always advise people to have their own private database as they are so much more versatile than Ancestry or other online databases. I recommend Legacy or RootsMagic as I believe they are the two best programs. Or Reunion for the Mac users.

Dale said...

I use Cumberland Family Tree primarily.

I also have a license to Rootsmagic and Legacy Family tree.

MyOpenId said...

I primarily used Brother's Keeper, until I made my own application.

I still use all of the windows applications for their different duplicate checking algorithms.

Linda Stufflebean said...

I mainly use Family TreeMaker but am migrating more and more to RootsMagic. I also use Heredis.

Ellen Anderson said...

I mainly use Ancestry family tree. Easy to update, easy to share with my interested relatives and nicely visual, since I have lots of photos and documents. I have a paid version of RootsMagic but due to my extremely limited time for genealogy it sadly just gets gedcoms imported from Ancestry. Maybe over the summer I will give it the scrub down and makeover it deserves.

Geolover said...

Home computer program is Rootsmagic.

I find it really surprising that so many use memory-hog FTM with its tendencies to freeze, crash, etc.

Lois Willis said...

I mainly use Legacy, as I feel it has the most comprehensive set of features.

I also use RootsMagic and Family Tree Maker - RootsMagic has some features that I like (such as the check for historic locations), and Family Tree Maker to synchronise with my Ancestry Public Member Tree.

Tony Proctor said...

I think it's misleading, Randy, to leave out the last two entries ('not in this list' and 'none at all') in the sorted list.

There will undoubtedly be very good reasons for those decisions, and their position in the sorted list would indicate whether they're worth investigation.

Marian Koalski said...

I use Reunion to support my research and several online trees as cousin bait, but I think Tony Proctor is right. I know some excellent researchers who keep their records in word processing software.

GeneaDiva said...

1. Legacy
2. Ancestry online trees
3. Wikitree
4. as a contributor.

Larry Davies said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Davies said...

I primarily use The Master Genealogist (in a virtual machine) on a Mac. With it's demise, I'm currently searching for a replacement. The lead candidate is RootsMagic.

I maintain several trees at Ancestry. I also have Family Tree Maker for Mac, but don't use it very often.

I have begun entering information at

I have also started entering information at WikiTree and WeRelate, but would like to find a way to keep everything in synch.

familytreemakermacuser said...

I switched from PAF to Family Tree Maker (FTM) for Mac about 4 years ago when PAF fizzled out. FTM has had quite a few growing pains but the last few updates seem to have stabalized the program - there are still problems however. I started a blog to help others with problems that wasn't able to find solutions to (link below).
I am very hopeful that Ancestry will invest more into programming for the FTM desktop programs. I agree with others that have mentioned that desktop software offers much greater control and power over online versions, however companies seem to be pushing and investing more in online. Online is probably the quickest and easiest way to get new people to join up and hence increase revenues. I have seen articles that say that desktop programs are dead. i adamantly disagree and speculate that although casual genealogists are likely to use online versions, serious genealogists are probably more likely to utilize desktop programs. There should be a place for both.

basa1942 said...

Started with MyHeritage - now in process of putting it all on Wiki Tree - also using Family Search but only for direct ancestors.

Lisa Gorrell said...

I use Rootsmagic and have Legacy Family Tree on my computer because I had switched to RM several years ago. Legacy does have some features I really miss that are not a part of RM.

I think the high numbers for Family Tree Maker is due to the many online trees at It is the best program to use if you have online trees there.

Sandra Steele DeFord said...

I have used FTM for 10 years. I like the input interface and the fact you can "see everything" in one place. I love how it syncs to the online tree. However, their source & citation templates are lousy; definitely not up to EE standards. Also, the reports are weak. I have purchased RM in order to to a do-over but find it to be cumbersome in the way one enters sources and you can't see the list of sources used in one glance. The RM reports are superior, as well as the source & citation area. If I can get used to it, I will pursue it. Randy, I know you've demonstrated that a hand-written source or citation will GEDCOM between programs without any loss of info. It's a big job to convert sources to hand-written, but that seems to be the best solution.

aayancey said...

Over the past nine months, my mother has slowly trusted me with the family genealogy. My desire is to get it computerized so it isn't in one place, notebooks on my desk, but can be accessed by many.

My ultimate goal is to get it all into because I believe the LDS Church's commitment to long-time safekeeping can be trusted.

In the meantime, I have been primarily using due to the number of people using it and the varied resources available.

I took my dad's PAF file and loaded it into MyHertitage for reference. I started my ancestry tree from scratch to be able to check and add to his work but can access MyHeritage if I have a question.

I loaded my tree into WikiTree for safekeeping and for the fact that I am always drawn to the 'one tree' concept, life familysearch.

I have an account at because I think there is a potential for nieces, nephews, cousins - people who are living - to add memories there but I haven't pushed it yet.

I have purchased RootsMagic and installed it but have not yet used it. I am still in the 'thinking' stage about how I want all of this information to be stored and organized.

I appreciate all the comments that have been made because it gives me a better idea of what is working for others. This is the first place I have seen that productive, respectable genealogists solely use a word processing software like MS Word as I have often thought about that for my notes along with an online system. Being able to store those notes on a cloud drive that I can access from any computer is enticing. Thank you for that so I don't think I am crazy.

Enjoying your blog! Thank for all the time it takes! It is a big commitment on your part and oh, so helpful to all of us.

Just Learning said...

I have been using RootsMagic for 5 years. I do try to review others as they make major updates in case some "just gotta have" features comes along.

Bill West said...

I started with PAF 15 years ago but switch to RootsMagic4 years ago for my computer. But I do my online work on and download the gedcom to RM two or three times a year.

I'm surprised RootsMagic didn't rank higher on this survey, given the number of people on Facebook and Google+ who have said they love RootsMagic.

Dan Garnitz said...

Over the decades have prob used most of them. Right now it depends which machine or OS I am using or what I am doing. In Windows my main program is Roots Magic which I have been using since it's original Family Origins day. Prior to that I was using Brothers Keeper, and prior to that ROOTS III. I do use Dorot Tree for my Jewish Genealogical Research. I use FTM to sync my tree on Ancestry. In my Linux I use Gramps. I have Ancestral Quest, PAF, Roots Magic, FTM, Heredis, Gramps, Legacy Family Tree, Ancestris, Dorot Tree, Brothers Keeper, Family Tree Builder installed on my laptop which I use as part of teaching and presentations to show the various software packages available. Over all it boils down to personal choice and what you want to do with your genealogy, the bells and whistle you want and the OS and PC you are using. While several of those listed have been discontinued many folks stick with them as they are used to them, they do what they want, and as long as they keep with the same PC should be OK. The problems come when you upgrade your PC or OS and suddenly your software won't work anymore and you have to upgrade or change your program.

Jan Murphy said...

After testing over half a dozen programs I chose Family Historian. I appreciate not having my data locked into a proprietary file format.

Roberta Edes said...

My hubby and I started using Family Tree Maker when it was V3 or similiar (late '90s) on our Windows desktop computer. We have upgraded lots of times through the years, but the upgrade to the 'New Look' which I think was about 2009 was the worst.
For many years I had been working on books on several of my different lines and the new program, whilst having more Word like features in the book section, failed to have a 'Wrap Text' feature around scans, photos etc. After this I went through the cumbersome exercise of swapping them all over to Word docs.
We have both swapped to Macs in the last two years and use FTM for Mac3. I do like the ease of using it now that I'm used to the differences, and also the ease of running reports. Having said that I find the Ancestor tree cumbersome in trying to fit it into less pages.
Although I have my tree 'private' on Ancestry, I never use it online, much prefer the desktop model and also when we tour in our van and are out of wireless reception area, we can still work on our trees.

Jacquie Schattner said...

I use FTM 2014 and several trees on ancestry.

Kim Mills said...

My main program is RootsMagic. I also use FTM to update my Ancestry tree. Other programs I use are Gramps and I've been trying out RootsTrust.
Online I use Ancestry, WikiTree and FamilySearch Tree.

Celia Lewis said...

Ancestry private family tree
And - always keep my family trees on my own computer:
Legacy [latest v.]- 1st
RootsMagic [latest v.] - 2nd
old v. of Family Tree Maker [2012]
Heredis [latest v.]

Because I teach genealogy for beginners, I like to use various software programs, to be familiar with them. While form follows function, there are differences in reports, ease of Sources/Citations, and general ease & look of the tree. As I have no intention of ever syncing Ancestry & FTM, I won't be updating to the latest v. of FTM.

texas-nightowl said...

Currently use RootsMagic (v6). I switched to RM from FTM2005. I have not liked recent versions of FTM. I may consider using FTM only to sync with ancestry. Maybe.

RM is currently undergoing a massive rewrite. I'm waiting to see how that goes before I decide whether to stick with RM or consider Legacy in the future.

Asleep12 said...

For those people who use multiple programs, do you keep your trees in the different programs in sync or do you have different trees in different programs? If you keep them in sync, what is the best way of doing that?

I have a private tree on that syncs to my Family Tree Maker, but I also have the current version of Legacy. I'm interested in Legacy for the more "correct" way of doing sources. Is there any easy way of keeping a Legacy tree and a family tree maker tree in sync? I.e. importing/exporting the changes from one tree to the other using gedcom. in both directions?