Category Archives: Genealogy Software Programs

Too Many Genea-Software Programs! How to Choose? Part 2

Yesterday, I began pondering which of four potential genealogy programs I might choose to be my primary software program – Family Historian 6, Family Tree Maker 2017, Legacy 9 or RootsMagic 7.

Today, I’ll share a bit of my limited trials with each program. I decided I needed to be consistent and set up each practice tree in the same way, adding the same records and images.

First up is Family Historian 6. I really like several things about this program. It is very easy to add data and images:

Adding Info

There is a relationship calculator between the root person (home person) and a selected individual:

I was also able to tag my great grandfather’s face in a group photo of him, my great grandmother and my grandfather. I can’t capture an image of the process, but all I had to do was open the individual’s work box, click on LINK TO FACE and then draw a box around his face using the cursor. Very simple and quick!

It also asks how I want to back up the program whenever I exit – gedcom, partial file or full file.

The main drawback, and only real negative to this program, is that it doesn’t have source citation templates set up using Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained formats.

Source Template Box in Yellow

Although the directions state that source citations can be created using a format of our choice, the information needs to fit into these data boxes; the final product won’t be in EE format.

I am the first to admit that, in general, those templates frustrate me no end, but if I really want to make an honest attempt at using them, I need a program that has them formatted to the EE style.

My other option, which might be my tried and true method anyway, is to type bibliography-style citations in my research notes, but typing them in EE format. Although in the long run, it is a lot more typing, I won’t be pulling my hair out because I can’t find clear directions as to what some of the terms in those boxes mean.

Obviously, I have barely touched on all the features in this program, but trying to create a source citation was a bit unwieldy. One other negative is that there is no local users group.

As much as I really like Family Historian 6, the source citation templates might be the deal breaker, at least until an update that includes EE templates is released. It’s a fabulous program with this one (big) exception.

Family Tree Maker 2017 – Before I begin with FTM, I will admit that I am somewhat biased against it, due to all the issues I’ve had with it over the years.

Besides the freezing (it’s already happened once with the new 2017 release) and lengthy time it took to open the program, I just discovered a huge issue. I don’t know whether it was on the FTM end of the equation or an Ancestry issue.

I rarely look at any of the media in my Ancestry tree, which I uploaded from FTM years ago. I last synced my tree in June 2014. When I opened FTM 2017 and downloaded my Ancestry tree into FTM, it completed the task very, very quickly. That was because when I looked at the tree in FTM, there were six images attached to my grandmother and many – probably 100 – were missing!

Then I went back to Ancestry and found the same few images. However, when I hit the search button in Ancestry, it brought up all the hits for my grandmother, including all the images I had originally attached to her.

I have no idea how this happened, but both my FTM tree and Ancestry tree were stripped of almost all the images.

I called Ancestry, the girl helping me replicated every thing I told her on her end and created a report to send to the programmers. Who knows when I will ever hear back from them! Yes, I do have a full backup AND I imported my tree into RootsMagic and the images are attached there.

The point is – and I’ve heard others say that their trees have had items and people disappear – there is always a chance something can happen.

It was not an easy process importing a backup file into FTM 2014 or 2017. I tried and couldn’t find the file. My husband even had to play around with the options before realizing that an ftmB file couldn’t be found by the program until the little box asking for the file format had the option changed to include it. It could only find ftm files.

On the plus side, there is a local users group. Also, Family Tree Maker looks very much the same as when it was owned by Ancestry. Creating a new tree was very easy:

Adding a source citation was another pain. It isn’t intuitive for me and I had to open the PDF Companion Guide. It also appears that, like Family Historian 6, it doesn’t have source templates set up in EE format.

I think is deal breaker #2. It didn’t take much, given my other biases against FTM.

Onward I go:

Legacy 9 – Remember that Legacy 9 is the program with which I have the least experience and, from what I can see, may well have the most bells and whistles. There used to be, but is no longer, a local users group.

It was very easy to begin a sample tree:

Legacy Home Screen in the Tree

Legacy Family Tree has a LOT of free webinars demonstrating how to use this program. Scroll down to What Do You Want to Learn? and choose Legacy Family Tree.

Many, although not all, of the software webinars are free to view at any time. Geoff Rasmussen created most of them and he does an excellent job demonstrating features.

Legacy 9 includes Source Writer, which allows the user to input information in a source citation that is turned into the Evidence Explained format.

Legacy SourceWriter

Watching Geoff’s webinar on using SourceWriter made it extremely easy to use.

As I first mentioned, though, I believe that Legacy offers way more bells and whistles than the other programs and it takes practice to master usage so that steps become automatic and quick.

I really like many of the features found in Legacy 9, but realize that I need to spend more hours hands-on to be able to navigate the program at the speed I need to if it is to be my primary software program. It’s not off the table, but for now remains in a holding pattern.

RootsMagic 7 – Last, but not least of my four, is RootsMagic 7. RM is the program I turned to when I had had enough of the FTM issues in 2014. RM 7 is also quite easy to use. Here is the work screen:

RootsMagic 7 Work Screen

I have the manual for this program, but remained confused after looking up information on the source citation templates. Happily, friend and fellow blogger Randy Seaver wrote a series of posts in January 2016 about setting up Master Source Templates and then adding citation details to them. Those became my bible!

For the most part, RootsMagic 7 allows for easy navigation, data entry and searches. It helps that I’ve attended a local SIG (Special Interest Group), which is part of the Pima County Genealogy Society here in Tucson.

Where does that leave me in terms of making a final choice? I have to say I think Family Tree Maker 2017 is my least favorite of the four programs. It also froze on me when I had only opened it a handful of times and that is one of the issues that made me decide to drop it in 2014. I was also a bit surprised that the source citations aren’t really in Evidence Explained format.

Next, I really, really like a lot of the Family Historian 6 features and workability. However, for now, it’s also going to take a back seat, mainly because of the lack of Evidence Explained source citation templates. Not having a local users group or even a Facebook users group is also a bit of an issue because of the time difference between England and Arizona.

Legacy 9 and RootsMagic 7 are both fabulous programs. Legacy 9 is the only other program that remains in the mix, but getting a handle on all of its features will take some time. I am going to continue to devote some time to learning more about Legacy and, in the long run I might come to prefer it, but at this time RootsMagic 7 will remain my primary software program.

There aren’t any real negatives for me in this program, not any that would be close to deal breakers anyway. I do miss the relationship display to the home person and I still struggle a bit with the source citation templates, but they are created in EE style and format, which is a huge plus.

I guess I’ve finally made a firm commitment!

Congratulations! You made it all the way through to the end of my ramblings!




Too Many Genea-Software Programs! How to Choose? Part 1

NOTE: This two part series is in no way meant to be a cohesive overview or review of software programs. It is much more like stream-of-consciousness rambling thoughts that passed through my mind when I decided I needed to get going with my genealogy software program, whichever one I decided to use. 

Back at the end of 2015, when Ancestry announced the end of Family Tree Maker, I began looking at all the genealogy software programs on the market. I had already pretty much migrated to RootsMagic, but wanted to look at all the choices out there.

That led me to Ancestral Quest, Family Historian, Family Tree Maker (Software MacKiev version), Heredis, Legacy and RootsMagic. From there, I was able to narrow down the list a bit more to Family Historian, Family Tree Maker, Legacy and RootsMagic.

In the intervening months, I started to play with the programs, but decided I needed to wait at least until the new syncs were released for FTM and RM before even trying to narrow down my choices anymore.

I am back to playing with all four programs again, which currently exist as Family Historian 6, Family Tree Maker 2017, Legacy 9 and RootsMagic 7.

I still am not sure I will be able to make a final choice or whether I will remain mired among these four, but I thought if I blogged about it, it might be easier to reach a conclusion.

For those who might not be familiar with one or more of these programs, here are the basics:

Family Historian 6 – based in England. It currently costs $46.50 (U.S.) as a download. There is no Facebook users group, but there is a very active users group online. The few times I’ve needed questions answered, replies have been quick. There is a free 30-day trial of the full program available. A 240+ page users guide is available for purchase – $23.95 on Amazon.

Family Tree Maker 2017 – If you’ve never owned FTM, it now costs $79.95. If there is still a discounted price for an upgrade of a previous version, I didn’t find the link online. There is a very active Facebook users group. No free version. A 350+ page users guide is located in the Help menu in the program and there doesn’t seem to be any option to purchase a printed edition. Hints appear from Ancestry and FamilySearch.

Legacy 9 – This program costs $39.95, but there is a standard free version available. I have the paid version and don’t know what bells and whistles are missing from the free program. The website does give a list of ten deluxe features. There is a very active Facebook users group. A 300+ page users guide is available for purchase – $14.95.

RootsMagic 7 – The cost is $29.95, but also has a free basic version. I also have the paid version of RM and don’t know which features are excluded from the free version. There is a very active Facebook users group. A 380+ page users guide is available for purchase – $14.95. Hints appear from Ancestry, FamilySearch

Next, here are features which are/aren’t important to me:

  1. Easy to use – By easy, I mean that I can do basic navigation and data entry without having to look at the users’ manual every few minutes.
  2. If I need to read the user guide, I prefer a printed version. I have the manuals for FH, Legacy and RM. I’ll have to print out the 350 pages for FTM if I want that one, too.
  3. If I can’t find the answer to my question in the manual, I visit the online user group.
  4. I like a clean looking interface and am not a fan of color coding.
  5. Report formats aren’t important because I rarely use them. A family group sheet is about the only one I use and, even then, I only use it to print out data on a family for which I’m writing a blog post. Then I toss the paper!
  6. I do like the display that tells how the highlighted person is related to me.
  7. Syncing my trees has become less and less important to me. My only trees are on Ancestry and I haven’t synced them since the June 2014 DDOS attack. Instead of syncing, I will upload new gedcoms without images if I decide I want a new tree online. The DDOS attack pretty much put me off syncing at all.
  8. I prefer searching hints and ancestors directly in databases on Ancestry and FamilySearch or anywhere else, so the hints now available in these software programs aren’t much of a draw for me. I might occasionally use them.
  9. For many years, I have put my source citations in my notes box, much like old-fashioned bibliographies at the end of term papers. I am beginning to play with source citation templates and would love to learn to use them without getting to the point of wanting to throw my computer out the window.
  10. If I end up using more than one of these programs to access certain features, will the second program do a good job importing a gedcom and link to the images on my computer?
  11. A local users group is very beneficial because if I get stuck and can’t even find a quick answer in the manual or online, I have a local friend who perhaps can help.

As you can see, my needs/preferences are rather simple, which makes it much more difficult to make the commitment to one main program.

My experience level with each program:

Family Historian 6 – I have basic experience with Family Historian. I’ve played with it a bit and found it user friendly after adjusting to British English descriptions like “Focus Window,” which is basically the home screen for an individual or family.

Hints appear from Find My Past and MyHeritage. FH 6 has new features described on the website as: a Map Window, new Media Window, new Automatic Source Citation pane (but doesn’t use Evidence Explained format, which is reportedly coming in the future), extended family Timeline facts and Support for Witnesses (allows you to add witnesses to family events). Also, as far as I know, Family Historian 6 is the only program which allows for tagging individual faces in photos, as we can do in social media. This is a unique feature that I love!

Here is a screen shot from my practice Molin tree in Family Historian 6:

Family Historian 6

Individuals in a tree can be viewed by clicking on the icon at the top left of the above screen:

Individuals in a tree

Yes, that is the complete list – I created a very small practice tree!

Family Tree Maker 2017 – I have a lot of experience with Family Tree Maker, as it was my program of choice for many years. I did not participate in beta testing or later test drives. I migrated away from it after the Ancestry dot com DDOS attack because I had problems using it from that time onwards, even when I unlinked it. It got to the point where it took about five minutes to open and it froze fairly often.

FTM 2017 thankfully opens in just a few seconds, although I had quite a bit of trouble getting it open once. It also has frozen on me once and I’ve only had it for three days.

The new touted features are FamilySync (replaces the old TreeSynce), Sync Weather Report (which lets you know if there are syncing issues currently going on), Color Coding (apply color codes to various ancestors and lines), Photo Darkroom (simple editing tools to reduce fading in old images) and a FamilySearch link to search, match and merge

Here is the home screen in FTM 2017:

Family Tree Maker 2017

If there are changes in the format of the home screen, I haven’t noticed them yet, except for the links on the bottom.

The work screen also looks very much the same as before:

Family Page

Legacy 9 – I have, by far, the least experience with Legacy 9. I have watched a few tutorials and asked how to get rid of the red and blue color coding, which I hated. (It was an easy fix, just by changing to Classic mode.)

This new version of Legacy was released in April and has quite a few new features. Hints come from Find My Past, FamilySearch, GenealogyBank and MyHeritage, but not Ancestry. There is also access to FindAGrave, new Cause of Death charts, Hash Tags can be added for easier searching, Media Sorting by date, Online Backup with Legacy Cloud, and a unique offering – Chronology Comparison – (If you are trying to sort out two men of the same name, they can be viewed and compared side by side.) Chronology Comparison is a feature I love!

I think Legacy 9 might offer more bells and whistles than any of the other programs, as the description has a list of 98 deluxe features! No one would ever use all of them, but the options are a bit mind boggling.

Here is the home screen:

Family Screen

Here is the screen for an individual:

Notice the DNA Icon!

The DNA icon to add notes about DNA test results is also, I think, unique to Legacy 9. With the growing popularity of DNA testing, having a niche to separate out DNA notes from other notes, is great.

Legacy doesn’t offer the full list name list at the side, but like Family Historian 6, it does have an easy tab to view everyone:

RootsMagic 7 – I’d say I have the second most experience with RM, as I have been using it as my main program since abandoning the old Family Tree Maker. The updated RootsMagic 7 was released in early July.

This new version also offers syncing with Ancestry, although TreeSync allows syncing a person or facts with Ancestry, rather than syncing tons of changes in an entire tree at once. The plus side here is that if you have notes or data of some type that you don’t want added online, you have the ability to say NO!

WebHints come in not just from Ancestry, but also from FamilySearch and MyHeritage. RM 7 previously had added Data Clean to clean up bad files and Compare Files, along with Publish Online. Import Lists, Backup and Restore with Media, Quick Groups and Drag and Drop Media were other new features.

RootsMagic Screen

Here is the individual work box:

RootsMagic Work Screen

See why I am having such a hard time deciding about a genealogy software program. Tomorrow, I will share my experiences as I try to do the same few tasks in each of these programs.

In the meantime, if you are a regular user of any of my group of four choices and there is a feature you love that I haven’t mentioned today, please leave a comment and let me know what it is!









BSO ALERT: Brad Lyon’s Exploring Family Trees (Beta)

Warning: BSO (Bright Shiny Object) Alert, as a new GeneaGem has been discovered. Be sure to click on the link in this post to Lara’s post, too, as she demonstrated a descendant view.

A couple of weeks ago, Lara Diamond wrote about a new tool that she had discovered, Exploring Family Trees, which is free and is in beta version.

This tool allows you to see relationships between family members, including multiple descents from the same ancestors. The “home” person in the tree can be changed and a descendants’ view is also possible.

This looked like fun, so I decided to try it out. First, I uploaded a gedcom (I used one that I had created with no media attached to it) and I had barely clicked to upload when my tree opened.

My Tree, Seen in a Completely New Way!

The time span in years can be seen by the years along the sides of the graph. Each dot represents a person. I used my cursor to explore:


The cursor moves a bar up and down, which highlights various names in the same time period.

If you click on a dot, a box with the ancestor’s details opens up.

John Shepley

John Shepley is my 9X great grandfather and I am descended from his several times over, which I think is the reason for the “7” in the Duplicates column. I think the “Expected” column refers to the maximum possible number of 9X great grandparents I could identify. I guess I’ve found 78, which leaves a whole lot more work for me to do!

I tried some of the tabs seen at the top of the first screen.

List of Everyone in My Tree

One option creates a drop down list of everyone in the tree, along with the years they were born, died and age at death.

There is a little box at the top of the first screen with the gedcom I uploaded, number of ancestors with a known birth date and even tells me that the average lifespan of my male ancestors was 64 years and my female ancestors, 61 years:

Basic Data Box

Direct Ancestor Line

There is even a direct ancestor line that can be opened! The program has some other options that I haven’t even tried yet. Even my husband, who is definitely not into genealogy, was really impressed with all the manipulations of data that can be viewed with this tool.

If you have yet discovered it, I would highly recommend trying it out. I would suggest, though, that you create a gedcom stripped of all the media because it will load a lot faster.

Thank you to Brad Lyon for creating Exploring Family Trees and to Lara Diamond for first sharing her experience with it.