Sunday, June 11, 2017

How to Organize Your Family Records on Your Computer

Family History Software

Keeping organized records will be a great benefit as you research the ancestor(s) you plan to write about. Family Tree Software will not only help with the organization, but will give you a database where you can keep notes and document sources.

Software for Your Family Tree

There are many family history software options available. Each has its particular pros and cons and I would suggest investigating each of them before making a purchase. For instance, not all software companies sell for both Mac and WindowsPC, or for tablets, or have APPs for SmartPhones.

The five most popular:

Free Family History Software

Ancestral Quest and RootsMagic (and possibly others) have a free basic version you can download, which is a great way to discover if its functions are what you’re looking for. These free downloads are not for just a limited time. I’m not trying to sell you on any of them. The best choice for you often depends on personal preference and needs.

Collaboration Features (some software)

You can work on the same files with other researchers or family members, or share between your different devices (i.e., laptop and tablet). Changes made by one collaborator (say, your sister) can be seen by other collaborators (perhaps yourself). You can save your database to a server or cloud with some software products, which ensures not losing your information in the event of a hard drive failure, loss of computer, etc.

Personal software -vs-

It’s possible to have a membership to and keep your family tree record there, not using personal software at all, but below are reasons why I would suggest you have your own database on personal software (which doesn’t stop you from also having it on I use both. By using, I can find relatives more readily):
Pros to having personal software
•Records of living people. (These should be hidden on except to the
 contributor of the information)
•Unproven individuals you are still researching.
•Families you may be in the process of working on documenting, but not yet willing to
  share publicly
•Private information or personal notes
•Genetic medical conditions documentation
•DNA genealogy you feel is private
•Advanced searches in your database. For example, you can select names to research
  in a specific place, or find all people in your database buried in a certain cemetery.
•Multiple databases can be kept in your software. For example, a Personal Family Tree,
  Spouses Family Tree, Possible Related Families, Shared Family Trees from someone
  else (to be verified), and Adopted vs Biological Family Trees
•You can attach photographs, sound clips, video clips, and documents. (You can do
  some of these on, but I don’t believe they have a function for sound and
  video clips)
•Research Documentation Capabilities (verified and unverified records)
•Notes Feature (has more space than
•Printing Options - You can create and print many different reports, including research
  questions. You can print pedigrees, family group records and many other charts and
  reports to share at a family reunion, or with other researchers. These can be shared
  electronically or on paper.

Using a GEDCOM (.ged)

All family history software, whether Mac of PC, can share amongst each other with a type of file that is called a GEDCOM (.ged stands for Genealogical Exchange Data)

Personal software enables you to choose what, how, and when to share by creating and sharing GEDCOM files.

To create a .ged, you will use your Export functions. To add a .ged into your database, you will use your Import functions. Follow your software guidelines to Import/Export a .ged

You can share your database, or part of your database, by creating a .ged.
Share by:
.ged on Flash/Thumb Drive
.ged on CD
Email .ged attachment
Personal Blog
Google Drive
website: (use .ged to create initial Family Tree)
website: accepts .ged, as do other family tree websites
website: most that accept DNA reports

I use Ancestral Quest software because I find it to be the most user friendly. I’ve also used Family Tree Maker to print nice reports for family reunions.

To see the TOP TEN family history software, their functions, and reviews.