Genealogy Software: Do you need it?

There are a number of excellent computer programmes that can help enormously with storing, collating and cross referencing each piece of information you acquire.

There are literally hundreds of pieces of software out there that can help, but these are ones that are highly recommended and that have proven their usefulness for many family historians.

We recommend you buy the basic, least expensive, edition of the software you choose, and this is why:

  • Many higher priced premium editions include vast databases of information. This may well be good information but practically none of it relates to Ireland and what does is relatively easy to find elsewhere. The exception to this is if you have several generations within the USA to trace before you reach your Irish ancestors, in which case the extras may be worth paying for.
  • Many premium editions are aimed at professionals and include the capability to trace the roots of multiple families at once – you don’t need this, so don’t pay for it.
  • You can always upgrade later if you feel the need for additional features.

Personal Ancestral File

This is free downloadable software from, the genealogy site run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

It is not as intuitive to use as some of the others, but has all you will need and the price is good! The download link is on the bottom left of this page.

Family Tree Maker

This is probably the most widely used genealogy programme, it has lots of features, makes particularly good charts and is easy to use.

The software integrates pretty much seamlessly with the website, so you can use their databases to search for information.

Roots Magic

Very good and particularly easy to use software. It does not specifically link up with any online resource, which is not really a major drawback.

The package includes an easy to use webpage generator which allows you to create a website to publish yourself.

Family Tree Legends

Straightforward to use and comes with an inbuilt facility to upload your research to the the GenCircles website as a back-up.

Uploading your data also allows it to be cross-referenced with any work others have done that may be relevant, which can be very helpful. Windows only.


This is the market leading family tree and genealogy programme for Mac users, is packed with features and is very easy to use.

It does not have a specific online connection, but will generate a complete and pretty decent website automatically, which can be very handy and save the cost of getting separate software for that.

The Master Genealogist

This is a very comprehensive programme, fairly complex to learn and probably overkill for most people.

But it is excellent, highly regarded, professional level software but probably overkill for most of those who are researching just their own family. However if you like to have all the bells and whistles this may be the one for you.

Setting up a Website

If you are collaborating with other family members, particularly if you are not living in proximity to them, it may be useful to have a website where you can share and store any information you find.

Quite a few of the software packages above will either give you the facility to publish your findings online automatically or to generate a website that you can publish independently.

A website that allows you to quickly and easily set up your own family genealogy site. You can keep the site completely private – so you don’t risk displaying your family’s darker secrets to the world! – or make it public, which can result in making unexpected and sometimes very useful contacts with other engaged in similar research.

You can very quickly and easily upload a family tree created in Family Tree Maker to the site, but it is not necessary to have that software to create your site.

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Published: November 1, 2008 | Updated: March 31, 2017

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