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writingSo you have your photos all scanned and touched up and you are ready to organize your material. Depending on how much you have assembled, it can be a bit overwhelming to keep everything straight. One of the tools I found to be very handy is software that keeps track of who’s who in this somewhat confusing undertaking. Once you have made notes and confirmed the information, the next step is to enter it into a software program to keep track of it.

For Mac Users

MacFamilyTree from Synium Software raises the bar considerably on what genealogy software can do. This one makes it easy to input information and has a 3D model so you can see at a glance where each family member fits. Move your mouse and the chart moves around making it easy for you to find and identify family members along with important notes and photogarphs if you wish to add them. You can produce charts and reports depending on what you need and this can come in pretty handy for books. You can also use New FamilySearch.org for your research with no subscription fees.

When you are integrating photos, MacFamilyTree shines. There is support for Apple Aperture for those who use it and a much improved iPhoto import sheet.

The edit mode supports display of six generations at a time and you can also produce quick kinship reports. What this allows you to do is select a family member and all others in the family tree are identified by their relationship to that person. It makes figuring out first cousins twice removed and other complex relationships painless. It’s easy to make a printout for each member of the family who will be receiving your book.

You can share your information using the GEDCOM standard format and you can publish your family tree on the Internet. Cost at the time of this writing is $49 US for full version and $25 for the upgrade. It comes with a manual and is easy to use. It’s ideal for visual people who want an intuitive interface. Get the trial download of MacFamilyTree

Screenshot of MacFamilyTree in 3D visual mode

GEDitCOM II is another good software package to help you get organized. You can download a trial version and take it for a 15-day test drive before you buy and I strongly urge you to do this before buying any software.

You can organize your ancestry records into albums as you do in iPhoto and you can track your research efforts with log records. You can also share your genealogy with family who may not have the same software and even if they don’t use any genealogy software at all.

Pictures, sounds, and movies in any file type can be added by dragging and dropping to link them. You can create the usual charts and add portraits, expand and contract chart branches and make them scalable for printing or viewing.

Records can be dragged between files for partial merges, and html can be used in notes and embedded maps. All LDS ordinances can be documented and you can export all or part of the file to a GEDCOM file. There is a quick-start guide in the Help menu and more tutorials available online. GEDitCOM II licence is $64.99 USD.

Get the trial download of GEDitCOM II

Screenshot of GEDitCOM II interface
Screenshot of GEDitCOM II interface

PAW2U is free genealogy software that has excellent reviews. It combines most of the features of the LDS Personal Ancestral File program for the Mac and generates web pages in html and word processing files in RTF. It also imports data properly from existing GEDCOM files. Photos can be added and all documentation should be saved in notes. This program is set to use the information contained in the notes to create footnotes as seen in books. This is a feature not included in many costly genealogy programs.
Generated reports include genealogical dictionaries, registers and lineages as well as pedigree charts.

Screenshot of PAW2U interface
Screenshot of PAW2U interface

It does not have the bells and whistles of the previous 2 systems but it does the job. This software places the emphasis on maintaining a genealogical database that keeps your records straight. It’s meant for people who are posting information on web pages or writing a book about a family. Completely free. Get PAW2U for Free

For Windows Users

Family Tree Builder is completely free. Unlike many other free programs for windows this reportedly has no spyware, adware or any type of evil malware.

It’s a great way to set up your family tree and it’s easy to use with an intuitive interface. One of the features that makes this software a lot of fun to use is the face detection technology and it’s fully integrated with MyHeritage.com family pages.

It supports 34 languages and bilingual data entry. When you are ready to publish your family tree online, you can do it in one click. You can upgrade later to a Premium Plan for $75 US if you want more bells and whistles. View screenshots and download Family Tree Builder here.

Family Tree Maker 2014 from Ancestry.com comes with a 14-day trial to Ancestry.com Retail: $39.99 US. Learn more about Family Tree Maker.

Ancestral Quest is the only software for Windows built on the PAF (Personal Ancestral File®) database, the free LDS database software used on FamilySearch.org.

It’s very easy to use and works well for both the beginner and the advanced genealogist. Keyboard shortcuts, scrapbooking (no kidding!) and excellent sourcing capabilities are what makes this award winning software.

You can publish a family book by using select report options and even record DNA test results.
Special Jewish features are included such as: Bar/Bas Mitzvah, Hebrew/Yiddish name, Tribe, and Page of Testimony for a victim of the Holocaust.

Download a free demo version and try it out for 60 days. To buy: $29.95 US.

Try out the software and compare it for features you need and for ease of use. It will be no good to you if it’s too confusing to figure out. The programs selected are by no means the only ones available but they are all well recognized as quality products. Save your GEDCOM files as you create them. You can import what you create from one program to another so you can see how it organizes the information. Does it seem logical to you and does it meet the needs for your family history? Do you need timelines? Are footnotes important? Take your time to evaluate well at this point. You are about to create a reference library for your family heritage. Does it sound exciting? It should. This is your story and it will be passed on to many, many generations after you.

Please note that prices quoted are all subject to change. Sales may be available that are not noted here. 
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