Many family history enthusiasts find that software programs are
an excellent way to save and organize their family history. They
also make editing charts and reports much quicker no more
recopying that family group sheet by hand! You will find that a
wide variety of programs are available, each with tools and information
to make family research easier and more fun. So how do you decide
which of the many genealogy programs is right for you?
All genealogists have specific needs related to the way they prefer
to research and what they want to do with what they find. Some want
to create beautiful wall-sized trees, some want to include photos,
audio, and video, and some want to quickly test the waters and see
what information is available. Some are just looking for a basic
program that can store names and event dates, without all of the
multimedia and display extras. Determining what's important to you
will help you choose.
You will also want to think about whether you are planning to do
online research, to what extent, and whether you plan to share your
research online with other family historians. The major genealogy
programs, such as Family
Tree Maker, have full-featured Web sites with free searches,
message boards, and user home pages, among other features. Many
also have direct links to Web sites from within the program, which
can lead you to other resources.
Your Level of Detail
Family history is a pursuit that can be approached from many angles.
There are programs for every level of interest and experience, from those
who want a database for basic information (birth, marriage, death) to
those who want a full-featured program that offers many different ways
to categorize a wide variety of life facts. These more "heavyweight"
programs also tend to have stronger sourcing features, so that you can
keep track of where you found information an important feature
for all genealogists, but especially those who wish to publish their research
or establish membership in a hereditary organization.
Your Level of Experience
People begin using genealogy software from many different experience
levels within the hobby, from those who have never searched for
their ancestors before to professional researchers who are switching
from paper to computer. Look at the features offered by the programs
you're considering to see if they will do what you want now, and
also in the future, as you gain more experience in your research.
You may also want to consider the learning curve of the programs
how long will it take to learn the software so that you can
use it comfortably? This is important whether you are just starting
out or entering years of data from paper files.
There are many factors to consider in choosing a software program
for your genealogy research. For a table that breaks out the features
of the major genealogy programs we offer, see our Genealogy