Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

How do you choose a genealogy program? -- Part One

If I wanted to do so, I could probably sell you on almost any one of the dozens of existing genealogical database programs out there on the market. They all have good features and lots of enthusiastic users. Frequently, I get asked the question about which program I would recommend. I tell the inquirers that I have a lot of the programs and would recommend them all. The key here is that purchasing a genealogy database and then using it to keep your genealogical information is very personal. I suggest that people download the free copies of the programs available and use them for a while to see which one they like the most.

Because of my technical background, learning a new program is usually a very trivial activity for me. But I am certainly aware that for many people it is a major issue. Moving from one program to another can be a daunting prospect. I also realize that there are a lot of people still using Personal Ancestral File (PAF) who have yet to move on to a current program. I have heard many different reasons for staying with PAF, but none of those reasons are at all convincing. You may like your 1958 Chevy, but you simply cannot convince me to give up the conveniences of my newer cars. Let's face it, you are using the older program out of inertia. You could sit there for an hour and tell me all the reasons you are satisfied with PAF, but none of those reasons would make any sense given the state of genealogy today. You have to realize that PAF was developed and was last updated when the online genealogy community was in its infancy.

For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the field of useful programs has expanded dramatically with the agreements between and, and Two of these other companies have proprietary programs. produces Family Tree Maker and has Family Tree Builder. These programs are in addition to the FamilySearch Certified Programs listed on their website.

One factor in choosing a program is which of the online family tree programs you are going to primarily use? With the free availability of and to members of the Church, this becomes a real question to answer. There is also the announced intention by FamilySearch and the other companies to make it possible to move users' tree data from the other programs to FamilySearch Family Tree. But this is only one consideration.

Since Family Tree is presently the only way to submit names to the Temples for ordinance work, ultimately, any information developed by members that they wish to incorporate in Family Tree must be entered into that program before the work can be done. The key question here is how many names and how much information will you need to add to Family Tree. The Certified Programs on the FamilySearch list change from time to time. If you have a lot of names (hundreds) it might be best to stick with one of the Certified Programs but if you only have a few names from time to time, you should understand that it really doesn't matter which of the programs you choose.

Before going too much further, I guess I will list the current completely certified programs and the other programs from the partnership companies, not in any particular order. This list of Certified Programs comes from the Product Page as of the date of this post. You might want to check the page before purchasing a program for any possible additions. I am listing only those programs that are completely Tree Share Certified and also have LDS Support. I am also now adding in the other two programs from and

Ancestral Quest $29.95 there is also a free version of the program called Ancestral Quest Basics
Celebrating My Family Tree, $56.00 a program offered by the Celebrating Family History website
Family Tree Heritage, $39.99
Legacy Family Tree, $29.95 the Standard edition is free
RootsMagic, $29.95 also a free version called RootsMagic Essentials

All of these programs are Windows only. There are presently no programs full Tree Share and LDS Support Certified for the Mac OS X operating system.

Family Tree Maker, $29.99 for Windows and Mac. (
Family Tree Builder, Free (

To take advantage of all of the features of these programs you will need a full subscription to or until that access is free to members.

Now, this is an important point. There are many other very good and perfectly adequate programs out there for both Windows and Macintosh OS X operating systems. I suggest you evaluate how you intend to use the program and whether you have a need to link directly to Family Tree because of the quantity of work you are doing in entering names for Temple work. I might also suggest that if you still have questions, you ask them as comments to this post and also read the next post in this series where I will discuss how each of the programs might be used and also talk about programs I have not yet included on the list. Meanwhile, if you would like to get some reviews of all of the possible programs, you might want to look at


  1. James, I am fairly new to family history. I have been using Ancestry and decided to purchase Family Tree Maker. I have a lap top and a PC. One with XP and the lap top with Windows 7. I have been unable to use the disc with either computer. In doing a little research, this appears to be a common problem. Ancestry has not been very helpful so far. My laptop just freezes with the disc in. Now that XP is no longer supported Ancestry does not recomend I use my pc. My original purpose in getting the disc was to be able to use both computers. I believe they recommended I do a fresh reboot? I don't understand why they should be having so many problems and I don't want to become a computer programmer just to install a disc. Any suggestions?

    1. There is a specific help section on for solving these types of problems. See
      You may have to follow the procedure to install the program from the desktop rather than the disk. Hope this works.

  2. I couldn't as the disc just froze up my computer and did not allow me to do anything. Maybe I can get them to allow me to download from their site. Thanks.

    1. Sorry, that doesn't sound good. I would need to be there to answer that one.