Which genealogy software or online site do you recommend???

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi, everybody,

I've just became interested in researching my Norwegian branch of the family and joined Ancestry.com (on a month to month subscription). I have found out a lot of US Census information and made a family tree going back to about 1750 in Norway. Now because of expense and because it seems like Ancestry doesn't have much more than US Census info on it that pertains to my interests, I 'm considering discontinuing Ancestry.com and just purchasing one of the software programs. And would like some advice on that decision.

After I joined Ancestry I found the LDS 'family search' site that seems awfully good and I think is free. And also Genealogy.com that seems very good too and there are a lot of helpful people on the message boards there. And what about Roots web~~I don't understand how that differs from the 'for pay' Ancestry.com. So now I am totally confused about which site/software is the best and most reliable.

Any comments or advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks. t.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Family Tree maker is a very popular software program--it's from the same people who run Ancestry.com so you should be able to very easily transfer the tree you did in Ancestry into it, and then continue to build from there even if you don't keep the Ancestry subscription. I don't use it because I have a Mac and they only make a PC version, but I know a lot of people use it.

I also use genealogy.com, although you'll find if you want to access a lot of the source materials (vs just the free message boards) that you end up having to pay. I've been somewhat confused by their subscription system too--they've got lots of different subscription pkgs but you may end up needing several of them in order to access all the references you want, and then it ends up being more expensive than renewing your membership at Ancestry.

I would be careful with the LDS site--it's great for generating leads and it is free, but there are no guarantees that the people who submitted the info did good research. I trust it a tiny bit more than the user-generated trees on Ancestry just because it takes a little more effort to submit things, but there are still plenty of errors and I would definitely not rely on it as your primary source of info. I do like to use it for leads since it'll give you some ideas of names to go research, but you'll still have to research elsewhere.

The LDS family history centers a very good resource--there should be a couple in Cincy so chances are there's one not too far from you. They've got tons of things on microfilm and can order materials/microfilm from other family history centers for you, so if you're looking to do research without spending much money that would be a good thing to look into.

I'm not sure how much any of these places have from Norway--my experience is primarily based on researching US ancestors (I've got quite a few who've been here since the 1600's, so I haven't had time to go back to the home countries yet!) So if you're at the point now where mostly what you need is Norwegian records then I'm not sure where is the best place to look.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

thanks, e.

I'll pick up a copy of Family Tree Maker and go from there. Thanks for your response.

Yes, I think there are a couple of LDS Genealogy offices here in Cincinnati. I'll check into those~~ I had no idea the LDSers were so sophisticated in maintaining family records. On the new revised lds family search site they have photocopies of the original Norwegian parish records~~ births, emigrations, deaths, from the early 1800s which surprised me. Of course all written in the old Norwegian language but I have a nice little Norwegian man on Genealogy.com message board who is doing much of the deciphering for me.

Much of our family history is pretty well documented and there are even a couple of books on some of them, so a lot of the work has been done for me. I just want to put my own 'spin' on it.

I know what you mean about not being able to trust some of the entries on some of the sites. Even on census records the birth dates don't seem to add up. Oh, well....

Thanks again. t.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

That's nice that you've got someone to help you with figuring out the records--also glad to hear that they have a lot of Norwegian records online. I know Ancestry is a little short on info from many countries outside of the UK/France/Germany and a few other major European countries that have sent lots of immigrants here so I'm glad you are able to find your info. I had forgotten about the newer LDS site that has actual documents--I figured you'd been using the one that lists parents/children/etc based on info that other people have submitted--that's the part that I would always research further before trusting. The actual documents are definitely more reliable, although there can be mistakes there too. Just like you I've found census records aren't always right--names are mis-spelled, dates are wrong, etc. I've also found errors on death certificates because the family member giving the info didn't have the right info. In one case, the son of one of my g-g-grandfathers gave his (the son's) wife's maiden name instead of his mother's maiden name on the death certificate--luckily I already knew g-g-grandpa's wife's maiden name and who the son married so I didn't get led astray! But those sort of records are definitely closer to right more of the time than the user-submitted family tree type of info.

Good luck with the FTM software--hope it works out well for you! I really wish they would make a Mac version, if they did I would buy it tomorrow, it would be nice knowing that all my research was somewhere other than my online Ancestry account!

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)


FYI I just received an e-mail today offering a 'pre-sale' of the 2011 Family Tree Maker but no indication of the delivery date. I wonder if that is MAC compatible...? It's $39. Much less than I thought~~I thought it was more like $100.

Yes, I don't like the idea that Ancestry has the control over the online files and can really do whatever they want with the information. I want something that is fairly private and under my control. Now I haven't investigated enough to know if the Ancestry people can get into the Family Tree Maker Software on your computer and download that info for themselves, but it wouldn't surprise me if they could.

My relatives would kill me if their names got onto the internet because of my fooling around with genealogy!

And maybe you have some thoughts on this too: My daughter is telling me to get an extra hard drive to keep all my genealogy files separate and safe. She seems to think that would be safer in case my computer goes Kaput on me. I thought maybe just a memory stick devoted to genealogy~~~I'll have to do more research on that.

Thanks for the tips. t.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I can always hope that the new version will be for Mac, but I'm not going to get my hopes up!

For me it's not about the privacy--I've made my tree publicly available so that anyone else who can benefit from my research can have the info. It's more about only having information in one place, and what happens if Ancestry has a huge crash or something like that. I do download my tree as a gedcom file every now and then but I don't have any software that'll open those so I'm not sure how much good it does! So I do share your concern about losing info. I've got an external hard drive that automatically keeps backups of my computer, so when I do download those gedcoms they'll get backed up onto it. Whether you do an external hard drive, memory stick, burn a CD/DVD, etc is really up to you--any of those ways ought to work so I guess it comes down to how many files you have an how large they are which of those methods would work best.

Also don't worry too much about the living relatives--Ancestry is careful about that, anyone that is less than 100 yrs old or somewhere in that ballpark they assume is still living (unless you've entered a death date) and when other people look at your tree all the see is "Living xxx" and none of the other info (first name, etc). If you've invited someone to view your tree then they can see the living people, but anyone else can't. And you can keep your whole tree private if you want to. I have a "speculative" tree where I play around with leads, but since the info is nowhere near right in many cases I've kept that one private to prevent other people from taking the info that turns out later to be incorrect and putting it in their trees. There are two different levels of privacy--one you will still show up in searches but the info will be hidden so people have to contact you if they want to see what you have, and then you can choose to work with them or not. The other level is hidden so you don't even show up in search results--this is how I have the speculative tree set up.

And don't worry about the privacy of things you put in FTM software--there is a connection between it and Ancestry so you can transfer info back and forth between the two if you want to, but you have to initiate that, nobody can fish around on your computer and steal info. The only way something you put in FTM would be viewable by anyone but you is if 1) you transfer the info to your Ancestry account and 2) you have a publicly viewable tree. If your tree is private then nobody can see/use anything even if it's in the online Ancestry account. And if you keep it in FTM and don't' transfer info to Ancestry then nobody could access it.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Oh, that's good information. Thanks for the explanations, e.

I'll let you know if I find out more about the new Family Tree Maker software.

Happy Jack, AZ(Zone 5a)

Hi, just thought I'd let you know I am using Family Tree Maker 2009 and I'm a member (USA only) of Ancestry.com. I have been doing family research for over 57 years and have over 12,000 individuals in my FTM file. That said, a genealogy program is very important no matter which one you use. In the 25 years I've had computers I have gone through four different programs, and much prefer FTM which I have used for over 16 years. The fact that you can search on-line through several search engines right from FTM is a plus. You don't have to be a member of Ancestry to access this data from FTM.

Happy hunting, Donna

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks Donna for the details.

I just ordered FTM 2010 on Ancestry.com's 'pre-sale' and it should have been sent out August 18. I hope it works well.

I did join Ancestry.com for one month and then quit when I ordered family tree maker. I'll see how it goes and then decide once again if I want to join again.

Thanks again. t.

Happy Jack, AZ(Zone 5a)

No problem, glad to help. I guess I'm going to have to order 2010 too, but not much spare change right now. ^_^

Mesilla Park, NM

I've been considering buying one of these programs, but now that I read some of the explanations here, (thank you guys), went to the FTM site and they have FTM 2011 on sale too, I am wondering why not buy that one instead of the FTM 2010. This will be my first attempt to work on our Ancestry and to begin with, should I also buy the FTM 2010? Or go ahead and get the FTM 2011? I'm a little confused about this. If it is just a simple case of just one being a newer version than the other, then I would get 2011 right? Or did I miss something here.

I'm really glad this question was asked by tabasco and you all are discussing it. It really helps me and kind of pushes me to go ahead and get the ball rolling, I need the push..

Thank you.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

In general I would lean toward buying the newest version, but sometimes you run into a case where in someone's efforts to "improve" software, they actually end up making it worse in some way. So I'd see if you can find some reviews of both versions and see if the new version actually is better than the old one or if there are issues with it.

Happy Jack, AZ(Zone 5a)

I agree, usually it's just a few things they upgrade, but then they come along and mess up everything by changing the whole format! What I do, if I am satisfied with the version I'm using, I don't upgrade until they stop supporting the version I am using at the time. It's much cheaper that way.

Denver, United States

Just a few comments:

I've been using "Family Origins" for years and years. I used to use the Mormon Church's free PAF, but started using FO because a cousin who was much more advanced in genealogy research than I gave me all his files and the software for FO.
I think that company got bought out and what is now "Family Origins 10.0" may not be compatible with what I have been using.

But, who cares?

The old software works just fine for maintaining a family tree and creating gedcom files that will work with anyone else's software.

Longetivity in this field is no great claim because, basically, ALL genealogy software is the same; some is just a bit easier to use (given your own familiarity and inclinations) than others. Some, like Legacy [and maybe others, these days] also offer online "suggestions" for research tools whenever you make a new entry. If you need this, it may be a serious consideration in purchasing your software.

The Mormon PAF software is what I started with, and it has become much more sophisticated than when I used it. It's free, and it works just fine.

Unlike Donna, I'm not old enough to have done genealogical research for 50-some years (I'm only 62), nor do I claim to have had access to a computer since 1985, when the only "home" computers were Commodores that didn't do much more than a calculator and when there was no Worldwide Web to use to get info. In those days, the only computers I had access to were at my university and only a few "bandits", who remain well known among us oldsters, were pedaling genealogy info on the rudimentary computer networks that existed. Don't be fooled: the Internet did not exist for personal use before1996!

FTM was already a legitimate software program before it was acquired by the Mormon-dominated Ancestry.com. Ancestry, despite its continuous disclaimers, is suspected by many to utilize genealogical information entered into its databases for Mormon Church or commercial purposes. These claims may be worth consideration when making a purchasing decision.

As far as "versions" go, I'll just repeat what I said above: "basically, ALL genealogy software is the same". If you are offered Version 29 for US$ 100 and Version 28 for US$ 90 and if money is an issue for you (as it always is for me), I'd buy Version 28. The difference probably exists only in font styles and "enhancements" that you probably won't recognize or use, anyway!

Unlike other kinds of software, I am convinced that IT DOES NOT MATTER whether or not the software you buy "up to date" or "still supported". So long as it stores the info you want in a format that you can transmit to anyone else, who cares about currency or support?

This is another world into which you are entering. The world of the past.
Little of it needs to be "au courant".

I suggest you just get the free PAF from the LDS (be sure to deactivate any live connections), and see if you need anything more expensive.
Probably, you won't.
Why pay for what is free, especially if what is free has been produced by the experts in the field?

Happy Jack, AZ(Zone 5a)

Quote from Peter_Rabbit5 :
Just a few comments:
...nor do I claim to have had access to a computer since 1985, when the only "home" computers were Commodores that didn't do much more than a calculator and when there was no Worldwide Web to use to get info...

I've never had a Commodore, my first computer was a TI (LOL), and my first "Genealogy" program was PAF, then #2 Son bought me Roots. Then several years later #1 Son bought me Family (something or rather) and all my files were passed down easily, so no problem there. The main thing is to get your data down and cite your sources and have fun, I have. ^_^

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Just checking in to say that I received my Family Tree Maker 2011 software and have used it for about a month. It's OK but I kind of wish I had seen the free PAF download on the Mormon Family Search site and tried that first. Although I see that PAF has an upgrade that is $6.95, too. And before one reads a thing about the PAF download you must register your name and e-mail address~~I suppose for LDS records purposes.

For those interested in the PAF downloads here's a link: http://www.ldscatalog.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?catalogId=10151&storeId=10151&categoryId=13669&langId=-1&cg1=&cg2=&cg3=&cg4=&cg5=-1&cg1=13669&cg2=13701&cg3=&cg4=&cg5=

Concerning FTM software, I guess thought I would have the same access that I had when I was a subscriber to Ancestry.com (wishful thinking, I know) but that is not quite the case it seems. You can find census and other reports, but one cannot generally open up the original source material (i.e., actual census pages) without a paid membership (at least as far as I can tell). If that is not correct, please let me know how to do it.

Also, as far as the Mormon funded Family Search's new site goes, it seems like they are in a partnership with Ancestry.com and now charge for some of the searches, and also on another front, the US Census office seems to have come to an agreement with Ancestry.com to out source their genealogy customers...or something like that...

And lastly, for those who are confused (like me) by the relationship between Genealogy.com, Ancestry.com and Roots.com sites, here's a Wikipedia entry that explains some of the interconnections and differences: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancestry.com

It does seem like the genealogy 'industry' is driven by LDS interests, although my thoughts are just observations from a novice's point of view. In any case, genealogy is a fascinating field and I'm learning a lot about our family history and american history too.

Again thanks everyone for the advice. t.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Hey, Folks,
I realize I'm coming late to the discussion, but...
Tobasco, you can access all of the US Census at the downtown Public library, along with tons of books, magazines, & microfilms. They also have books of the various census indices & a helpful staff. Genealogy used to be in the same department as history & current events, but now it has its own dedicated area. If you go during the day & need a chart or notebook, the Library Gift Shop on the mezzanine level has all those and more goodies besides.
I used FTM when I was just getting started in genealogy (10 or 12 years ago). Then I switched to Generations, a program that's not made or supported anymore, and doesn't work well with my new computer. I ordered FTM, but have had terrible installation troubles & am still not able to open it. I may go to RootsMagic. Most every program has a free download for a trial period.
I did some look-ups for a colleague whose father was from Tromso. The family name was Eide.
I have an ancestry.com membership & would be happy to do look-ups.

Mount Angel, OR

Let me clarify a little about Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, as I understand them. In the past, there was a working relationship between the LDS Church and Ancestry.com in order to make the most records possible available online without charge. At some point, there was apparently a parting of the ways and FamilySearch was launched as a free-standing site owned and supplied by the LDS Church. There is no longer any association with Ancestry.com except for the current cross-indexing of the 1930 US Census. That's why you see Ancestry now charging for some information that used to be supplied to the public free at LDS expense.

FamilySearch is still a work in progress -- if you don't find something today, check back in a few weeks because they are actively trying to access information, digitize it and get it indexed. I was surprised at how complicated it all is -- some information is in the public domain but quite a bit is owned by various private entities, each of whom have different requirements about display and copyright use of the information. They're working full-time to form the various contractual agreements needed to be able to display either the original digitized documents or the indexes thereof.

For what it's worth, I'm not LDS, but I'm deep into an extensive family genealogy project and have about exhausted the resources available online. Last month I was able to spend an entire week at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and spent about 11 hours a day pulling and reviewing microfilm records. Found amazing things! There are millions of records stored in the library, and most of them are not digitized or indexed yet. In addition to birth and marriage records, wills and probate, and deeds, I found jewels like town records from the mid-1600's showing that one of my colonial ancestors had reported to the town clerk the description and ear-marks of stray cattle on his land. Anybody missing a brindle heifer? :)

As for software -- Legacy and Heritage Family Tree both offer free downloads (not trial periods) that are very functional. The paid upgrades add some bells and whistles that not everybody wants or needs. I ended up with the Legacy upgrade specifically for the sophisticated handling and formatting it offers for sources and citations. It's a lot of work to get everything put in, but then the reports come out all perfectly formatted.


Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Amen to the glories of microfilm, and the early records of the US. I was recently trying to establish when a certain family had appeared in Butler COunty, Ohio, & found a ledger called the Book of Estrays at the Butler county records center. Bingo! Thank goodness for wandering cattle & horses!

Happy Jack, AZ(Zone 5a)

I too, am not LDS, but back in the 1980's was a librarian at a LDS Library in the Seattle area. The info you want can always be ordered and researched at their libraries and it is very affordable.

Bolivar, OH

I'm a little late in joining the conversation, but I have another research idea to consider...

If you live in or near the town(s) or counties where your ancestors lived, try your local historical society. I work for the historical society in an Ohio town and we have an amazing array of documents and maps. Just an idea....

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks for all the good tips, everybody!

And, yes, thanks for the reminder about the Cincinnati Downtown Library, goshsmom. Really good free source. They have several area history books that talk about some of our ancestors settling here which is kind of fun. And good online resources for free (if you can wangle a computer away from the teenagers!)

Also have taken advantage of two Historical Societies (Minster Ohio and Herscher Illinois) and both of them had volunteers who were exceptional help for our family...(even drove us out to the old farmstead for a look-see). Also two university archives had lots of info in their stacks and were willing to look it up and send me copies at no charge even.

I have also had a lot of assistance from the 'Country' message boards on Genealogy.com. FYI Here is the link for the Message Board cover page: http://genforum.genealogy.com/

For those not familiar with Genealogy.com, you can go to these free Genealogy boards for family info from your ancestor's 'country'(ies)~~or even some 'surnames' have have their own boards~~ and make inquiries for more information about specific people or families. I have had lots of really good success with that resource.

People involved in genealogy seem to be really nice folks!

This message was edited Jan 20, 2011 7:58 PM

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

check out my newer post on this forum--

if you have any Hamilton county relatives. The Spring Grove records are awesome!

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

I zipped right over to your post and read all the good detailed information about searching the Cemetery records. I found a long list of people with our last name that I will have to investigate some more! Thanks, Pat.

Also mentioned that I have taken three docent tours of the Cemetery and learned a lot of Cincinnati history and also a lot about the wide variety of trees and shrubs planted there. The Cemetery website has a lot of info about the horticulture (since it's an arboretum too). I'm not from the area, but I find the place fascinating and totally under the radar for folks who have roots in the area...most have no idea what a wonderful resource it is!

Thanks again for all the research tips.

Cocoa, FL(Zone 9a)

Another site you could try is Genealogy.com They aren't as good in the records available to search but the forums are a good source of information. LDS database and Ancestry have partnered together as has http://www.usgwarchives.net/ and www.rootsweb.com

I've found quite a bit of information on usgarchives.net and ancestry.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Yes, I really like the forums on Genealogy.com. Lots of good people there to help fill in the blanks, do translating, etc. They helped me a lot.

And I'm thinking that Gen.com and Ancestry.com are part of the same company and that they have partnered with usgwarchives to make available to the public much of the info stored in the censuses and other government records. ~~~and also Ancestry/Gen.com is associated with the LDS family search-genealogy library mission in some way to help distribute and collect that information too.

I think there is more info on how that inter-relationship is set up in the Ancestry.com wikipedia entry. The Ancestry.com holding company has quite a success story in creating the 'Genealogy industry' (with the backing of LDS folks, that is)! It's even traded on the stock exchange.

FYI Here's the wiki entry on Ancestry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancestry.com

Happy researching! t.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I got a little program called Scion that I could load onto a USB drive, then I transferred basic GEDCOM versions of my Family Tree Maker records to it. That way I can carry my info with me everywhere for quick reference. The problem now is that I have to remember to make updates to both programs if I want them to continue to match up.

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