Select Computer Software
Do I need software?
If you are just getting started with family history research, or are only involved on a limited basis, you may not need software. Many genealogy websites offer free web tools for creating and maintaining your family history research.
FamilySearch.org's Family Tree is a great place to start. Creating an account is easy and it's free. There may already be records for many of your ancestors in the FamilySearch Family Tree. Simply "connect" yourself to the records of your deceased ancestors, and all the generations prior to that connection will automatically be connected to you. Begin contributing your own records and sources to what others have already added. For more information about the FamilySearch Family Tree, watch a quick Family Tree Training video. You do not have to start with a blank tree. Adding the first four generations to Family Tree have been made easy if you follow the guided steps in the online My Family Booklet.
Use the Family Tree as your software until you want more features and find that the Tree does not adequately address your research needs. Then decide what you need your genealogy software to do, and evaluate the products available for your system (PC, Mac, tablet, smart phone). The FamilySearch Family Tree works with a variety of Family Tree Partner Products, allowing you to share information between your personal software and the Family Tree.
Cloud-based family tree tools are also available through Ancestry.com, findmypast, My Heritage, wikitree, WeRelate and others. As of April 2014, these products cannot share information with the FamilySearch Family Tree, but may meet your need for a means of gathering, organizing, documenting and sharing your family history.
Decide what features are most important to you, and then evaluate your options. There are several reputable organizations that provide reviews of computer software, including genealogy software. Note that often those who review software may not be users or may have favorites.
Many FamilySearch Tree-certified partners offer a free, "scaled-down" version of their product. Use the free version to decide if the product meets your needs. If you wish, you can then pay to upgrade and have access to all the product's features.