Geneolgy Sites...Worth It??
April 20, 2005 8:15 AM   Subscribe

I wanted to begin the tracking of my family tree. Has anyone used any online tools that were worth the cost?
posted by keep it tight to Human Relations (7 answers total)
In my experience FamilyTreeMaker software is the standard package; I got it myself and can exchange data with relatives in their format.

As far as the online databases go, if there is a Mormon Church near you, go to their Family History Center. They have free or very inexpensive access, since they see this as outreach. The hope is that if you or your prodgeny become Mormon in the future, they will back-baptize as many of the family members as is known. (Note they will do this regardless of whether you used their help. And no, I'm not Mormon.)

Some public libraries also have free access to genealogical databases. And if your ancestors came through Ellis Island, there are free databases to search that as well.
posted by Doohickie at 8:49 AM on April 20, 2005

Are you asking about online search services, or about genealogy applications?

The latter are specialized database programs that provide a really simple way to record your family tree and create charts, et cetera. If you have a Mac, Reunion is pretty awesome. You can save your family tree as a GEDCOM file whenever you want to share your info with users of other genealogy apps.

If you are asking about online database services, check out the free databases and family trees at RootsWeb if you haven't already. Another free U.S. site that may be helpful is Cyndi's List.

The biggest pay site is probably which has loads of census data that can be very difficult to dig up otherwise. But I use this service for free at my local library, so you might check into that option before paying their hefty subscription fee.
posted by naomi at 9:30 AM on April 20, 2005

Just a quick second for Reunion on the Mac. Oustanding piece of software.
posted by jdroth at 9:37 AM on April 20, 2005

This is slightly off-topic, but you might be interested in the Genographic project which uses your DNA to track your genetic history. (This is not a classic family tree process.)
posted by jeremias at 9:37 AM on April 20, 2005

To answer the "Is it worth the cost question", I'd say without a doubt yes. Renunion on the Mac set me back something like £ 70 GBP and it was worth every penny. The thing about genealogy is that it is a project that will go on for years, and you will make mistakes, so having software that can catalogue the source of data that you have is essential. At some point you will find data that conflicts with data you recorded a year or so earlier, and if you haven't recorded where you intially uncovered that data, it will make it hard to evaluate which is likely correct.
posted by chill at 10:14 AM on April 20, 2005

I undertook a similar project last winter and looked into most of the software available online. The most important thing I learned is that there is a big difference between wanting to track your genealogy and wanting to print out an attractive chart of your family tree. I downloaded trials of the first few Google search results and found all of them to be decent-to-fantastic for entering, manipulating, and tracking information.

However, what I really wanted was to make a family tree suitable for gift-giving, and I could not find a single piece of software that would produce an aesthetically pleasing chart (particularly if you do not have an even number of relatives, or if any of them has ever divorced or remarried). I ended up using org chart software to create a basic sketch and then recreating the layout in Photoshop.

Your question suggests you're more interested in the tracking part, but keep in mind that you may eventually want to print the results (if only for an older relative who is not computer-inclined).
posted by hsoltz at 11:48 AM on April 20, 2005

What Doohickie said about Morman centers, but save a trip by going here first:

Not sure what tools you're referring to. The data keeping software is almost fungible at this point, and small money gets pretty functional goods, at least as far as I can see.

As to the thrill of the chase, dDatabases and the 'net were made for genealogy, and you can come up with a lot on the cheap and free (see links above for starters). Check message boards for family names you're interested in. You'll find a lot of the work may already have been done for you. (Double check, triple check, quadrupel check whenever possible. I've found mistakes and flights of fancy on the LDS site, as well as stories and anecdotes that I pray are true but cannot as yet confirm.)
posted by IndigoJones at 3:16 PM on April 20, 2005

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