Software for documenting family tree?
May 8, 2016 10:06 AM   Subscribe

My mom has gotten interested in documenting family history, and I'm looking for some software that she can use to capture the information she's collected. My priorities are:
  • PC application or website where her data can be private/by login only
  • Excellent user interface
  • Nice output/view options

  • My mom is computer literate, but I'm looking for something super straightforward where she can enter people's names, dates, and relationships. I'll set it up for her, but I want her to be able to edit and add to the information easily. An option to share (either just output, or ability to enter data) with her siblings or other family members would be nice, but I definitely want something that is private/where she controls access to the data--no automated linking to larger databases or anything.

    I'm happy to pay for something that has a really good interface and output options. I'd prefer a one-time purchase over ongoing subscription, but would consider a subscription option if the interface stuff is really good.

    I saw this question from 2008, and am hoping there are other options now.
    posted by msbubbaclees to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 is kind of the gold standard for this, not to mention its abilty to take her info and match it up with others that have the same info to find branches of the family tree that she doesn't know exists is kind of amazing. $25ish a month, and will probably keep mom busy for at least a few months tracking down leads.

    Gramps is an open source app that I've played with and found reasonably usable.
    posted by COD at 12:12 PM on May 8, 2016

    Zoompast is free, and pretty simple to use.
    Geni also has a free option, though you get more if you pay (I haven't, so don't know much about the paid version; i'm happier with free.)
    posted by anadem at 12:23 PM on May 8, 2016

    Seconding, which also has a DNA arm now if she's into that.
    posted by xyzzy at 12:29 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

    Thirding Good interface and display options, and your data is unlinked to others' unless you specify otherwise.
    It's also free if you're just entering your own data. And it has free and good-looking apps for tablets and phones.
    My dad's wife is in her early 70s and loves using it.
    They also have special promotions like free access for a weekend.
    posted by LEGO Damashii at 1:12 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

    My parents have used a bunch of different types, and have switched to Geni. I've been using it to put my husband's family into, as I got a folder from his side of the family, and the interface is pretty decent. My dad has a paid account, which gets him matches from public records, and I have a free account.
    posted by bookdragoness at 2:57 PM on May 8, 2016

    Ancestry has been on an acquisitions binge for some time and previously sold a desktop-oriented package, Family Tree Maker. They are currently discontinuing it, although the software will be sold independently and will apparently maintain its ability to sync with Ancestry's online components, which are the strength of the company's offerings.

    This appears to be the result of Ancestry following the SAS model and their clear interest and orientation is to make sure you, as a user, never have a one-time fee ever again in interacting with them. That said, the data and methods of compiling it with regard to family history Ancestry makes available is unparalleled.

    I would suggest obtaining the last Ancestry-released version of FTM, opening an Ancestry subscription with a personally-determined time-horizon, and devoting a disciplined personal schedule of research to working on Ancestry and syncing your research to FTM. At the end of your predetermined schedule, pull the plug on Ancestry until you next determine you wish to use their services.

    Ancestry's service is fantastic. Their pricing is extortionate and uncapped.
    posted by mwhybark at 6:52 PM on May 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

    Family Tree Maker is ugly and clunky...but it works great! :7)

    And agreed, is money-hungry and they nag you after you leave, and BTW you can only export some of your stuff before that. I hates them.
    posted by wenestvedt at 8:51 AM on May 9, 2016

    Is there a service that has nice UI and charts? For example, Geni's are um, not to my tastes.
    posted by kirkaracha at 11:14 AM on May 9, 2016

    Appreciate the thoughts here.

    I was kind of trying to avoid Ancestry, first because she isn't especially interested in doing research at this point (she's just gathering info from relatives and wants to organize it), and because I don't want her to be hectored constantly or accidentally sign up for something. I had to create a login there to look at one free database (referenced somewhere else on MeFi) and I swear they keep sending me weekly emails no matter what I do. Not to keen on that for my mom.

    I checked out ZoomPast, and while the online interface is good, it doesn't seem to have any options for printing? I get that their focus is the zoom-able interface, but NO printing options is kind of a turn-off.

    I didn't mind the look of Geni's charts, but was a little put off by something I read online about other Geni users being able to link to/edit records for deceased individuals. I don't really want to merge with other people's online records, I want this to be stand alone for my mom.

    I'll check out Gramps and Family Tree Maker.

    Any other thoughts?
    posted by msbubbaclees at 11:46 AM on May 9, 2016

    I use Family Historian as my primary tool. I have an Ancestry sub, but only use that as a source for promising leads, and if they check out the data goes onto my FH on the desktop.

    Agree about the hectoring, don't forget you can set a rule to send mail from that source to the bin. Also, a lot of the info on Ancestry (anywhere probably) is pretty suss, and some downright wrong - maybe put there in good faith but wrong just the same. It needs to be sourced with primary sources - birth/death/etc records, just being on Ancestry doesn't make it right.

    Ancestry may be of value if you/your mum wants a wide range of people to be able to access the records, but there may be others that can do that but I haven't looked into that aspect.
    posted by GeeEmm at 2:44 PM on May 9, 2016

    I used GenealogyJ for a while several years ago. It was very functional but ugly. Doesn't look like it's had an update in a while, though. :(

    Gramps is free and looks interesting.
    posted by RandyWalker at 7:00 PM on May 9, 2016

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