Friday, November 11, 2011

My Genealogy Software Upheaval

It's hard to believe that at this stage in my genealogy research I am having a complete software upheaval. But the reality is I am facing starting from scratch. Oh, the choices I have to make.

The past year has seen two hard drive failures on my laptop followed by the purchase of a new laptop.  This has also hastened to complete transferal of everything from my old desktop to my new desktop which finally became useful once I got a hard drive large enough to hold all my files (yay for my 2T hard drive!).

Before all the changes, my system was like this:


My desktop was my workhorse where I maintained my precious genealogy data files. On it I maintained the following programs:

  • Family Tree Maker (FTM) (version 2006?) - this is where I kept my master family database.  I used this because the syncing with was oh so easy.  Note: I did not upload any of my files to
  • Personal Ancestral File (PAF) - I would create a ged file in FTM, import it into PAF, create an html website of my data and upload to my personal website on my own doman (note again: not uploaded to Ancestry!)
  • The Master Genealogist (TMG) - I bought a copy of this with the intention of slowly converting my family research and key project data with the hope of creating a really sound, accurately sourced database. Unfortunately I didn't have the time it required for the steep learning curve so I never really got going with it.
  • The Next Generation (TNG) - I love the concept of this software and hoped to replace my PAF html website with this wonderful database driven one.  Unfortunately, I had too many technical difficulties so that I never got it up and running. The plan for using this was abandoned.  I still hope some day that I can get it setup properly on my website and put it to good use.  I will have to hire technical assistance to get the job done.

Family Tree Maker (FTM) (version 2006?) - I kept a read only copy of FTM on my laptop so that I could access my data while away from home.  I did not make any changes to the file.  All changes were made on my desktop.  (This system was begun before dropbox!)

Legacy Family Tree - I started using the free version of Legacy on my laptop for small research projects.  Sometimes when sketching out a family it was easier to view it from within a database.  It was very handy to be able to use Legacy to accomplish this.

Insert technology cataclysm here.  One new laptop and one new (refurbished) desktop later I am faced with loading both computers with new genealogy software. Both of my new operating systems are Windows 7 and my previous ones were Windows XP.

What's a genealogist to do? Do I repeat my old systems or create something new?

I didn't mention that before my laptop died for the final time I had installed FTM 2012.  I was very concerned with the fact that the database kept crashing and I didn't like the interface.  It was way too different from my old version of FTM.  I got in there and could barely do a thing because nothing looked familiar.

Recently a colleague told me that FTM 2012 is not compatible with any other software program so that if I put my data in there and make changes I won't be able to use it anywhere else.  I don't know if that is true or not.  Can someone answer that for me?  I am very sensitive about anyone getting proprietary with my data.  If that's the case then FTM is history for me.

Getting Organized

Last Friday I watched a webinar by Mary Hill about organizing your family files.  The talk was mostly about organizing your paper files.  She used a color-coded system.  I am a very visual person and found her system very helpful and logical.  I have never really organized all the paperwork from my mother so I thought perhaps now was the time and that I would use this system to put it into place.

Another thing I liked is that Mary's color coding system transferred to the computer on Legacy Family Tree.  When reports are printed from Legacy they can maintain the same color coding system.  I really like that idea.

Moving Forward

I have no attachment to any one genealogy program. As far as I'm concerned, they each have some strengths and weaknesses.  Even so, I have still yet to find the one program that has everything I want.

So what I am thinking of doing is starting over using Legacy Family Tree as the main software for my family research and everything else.  It seems that a learning curve is inevitable at this point because all of my old software is so old that I can't use it anymore.  I am forced to learn a new software no matter what choice I make.

What are your thoughts on this?  Which software would you choose?  Has anyone encountered any problems with the new FTM 2012?  Any words of encouragement for getting started with Legacy?

And so my new adventure begins......

Disclosure: I have been paid to do webinars for Legacy Family Tree.  My webinars are competely independent and separate from my use of genealogy software.  There is no agreement or requirement that I use the Legacy Software.


  1. I have recently gone through the same exercise. And I own most of the genealogy software that is out there. My final two contenders were Legacy Family Tree and Roots Magic. Both are excellent. Roots Magic will also let you color code people one at a time, with more colors. But the winning feature for me in Roots Magic is that you can share a fact. For example, if you have 10 people on the same census, you enter and cite it once, and then share it with the other 9 by picking it off a list. Although Legacy does let you 'copy and paste'. But I'd try Roots Magic before you decide for sure. I have no affiliation with any of the companies.

  2. Thanks Jackie! I had forgotten about Roots Magic. I've never used it before. I will check into it and give it a try as well.

  3. You can also run Roots Magic on a USB drive, useful if you bounce between multiple computers. Legacy might also have this option? (I don't use either).

  4. Marian, I did the complete start over about two years ago. It was a pain, but I am so glad I did it. All my facts have strong sources now and everything is looking really good. I am still working on it.

    One thing to consider is the level of assistance each program offers. If you have a question, can you reach someone at the company? Are there message boards? A direct phone number? How are updates handled? Are they automatic and/or free?

    I am very happy with the program I use and it boiled down to the customer service they offered. And yes, I have contacted them for help when my computer imploded and I needed guidance.

    Let me know if you have any more questions.

  5. Feel free to contact me regarding TNG installs. I've used it for years on my personal website and I'm somewhat technical, so I may be able to help you figure out what went wrong.

  6. I have used Rootsmagic for a number of years and love it. The color coding and fact sharing capability mentioned by the previous reader are good examples of how well thought out the program is. It does create webpages of GEDCOM data which I used to use on my blog until I discovered the Next Generation. There is also a strong rootsmagic forum community available for support and advice.

  7. RM4 is really intuitive. Have used it for years. You can always ask Bruce a question over on Rootsmagic's Facebook page, and he answers it. [Plus, you can talk to him at the conferences. Nice to have that kind of contact.] You can try out their free version for a while to see how you like it. It's reasonably priced at $29.95 and the upgrade is $19.95, especially considering the workhorse that you get for your money.

    And I'm not recommending them just because I'm an affiliate for them [I'm an affiliate for others as well.], but I had it way before I became an affiliate for them, and it's the one I use for my personal database. =)


  8. Shared events coming to the next version of Legacy...

  9. I'm in the process of beginning the same exercise. I had been using Family Historian for a number of years, but became disillusioned with its handling of sources and citations. I had tentatively settled on RootsMagic 4 for the reboot, but now Family Historian is releasing their v5 after the first of the year.

    There are some things I really dislike about RM4's user interface, that I either like or can live better with in FH4. I guess I will have to dig into the details of the FH5 announcement to see if they improved their source and citation handling at all.

  10. I did exactly what you're doing a little more than a year ago, Marian. It was a great decision. The only difference is I use a Mac desktop and a Windows 7 laptop. I am still working on my database, but having a program that is accessible from any computer or mobile device (via Dropbox and gedcomviewer) has been wonderful. I narrowed the field to RootsMagic and Legacy and ended up using Legacy - though every time I think about the sharing facts feature Jackie mentioned I reconsider! No program does it all, but I'm pretty content (at least until some kind soul designs a custom program just for me!).

    I'm still using a FTM version to snag records but haven't been happy with the gedcom exports to Legacy. That's one area that needs a different strategy. Windows 7 has been a pleasant surprise. I ended up with it by default - couldn't afford a Mac laptop - but have found it the best PC operating system I've used.

    Best of luck! There will be a few moments of frustration, but you'll be delighted once you've gotten comfortable with the new software and operating system.

  11. Ach! The pain of keeping multiple databases up to date.

    I think whichever you choose will have a learning curve. Legacy is my choice and it's not hard to learn. What's hard is there are so many options, periodically I think, "I wish I knew that before I did ...". Probably true of all of them.

  12. Marian, I FTM used in the past but abandoned it many years ago for Legacy Family Tree. (I have kept a copy of FTM 2006 for the All in One chart not available in Legacy Charting).

    While still using Legacy, among others I did try TMG (too hard) and Roots Magic. Roots Magic was OK, but not as flexible as Legacy. I also have a website using TNG and I find Legacy information transfers well to that except for the sources done using Legacy's SourceWriter so I use basic sourcing.

    Of all the programs I have tried, I find Legacy the best and most flexible. I recommend it.

  13. I was forced into an immediate change while in the middle of a month's research trip in SLC, our fav mecca. I had to upgrade from RM3 to RM4. It has been a LONG summer. I may change my mind later, but, so far, here are some feelings. I loved, really loved RM3, and would have stayed with it forever if not for the fact that it will not run on Win 7. I am very mixed on RM4. Some of the tools I use a lot are buried rather deep and are clunky to use, so, of course, every time I use them, I get a little burr under the saddle irritated. During transfer, I lost some facts (self made facts, which were marked to transfer via GEDCOM, but, they did not.) Luckily, I was able to get to the old data base on RM3 and made shareable CD's of the entire data base, and those CD's are view-able on the new computer. It became a simple compare and duplicate whatever was missing exercise. Not difficult and not even that time consuming. I also have those CD's in case I discover any additional MIA information/facts/photos/multimedia etc.

    I have actually been considering looking at Legacy, but the time element (too busy right now to devote even a few moments to learning curve time) just is not working for me. I like that Legacy has apps for the droids and "i" (aka Apple) stuff in my life. I am not happy with other software apps for the droid, so sharing RM4 files is not happening and I want them on my droids. I have tried a few of the apps, and they are lacking, in my opinion.

    More than my 2 cents worth, but there ya go.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Marion,
    Several years ago I tried all of the different programs and settled on Legacy. RootsMagic came out just after I had input most of my data to Legacy. There were several things I liked better at RM but I have stayed with Legacy and so far, they have implemented all of the the things I liked about the other programs. So, overall I have been happy with Legacy and will stick with them as long as they stay in business. And that has been part of the problems with other programs. You get started inputting data and they stop updating or just go out of business and leave the customers hanging.

  16. I use RootsMagic 4 as my main program and I love it! I find it's the fastest for me to enter data with. It will import form gedcoms but also FTM files up to 2006. That was a life saver for me when a cousin sent me a cd and it was FTM format. It also imports Legacy and a few others I think.
    I know a lot of people love the RM to go option. It will run on a thumb drive so you can take your database anywhere. Add info at the library ect then it updates your main file when you put the thumb drive back in your pc.
    I've found the support great with it as well. There is a mailing list and forum, as well as their customer support.
    Oh and it does colors for people to.
    The shared facts save me hours of data entering!

    My second fav would Legacy. I started using the free version and I liked it. But it seemed to take a lot of "clicking" to enter data and find things. But it's a good program and they have a good email group as well.

    I have FTM 2011 and don't like it at all. It crashes a lot and my laptop's to to old. I have no trouble with the other programs. FTM 2011 does export gedcom files as well as their FTM files.
    I haven't used FTM 2012. I've heard good things from some, and awful stories from others. Some have had their trees messed up or deleted when trying to use their tree sync feature.

    RM has lots of training webinars and they leave them up free. I think Legacy has some free ones as well. You could try out both and see what one fits they way YOU like to enter data the best.

    I realized I was logged in on the wrong account lol, sorry to delete and repost.

  17. I too have been through this exercise, and have formed some opinions (which I've expressed ad infinitum on Genea-Musings). I'm presently using RootsMagic 4 because I like the source citation capability, the clean GEDCOM files the program creates, and the ease of usign it with New FamilySearch.

    I like Legacy Family Tree for its array of charts and reports. It's the only program that does reports better than FTM16 did.

    FTM 2012 is an enigma - it's improved, the sync capability works and is a major point for many, but it has lots of little niggling problems in source citations, charts, books and reports.

  18. Marian,

    I am a long time user of Family Tree Maker. I blog about it. Having said that, I have also used Roots Magic 4 and Legacy 7. Each has it's advantages and disadvantages.

    I just have a couple of Thoughts for you.

    1) Don't start over. Certainly, lots has changed over the years. Spending Time with what you have and review your research. You have learned much and you have taught US much over those years.

    2) WHERE do you have subscriptions to? Where do you do most of your research?

    3) How and where do you share your research?

    4) Which of the programs that you have used in the past, "Worked for you"?

    That last question is trying to get which of those programs logic worked for you. I use Family Tree Maker because it works for me. That is nothing against Legacy 7 nor Roots Magic 4. Both of them have some really nice features, but the logic or User Interface was not as friendly to me as Family Tree Maker.

    Having said that, the jump from Version 2006 or Version 16 (or earlier) to FTM2012 my not work for you. I don't know. Many long time FTM users won't leave Version 15 or earlier.

    If you want to see FTM2012 and what it looks like, please check my blog:

    To my earlier questions, aside from the User Interface, my subscription for much of my research is on So FTM2012 works very well for research with that subscription. I am not limited to Ancestry, but it works very well with Ancestry.

    As for sharing, Last weekend I spent some time with a Cousin. The morning I was to leave for that visit, I realized that I want to provide my cousin with some results of some research that I had done on our common ancestor. Within 1/2 hour I had a book printed and ready to walk out the door.

    I have already invited that cousin to my Ancestry Member Tree that is linked to FTM2012.

    Oh, and while we were visiting, away from computers, I was able to pull up my tree on my smart phone to "look something up".

    Thanks for listening.


  19. I agree with that the two best programs on the market are Legacy and RootsMagic 4. With a few exceptions, they have similar features. They are intuitive, relatively easy to learn to use, and powerful. My comparisons of the two:

    *Both work with Dropbox; I have no use for the RM To Go feature.

    *It is easier/faster to enter data in Legacy, and I prefer the way it displays on the screen.

    *Legacy has stronger and easier to use Search capabilities.

    *Legacy has more flexibility in Reporting.

    *While RM4 has a shared fact feature, Legacy has Event and Source Clipboards that are fast and easy to use (once you know they're there). I don't miss the shared fact feature at all, and have found it doesn't work the way I think it should in RM4 anyway.

    *Both have a wide variety of EE-style source templates and the source citations from both get mangled when moving to another program. I've never lost source citation data moving from RM4 to Legacy or vice versa, but the elements will be in a different sequence and punctuation, italics, etc. will be changed.

    *RootsMagic has a wonderful Research Notes report that can't be readily duplicated in Legacy.

    While I don't think you will go wrong with either program, I do think you need to be prepared to choose just one and stick with it. I wish I could use them both, but I can't unless (1) I'm okay with mangled source citations, (2) I have totally separate projects/family files (e.g. client files, or my mother's family in one program and my father's family in the other), or (3) I don't mind doing duplicate data entry.

    Unfortunately, I'm not okay with any of these options, so I'm currently very frustrated. I keep hoping Geoff will give us a Research Notes report in Legacy so I can go back to it full-time.

  20. You all have such interesting and helpful comments!

    Russ - you're questions #2 & #3 are of particular interest.

    2. Where do I do most of my research - well, most of my research is offline in original records! Using software programs isn't as such a big deal for me because much of my research gets typed into reports and doesn't come from a program. That said, I use programs a lot to help me sort through a lot of data or to try to figure out family relationships with tough brick walls. Online info could come from anywhere including Ancestry, NEHGS or FamilySearch as the primary ones.

    3. How and where do you share your research? I don't :) Actually the only research I share is with family but no one else typically has software. I have shared some gedcoms files with distants cousins. My work research is often presented in writing or as a webinar. I don't typically share electronic data files with anyone.

    You've definitely all given me food for thought. I'm particularly psyched to hear Brian's offer to help me with TNG! :)

  21. Marian,
    I just went through a laptop upgrade and subsequent upgrade of my genealogy software programs. FTM 2010 and FTM 2012 didn't work properly on my old laptop but work fine on my new computer. The upgrade was easy and took about 5 minutes and brought my linked media (images) with it. I like FTM because of the interface with ancestry (but I don't put my full tree up on ancestry - just small skeleton trees for cousin bait).

    I have Legacy and Rootstmagic as well. I like the charts in Legacy and I enjoy the ease of use of Rootsmagic. There is no one program that does it all.

    I agree with Russ. Determine your goals; don't start over but work with what you have to make it as roboust as you can.

  22. Remember it's what works for you. Just because the ppogrammer put it in does not mean you have to use it. I use "The Master Genealogist' but am about 3 versions behind as I saw no need for the extra features. I do not use sources or any of its advanced features. I put that type of information in a memo. It gets uploaded to my website If it is not to be public it is privatized with { } sensitivitity markers in margers in TMG and then they do not export in the GEDCOM. For its graphing capabilities I also use "The Next Generation' as it generates alll its charts on the fly. It gets its details from the TMG GEDCOM.

    At some point I might upgraded but I have cancer and might be dead in six months or less so also have to arrange for someone to keep the site alive as static or alive and updated.

    Ian Singer

  23. Marian, I needed to move from PAF to a new program -- PAF will continue to be supported, but will not be developed further. I chose Legacy and am still taking baby steps with it. The transfer from PAF to Legacy was simple and speedy.

    One point I always mention to people who are looking for their first genealogy program, or want to switch: The LDS Church has certified three full-featured programs to work with New FamilySearch. That seems important to me. They are, in alpha order, Ancestral Quest; Legacy; and RootsMagic. Good luck with your new efforts. Dolly in Maryland

  24. If you are concerned with recording sources fully and accurately, and having proper citations for those sources in reports, then you want to use either Legacy or Roots Magic. Between my wife and I, we've used or tried TMG, Genbox, Roots Magic, Legacy, and Reunion (on the Mac). I run Legacy on my Mac with Windows & running in virtualization software; it works very well. My wife prefers RM. Both RM and Legacy have worked with Eliz. Shown Mills to do their best to formulate full and standard citations. Legacy's sourcing prompts for all the fields needed for each type of citation. RM lets you build custom source templates.

    I was happy to see Geoff pipe up about sharing sources coming in the next version of Legacy.

  25. Lots of great advice above, I just wanted to give my two cents worth . . . I have been using Legacy Family Tree, almost since the beginning. I have tried other software, Family Tree Maker, The Master Genealogist, Roots Magic, and a few others that are no longer around. Each time I tried another software, I always came back to Legacy Family Tree! I love the ease of entering data, the Source Writer, so many of the Tricks and Tips that are available. It is easy to add unrelated people, when I add someone to the wrong family, it is so easy to correct without having to delete the person and start over. I did like the connecting feature in Roots Magic 4 also, but I enter the data, with the picture and source use the 'Copy Event to Cliboard' and then add an event and use the 'Paste the Event from Clipboard'. Very easy! Managing the Master sources and locations are really easy. I have created a great website; Running reports are quite easy.

    Sorry hard to comment on all the things that I love about Legacy, I take Legacy for granted and forget everything it can do. Watching the Legacy Webinars have been great for learning more about the software. Geoff's new book, The Official Unofficial Guide to Using Legacy, is great and has been very helpful.

    I am not affiliated with Legacy, but just love their software. Good Luck with you starting over adventure! ~smiles~

    1. I'm loving this idea of copying an event to the clipboard so that it can be shared with another person.

      I now use Roots Magic 6, which does have shared events (in the paid version). What I would like to do, though, is to use an event such as a birth and convert it to, say, Birth of Sibling for another child in a family. (Roots Magic does allow you to make custom events.) If I share a birth event in Roots Magic, it shows up simply as Birth in the sharee's life. If I then change the fact type, it changes the fact type for all those who share that event, so that doesn't meet the need. Copying the event and pasting it to another person, then changing the fact type, would solve this problem.

      This copy-event feature is making me want to convert to Legacy.

    2. I've found that I don't need to put Birth of a Child, etc., on people in Roots Magic 6. Those things will show up in an individual's Timeline view. You can choose to include Birth of Sibling, Death of Spouse, etc.

      I have downloaded the trial version of Legacy and played around with it a bit. I like the user interface of Roots Magic much more.

  26. Hi Marian,
    I've used Legacy Family Tree for a long time, but only recently got involved with the Legacy Users Group and the Webinars. I really like Legacy, but now know that I've never used its full potential. Whatever software you choose, be sure that there is support in the form of tutorials, user groups and real people at the company. Legacy provides this for me, but others may as well.
    I've been impressed with Randy Seaver's work in evaluating software. Be sure to look at his evaluations on his blog, referred to above.

  27. My genealogy society had a meeting this year that split everyone into our software groups. My group (FTM) is still meeting to learn new things about the software and help those who are not as comfortable with it. This might be a good idea so you can see what others are doing with the software programs before jumping in.

    I personally had a hard time when converting to FTM 2010 the other year. Once I got in and used the software, I like it. You can share citations in this software by 'linking' additional people to the original citation. It also meant that I did not have to undertake such a big project to convert to something new.

    No matter which software you choose, I wish you an easy conversion!

  28. Marian,

    Great question. I am struggling with my toolset at the moment as well.

    I currently use Legacy for all of my data entry, and use TNG to publish my information to family and the world.

    I recently moved from a PC to a Mac, and am forcing Legacy to run on my Mac via the Wine PC emulator, but it is not an ideal solution.

    I would love to throw aside Legacy, but my comfort level and ability to quickly add and properly source (for me) each piece of data is something I have not been able to give up.

    Like Brian, if I can help at all with any TNG information, please feel free to contact me. I am just a few miles east in Quincy, if being local helps.

    FWIW, your Brick Wall talk last week was excellent. I am making all of my family helpers watch it.

  29. McManigle Family said...
    "It is easy to add unrelated people, when I add someone to the wrong family, it is so easy to correct without having to delete the person and start over. I did like the connecting feature in Roots Magic 4 also, but I enter the data, with the picture and source use the 'Copy Event to Cliboard' and then add an event and use the 'Paste the Event from Clipboard'. Very easy!"

    I say:

    And in The Master Genealogist its easier as it is person based so you just go to the wrong person and changed the father and mother and all events and everything related to that person is changed instead of having to do each event separately.

  30. Like Marian I am in a quandary. I have been using The Master Genealogist for a long, long time but feel that it is not keeping up developments in other packages. For publishing to the web I use TNG (The Next Generation) and I love it. If I was brave enough I think I would jump ship from TMG and just use TNG and either FTM so that I can talk to Ancestry with ease or RootsMagic4 to talk to NewFamilySearch.

    Thanks Marian for initiating this conversation and everyone for your helpful comments.

  31. I like it. The possible exception might be the "Post Comment" didn't work for me earlier for some reason.

    I can't wait until we have "shared events." That will be wonderful.

    Robert Carneal

  32. Twice everything has been lost so really abbreviated.

    shows the first two entries being from TMG reports.

    is an entry point for TNG. All reports will generate on the fly once you select the type and number of generations. It is out the box.

    Both are about 3 generations of software behind.

  33. My links were all lost shows 2 TMG reports is a TNG entry point

  34. It's tough. There's a Dutch free program called Aldfaer that ALMOST suited all my needs, except for its lack to source anything properly. I tried FTM, but it's like Microsoft software, assuming it has to determine for me what it is that I want. I tried Roots Magic, but that wasn't intuitive enough for me, just couldn't find my way around it (and as it it my actual job to find out all ins and outs of software, it makes me feel inadequate :)). TMG takes hours to even start up. My Heritage tries to call home all the time, making me feel my data is isn't secure. I'm using Legacy at the moment, but (like so many other programs) it's so US oriented, that I run into problems with my older (pre-18th century) research and sourcing. Event witnesses, patronyms and naming conventions become very important in determining family relations, but I can only enter them as seperate events. There's no coherence within the database because of it, making it harder to analyze my data. Also, I don't like the flexibilities of its reporting engine. That said, I'm very happy with its intuitiveness, easy of use, Sourcewriter and import and export abilities.

  35. I'm use My Heritage's Family Tree Builder. I only use a desktop so portability isn't an issue. Having strong visual/spatial skills it's hourglass navigational capabilities are addictive and I've not found anything else to match it. That said they've improved import and export and it seems only Legacy has them one-upped on that account. The strength of Legacy's database earns it my core back up and massive changes app, but most "work" I do in My Heritage. All that said, if I ever go "mobile", I'll probably use Gramps Portable and then import into Legacy...someday. Great topic..;)

  36. Good luck. The learning curve on gen. s/w is high and you want to get it right the first time-or second. IF it matters to you, Legacy does not handle same-gender partners well, claims it is 'too hard to do' in their s/w, and in the past has actually shut down discussion of this topic in their user's group. That seems short sighted, if not religiously biased, for a modern gen. program.

  37. I use TMG but like Jill I feel it is falling behind in some respects. My issue is that when I've tried other programs (most recently RM & Legacy) I just feel I am missing some of the things I like the most.

    For instance (and this is hard to explain in words - it's visual) when I am looking at my grandfather I see listed 3 children which is what I want to see - my mother and her 2 brothers. The thing is these are technically her half-brothers. In other software programs I can only see my mother when I am looking as my grandfather with wife 1 and her brothers when I am looking at my grandfather with wife 2. Also, I love the fact that events - basically a timeline - is the standard display I see. I don't have to run a report or go somewhere else to see events.

    I have been looking around however because I just don't have a real comfort level that TMG is going to be around forever so this post and comments have been very interesting.

  38. This has been such a helpful discussion. My old, (very old) desktop is dying and my laptop just didn't seem to have enough memory. Now that I am reading these posts, I realize it doesn't!! So, I am going to convince my husband he would like my laptop; I will trash the desktop and getting something with at least 2T's (terrabytes?) I just started using RootsMagic and sent for the paid copy. FTM has been a pain for the last 4 years - it is not worth the aggravation. I have been saving everything to jump drives - and since my main trees are on Ancestry, I will make them gedcoms and send to RootsMagic. That's the plan.

  39. Very interesting discussion. I think the key to any genealogy database program is "learning it." So many people don't take the time to learn the basics (either with the noodling through, reading the manual, watching webinars, or going to the forums with questions) that they make the data entry aspect twice as hard as it needs to be. Additionally, spend some time at the outset determining what you want as far as output - as this will determine how your input should work. Make the program work for you. That said Legacy is my go to program (although I have Roots Magic - I don't find it as intuitive). In combination with OneNote and Excel (for research notebook and big projects) I am a happy camper. Let us know what you decide and how it works for you.

  40. I was a PAF user for 12 years. Last year I decided to become an AG, and I felt like I needed a program that was able to record my source citations in a more professional manner. I purchased RM4 and liked the way it dealt with citations, but never moved my full files over. Since then, I have purchased Legacy7 and LOVE IT! There are a lot of options which you could get overwhelmed with or be happy about. I myself am glad for all the choices. What really made me switch was the Chronology Tab which is a timeline of events in an individuals life, which includes the birth and death of parents, spouses and children. RM4 didn't include all of these. The Research Guidance tab is also wonderful for beginners as well as advanced researchers. The To-Do lists are as easy as clicking a box by the source you want to search at a specific repository. And, you can print a To-Do list for a repository, (instead of just an individual), which is VERY handy. It will include all the people in your database in which you have marked or created a task for say at the Family History Libary and you can take that when you go. I like the USA County verifier that warns you when you type a place in that did not exist in the time frame you have connected to it. You can also run a report to check your old data that you brought in against the county verifier. Legacy7 makes being organized and recording fun.

  41. Hi Marian
    As far as my personal genealogy is concerned I have been intending to move from Family Tree Maker for some time. Since 2008, when FTM was completely re-written, its ratings have plunged (see ). I think this is utterly deserved. Lots of functionality disappeared, and as it does not conform the GEDCOM standard well, transferring data to another program is problematic.

    All genealogy programs suffer from using the GEDCOM file format for data transfer, because GEDCOM follows an inadequate data model, is not a robust standard and is implemented differently in every program. There has been considerable discussion about this over the last year on BetterGedcom (

    For me, Tamura Jones ( offers excellent technical (and readable) appraisal of various programs. His tests expose serious shortcomings in all of the popular genealogy programs. Recent FTM versions fare very badly. RootsMagic conforms to the GEDCOM standard better than most. From the comments here Legacy may have the edge of user friendliness.

    Remember, being able to get your data out of the software is CRITICAL.

  42. Legacy could win me back with shared facts. Wonder when the next version will be out?

  43. It looked like from the discussion that there is a capability to use RootsMagic on a jump drive for ease of working on different computers. Can Legacy do that at all? Noticed talk of something called DropBox that sounded like a way to make this easier, too? CAn someone explain that? I like to use my program on both my home computer and my laptop and struggle with this currently. Thanks for a great topic and discussion!

  44. Late to the discussion but I have so been through the exact same thing. FTM 16 suited me fine. When I switched to Windy 7 all hell broke loose. I have FTM 2011 and Legacy 7.5 but I've given up hope of updating my family file, which I started on FTM in 1997.

    I acquired a secondhand XP laptop so I could use my old software, but it died. I wish somebody would design a little laptop computer that uses Win XP and its software, no frills. We could work in our old programs and ignore the folderol they're forcing on us.

  45. I am new to genealogy (4 years) and serious about my research. I have an Apple and I am not crazy about my software choices. I don't want to put my trust in VM ware or other platforms and would use Legacy if there was a version written for mac. Perhaps there isn't enough of a market for Legacy to do it.

  46. I decided to use Legacy , It is very efficient in doing database maintenance , and also have a very good set of features , but I still use other softwares for other tasks (like reporting , or charting , or Spanish support)

    Gonzalo , from Argentina

  47. Dawn - you can use Legacy on a variety of mobile devices, including the use of a USB drive. See our article at In addition to the article, it can also be used on iPhones/Android devices with the new Families app.

  48. I see you've gotten lots of feedback already, but wanted to throw in my two cents worth. I use several different genealogy programs, but keep my primary database in Roots Magic. Formerly I used Legacy for my data, and Clooz for organizing documents. However, Roots Magic is best of both worlds - allows me to easily see at a glance exactly what documents I have for an individual without having to open up multiple windows to view them. That said, I still use Legacy via exported Gedcoms, as I like their reports better, and they offer the Families app for the iPad. RE: The Next Generation, I too had difficulty with the install. However, Derrell was VERY helpful and guided me through the process. I did learn that TNG is not friendly with Windows servers - best to install on Linux. After making that switch, the rest of the process was pretty smooth sailing.

  49. Jackie- Use can use the source clipboard to memorize a fact in Legacy7 and then paste it to attatch it to any person, source or event.

  50. Thanks, Geoff! I'll check out that article.

  51. Late comment here, but I love TNG. It still has a few things that I feel could be improved, but that is my personal opinion. Once I had it set up, it pretty much runs on it's own. I like how I can control the look and info that is posted on there. is my personal site

  52. I tried RootsMagic 4 a short while ago, and loved it. BUT ... I returned to Legacy for one simple reason. I don't know if this applies a lot in your family tree, but it does in mine: a man gets married, has children, the wife dies, so he remarries and has more children. Only in Legacy have I found that it displays him and ALL the children on one screen. In RM4 (and others) you see the man and one of his wives and their children. It's as if the other wife and the other children never existed. Yet, on census forms, all the children would be listed because they were one big (albeit blended) family. Legacy shows that. I love it.

  53. Like Dolly in Maryland, I am on PAF way too long .Planning on Legacy. The fact that LDS support Legacy is important to me because I want the New Family Search ease of access. Experimenting with Roots Magic. I like the thought of the portable Roots Magic Flashdrive .Like Russ said "don't start over ". Whatever you have been doing, works for you generally.

    I agree with you that TNG is not easy. I use TNG (with a Joomla bridge that has not been updated )only for web display. It has not been easy for family members to use and wondering what I should do in that respect but do like the Php capability for web sites and I use Drupal 7 for my blog.

    My back up : Two huge office metal file cabinets with folders since 1973 (-:

  54. I'm coming up on my one-year anniversary of discovering genealogy, and I've been struggling with this question of which software to use.

    Your comments about not uploading any files to caught my attention. I started out using ancestry's online tree as my primary repository, uploading materials I've collected from other websites and from library scans. I love being able to access all my research from any computer--my desktop or laptop, the FHC, the library, wherever and whenever. I realize all the files I upload are accessible to everyone else, but I don't have a problem with sharing files about my own family (client research would be a different story). Are there other concerns about uploading files that I haven't realized? Are there copyright issues if materials I've downloaded from a different subscription service can be viewed publicly once I upload them to my tree?

    Several months ago I bought FTM2012 and it's been a bit of a snarl. Well, a huge snarl. But it's useful for things like searching for common locations and for making global changes to people or place names. In general, though, I hate it with a passion and only turn to it reluctantly.

    What are my options? I really like the convenience of having everything in one place on, but it's a limited program. FTM 2012 gives me some of the flexibility missing in ancestry. I'd like to explore other software--the big question is how can I keep the convenience of having my research in the cloud, but gain the capabilities of programs like Legacy and RootsMagic?

  55. I'm using Legacy with data on Dropbox, and is quite happy with that. For web I'm using TNG, which is excellent.
    Legacy is quite powerful, but not the best GUI I've seen. It is quite cluttered in places, and often you have to hunt for tools/settings that should really have been 'at your finger tips'. It lacks configurable shortcuts, which I miss a lot, although when you find the built-in ones you can enter data pretty quickly. I think the search could've been much more powerful and flexible, and sorting as well. I also miss patronym fields. And the charting isn't flexible enough IMO. I would like to have control of the directions of the charts, left->right, top->down etc, and also the ability to hide duplicate lines. Because of that one of my ancestors descendants chart would now be more than 40m wide, while it could probably have fit in less than 5-10m. AKA 'Smart cousins'?
    In general Legacy works well though. And no data loss so far.
    If only they could manage to fix their mailing lists, which is totally messed up if you're using a mail client that follows the mailing list rules, like Opera.
    It is kind of surprising that a company that can develop such complicated software as Legacy cannot manage to set up (or switch) a mailing list properly

  56. Been there & doing that. Bjorn Nilssen just hit the nail on the head what bugs me in Legacy. I started out in Family Tree Maker when it worked right. Upgraded to 2006 & moved to Legacy because it did sources much better. But I moved back to FTM 2012 because of having to hunt for things & shouldn't have to hunt for. The GUI is part of the problem. I was a software engineer for years but found if I didn't use Legacy almost daily, I was constantly looking up those tools.

    As for FTM 2012 -- what a buggy piece of software. I'm on a new FAST laptop running Windows 7. Even if FTM is the only thing running, it will go into "not responding" for minutes at a time. You wait long enough -- it will come back. I finally through research & testing can make the sync work. But today to get 220 people I deleted in FTM to upload to Ancestry took over 15 syncs that failed. I've found a failed sync just needs compacting back to 0.00% which has to be done after the file is closed. Sync it again. More moves back & forth and repeat ad nauseum.

    Frankly I'm tired of it. I can't trust it. I've loaded Legacy on to this new laptop & uploaded the GEDCOM. This is the latest Legacy. I'm not happy with the GEDCOM upload. My pictures apparently moved but didn't match with the correct people.

    I've looked at TNG & am very impressed by the various user web sites. But how hard is it to maintain? It appears to have a single person upgrading the software. That concerns me. How hard is it to learn? I've had to absorb Joomla in the last 8 months. About the time I thought I got it -- there was the upgrade from 1.5 to 2.5. Huge learning curve & I certainly feel like I'm swimming uphill most of the time. Frankly, I don't want to get into another situation where an upgrade turns into a major learning curve.

    This is one of the best discussions I've seen on the various 'best' genealogy software. As you can see -- I STILL haven't made up my mind.

    The url shown has been good for me -- I created it long ago & have done a major update. But I'm tired of dealing with the nitty-gritty of XHTML. I want to concentrate on RESEARCH. And then producing information for family & fellow researches.

    Help me make a decision!!!

  57. I know this post is a year old, but I just found it. And Marian, I think you should do a follow-up post...unless you already did (and I missed that too).
    But I will add my preference. I am a RootsMagic user, have been for several years and don't plan to change. I began with FTM. I was never really pleased with it, always seemed buggy, then I got frustrated with the constant new versions and the lack of support if you didn't spend the cash and play along with the upgrades. At one time I did use both FTM and RM, because my research buddy used FTM. But I realized very quickly that I really did prefer RM. I just feel it is better. And it is priced right. RootsMagic has just announced v 6. There is a webinar tonight to show what is new, and it will be archived on their site to view later.

  58. Hi Marian- I'm just reading your post now in mid-2013. I think the best way to go with putting family trees online is to put them all onto one website and NOT put them on your home computer. Keep a GEDCOM on two hard drives at home only (and in the cloud, if you like that option). I'm sure you would be able to format the output from any proprietary genealogy software so that it can be converted to any other. It's all in the formatting. You can always substitute symbols/characters/numbers for each other in a text editor (like MSWord output as text-only). I spent years showing admin people in various workplaces how to get their documents out of old computers/formats/programs into new ones. All via text editing, eg. from a GEDCOM you might have the following:
    1 NAME George /AMISON/
    2 GIVN George
    1 SEX M
    1 BIRT
    2 DATE 31 Jan 1915
    2 PLAC 113 Heathcote St, Sandford Hill, Staffordshire
    Look at a text-only version of the output from your genealogy program and note the format for the components. If the format for the person's surname looks like:
    %surname% then you need to convert all instances of that piece of text into:
    SURN(1 space with SpaceBar before the actual name)
    In MSWord that would be CTRL-H Replace %surname% with SURN(space)
    With mass converting whole chunks of the output, this can be quite quick.
    Works for me as long as a program can output a formatted file as text!
    Be brave!
    Sorry if I'm preaching to the converted- feel free to chuck out my comment! ;-)

  59. I have many hours and years putting together all my family back to 1540 using versions of Parsons Family Origins. Now I have a new computer with 64 bit and it will not accept that program I tried Roots Magic but I cannot transfer my 3,000 pics except one at a time. Is there any program that will do that for computers with 64 bit operation.?