Genealogy Software Issues

By | July 12, 2016

You will find plenty of information when researching your family history. A computer program is great for storing data but there are genealogy software issues that you need to be mindful of. Incidentally the data that can be collected could be from certificates, old parish registers, censuses, or even given to you by relatives.

Genealogy Software Issues

You will need somewhere to store this information so that you can retrieve it whenever you need it, or to double check whether you have the information already.

You will therefore need to purchase genealogy software!

Using such a program will help you sift through the mass of information that you have compiled. You will be able to see what data you already have and thus save time redoing what you have already researched.

Also, using a computer program will free you from redrawing your family tree with a pencil and ruler every time that you find new information.


There are also other benefits to using a computer program. Charts can also be created with these packages that can show relationships between ancestors and yourself, or the descendants of an ancestor for example.

Information such as birth, marriage and death for example can easily be added to these charts. Also. these charts can be helpful as they provide a stimulus for further research.

There’s even more that you can do with genealogy software programs!

Reports and maps can also be produced. Pictures can be attached so that we can add a face to the name that we are researching. And even videos and sound clips can also be added. Websites, CDs, DVDs and books can also be created with these software packages.

There are many things to consider when purchasing software to build your family tree. Below I have outline what needs to be considered.

==> Check out my Best Genealogy Software Programs Review <==

Operating System (Windows or Mac)

Is the computer that you are using Windows or Mac? Or you may even be using a tablet or smartphone that either has iOS or Android operating system. The answer to this will determine which genealogy software that you purchase.

Operating System

In my experience there are more genealogy software programs available to Windows users. But do not despair there are some that you can purchase for a Mac. One of the popular ones Family Tree Maker is available for both operating systems.

So even if you are using a Mac you will still have the same functions and features that are available to a Windows user. Using a genealogy software program is a must for any family historian and you should not be discouraged by whatever computer that you are using.

Synching Information

If you are researching at your local archives, the library or even at a cemetery you will need to have your data on hand with either your smartphone or tablet. Once you return home you can then continue working on your family history on your computer.

Computer Library

Some software programs allow you to sync with web based sites so that you can have your information at home and also online. This is a pretty useful feature to have.

For example, you could be at one of these places making notes on scraps of paper. You could be out all day and be writing a lot of notes. How do you order that?

Also, when you return home you need to sit down and make sense of it all. Pretty difficult task if you been to more than one place and you didn’t keep your notes in order. On the other hand if your research is all synched up then you do not need to worry about any of that.

You just pick up where you left off with your research. This will mean you do not need to ponder for a while and think “hey where was I again with this?“.

Product/Download versus Web Based

The more experienced genealogist will generally go with the at home package. Although they may have less flashy interfaces than web based they make up with the ability to store and present your information. A trial version may also be available to you so that you can try before you buy.

Download genealogy software

If you are a beginner though you may wish to consider creating your tree online. Not only can you access your information anywhere but you can disclose your tree to others in hope that they can help build your tree further. These web based sites also have records which may help further your research.

This approach is suitable for the beginner as they offer an attractive and less overwhelming interface.

Beware of the problems of working online!

There are disadvantages though with this type of service. For example you may have a slow internet connection so accessing your tree and doing any research may take you longer to do.

Also, if the company terminates or you no longer subscribe to them then your years of research will just disappear. A possible solution would be to host your information on more than one web based site.

One other disadvantage with the web based approach may be your level of computer expertise. Over time these sites alter their layout and the way the information is presented to you. This may then make your time researching frustrating as you try to figure out the new design. Also, the ability to produce charts, books, etc. may also be limited with this approach.

Export/Import and Create Information

If you want to share your information with any sites or to anyone then you will need to export your data as a GEDCOM file. GEDCOM stands for Genealogical Data Communication and was created so that information could be exchanged between different genealogy software and individuals.

Documents and Letters

It is far easier to exchange your research this way than sending your relative a pile of notes. It will also be easier for them to digest your research this way as well.

All of the top software programs available are able to do this. So you can import other people’s GEDCOM file that they have created. Even if you are using a different software package to them you will still be able to accept their information. The GEDCOM file is a standard format that any computer or program can accept.

Create your own reports and charts!

As noted at the top of this page reports and charts can easily be created. These can then be printed out and can be a useful aid to you, or be given to lesser tech-savvy relatives to look over.

What’s great about this is that you can include your colorful charts into a family history book that you are writing. What I have found to be quite useful are the relationship charts. These will break down how you are related to an ancestor of yours.

I have also used this feature to see how I am related to a distant cousin that I have just met online. It’s pretty easy to create and print out!


One thing to note when sharing your research with others is the privacy of your data. Your living relatives that are included in your tree may not want their information to be freely exchanged with others. So you will need to have full control of your data sharing on online sites and to individuals.


If you record your information on your computer rather than web based then there will be no question of privacy as only you have access to it. But if you do want to share your work with others then please consider setting controls as what is viewable by others.

When you create a GEDCOM file you will be able to edit what branches or information will be contained on the file. Genealogy is not always an individual hobby and you may want to share the workload with one or more people. So setting controls like this is handy to remember.

Backup Your Information

From time to time you will want to backup your information for safety reasons. You do not want to spend hours researching a branch only for the file to become corrupted resulting in you losing all that valuable time and information.

Flash Drive

All of the top software packages allow you to make a backup file. It is also important to note that you should backup your information on an external device, such as a portable hard drive or flash drive. Not only do I have my work saved on my computer but I also use two other portable devices to save my work.

I know it can be a pain to get them out and hook them up to the computer every time you are working on you your research. But what is better losing a bit of time there than losing all of your research. Would you want to carry on researching?!

So if your computer does crash for whatever reason then you will still have your treasured information at hand. You will just have to go to the expense of getting your computer fixed or buying a new one. Even if you can get your computer fixed your information may not be able to be retrieved.


Over time upgrades to your software package are made available. All of the top software companies will provide an update and it is up to you if you decide to upgrade or stick with your older version. You can do so by visiting the company of the product you have bought and checking for product updates.

Software Upgrades

You can also be made aware of these updates by email. This is far easier than checking back now and again to the company’s website. Not only will you be made aware of new updates but maybe there will be a new version of the software being released.

The updates that you can expect are the usual bug fixes. Sometimes bugs will appear in the program that may make the program crash or do unexpected things. That’s when patches are made available to help solve those problems.

Other updates include improving the layout or design of the interface. So you can interact and find your information far quicker than before. More reports or charts could be added to the software, an in-app browser could be added and so on. There is so many features that can be added and these programs are being updated all the time.

Software Help

While researching and using your software you may become stuck as to how to perform some action. All of the top genealogy programs offer their users help and support, and it is important to consider this when purchasing a software package.

Software Help

You do not want to spend hours researching for help online if there is no support available to you. There are YouTube channels created by the software companies containing video tutorials for their users. Or you can find help through the guides or PDF downloads that are made available on the company’s website.

You may also be able to get help from the company’s forum if they have one. Or you may get help from any one of the genealogy forums that you will find on the Internet.

One source of help that you could consider is either joining a library or local family history society. Your local library may provide genealogy classes and resources and there you may get help with your software problem. A family history society may also help not only with your computer issues but give you tips, strategies and techniques with your genealogy research.

Final Thoughts

So there are a number of issues to consider when purchasing a genealogy software program. What from operating system are you using to whether you want to synch your information between your devices. Most of the programs on offer today provide good user support, have regular updates and allow you to print out a plethora of charts and reports.

Legacy 8         Family Tree Maker Deluxe        Family Historian 6

RootsMagic 7               Family Tree Heritage 9

Please note: Most of these genealogy software programs will work on a Windows computer. The Family Tree Heritage 9 software is available for both Windows and Mac users.

Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed reading this article about genealogy software issues. If you think that this post will be helpful to others then please share it with friends and family using the social media buttons below.

If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

24 thoughts on “Genealogy Software Issues

  1. Patty

    Thanks for sharing your information on genealogy software programs. The advertisements for researching a family line I have seen looks easy to do the research. I tried an free introduction to one, but it did not give me any information other than current family members. It would be a shame to spend time creating a family tree for it to disappear after a period of time.
    Your idea of using software is a solid way to research and keep personal information private for all of the family.

    1. Owain Post author

      It’s a good idea to have your family tree information at home. You can easily back it up. And you never know maybe your online tree will disappear and you will have lost all that hard work.

  2. Ginger Burrows

    Nice site. I wish I would have had some of this software years ago when I was tracking my ancestors. I spent weeks doing it. Thanks for all the info.

    1. Owain Post author

      Using genealogy software certainly does have its benefits. You have the information virtually at hand, can get to what you want quickly, and can send your research to relatives and friends. Thank you for visiting the site and hope you enjoy reading the other articles.

  3. Teresa

    I used Legacy Software for my genealogy, but my computer crashed a few years ago. Thankfully I did have all my files on another drive. I now have a Mac and will have to look at putting it all together again, I wonder if there is any particular program you would recommend for a Mac.

    1. Owain Post author

      It is a pain when computer’s crash, but at least you did have your files backed up. So that’s good. As for a genealogy program that can be used on a Mac you have two good options. You have Family Tree Maker Mac 3 or Family Tree Heritage Platinum 9. Both of these can be downloaded onto your computer.

      In time I will review both of these products on this site. Hope this helps you. All the best with your genealogy research.

  4. Debra

    I’m seeing so much of this genealogy stuff absolutely everywhere. Years ago, a girlfriend of mine found out about a website where you can check out your ancestry, and she became obsessed! It was absolutely amazing the information she was finding out. I’m interested in the same thing, because both my parents and all of my grandparents have passed…so I have no one to ask any questions of regarding my family’s history. I’m also curious about that new DNA testing they have to check ethnic backgrounds. All so interesting!

    1. Owain Post author

      You can find out so much about your family history on genealogy websites. It is though important to double check what you find out, just to make sure what you see is in fact about your family. DNA testing is also an interesting subject that is beginning to become mainstream. I will cover this in a future post

  5. Nicholas

    That is so cool that you’ve created this site. I am curious though, what caused you to become interested in genealogy? For instance, my Grandma for many years has worked on our genealogy and gathered up so much information. She used to show me everything she learned and go over all the different things about our relatives. It’s to bad my Grandma isn’t very computer savvy and that she’s developed dementia because I’m sure she would have loved to see your website. It’s amazing what you’ve made available to people so they can research their family. Thank you for sharing. I still have a lot of my relatives like my uncles and aunts that are interested in all this because of my Grandma, so I’m going to share your site withe them so they can find out more stuff. Thanks again,

    1. Owain Post author

      When I was agreeing up my father would tell me countless stories about my ancestors. A few years ago I asked him to write these stories up. I did not want them forgotten with time. I decided I would type them up. I didn’t imagine though that it would take me six years to ‘complete’. It’s not really complete as you can never truly finish your family history research but anyways.

      Thank you for sharing my site with your family. I am planning so much more interesting posts and will be reorganising the layout so you’ll be able to find stuff easy

  6. Mary

    Hi Owain,
    I looked at your site, I like it. There is a lot of information on your page. It was clean and easy to read and understand. I like how you broke down different categories of searching your families history. I didn’t realize just how much went into genealogy. There are so many different ways to search and maintain your information. I really enjoyed reading your article. Thanks so much. Keep up the good work.

    1. Owain Post author

      I am glad that you liked my article and the site. I have tried to make a site that is easy to follow and find information. Also, I am adding more and more useful guides all the time. So please check out the site regularly or you can follow me on social media, (at the top of the page), for updates. Please also share with friends.

      Thank you,


  7. Jason

    Hi, I once attempted to build a family tree. Basically, I just draw out the tree in Photoshop, and as I gathered more information, I could easily edit the tree and moves things around. I stopped because I didn’t have to time for it, but I want to continue the project I started. What major advantages would using actual genealogy software give me over just using Photoshop? Thanks!

    1. Owain Post author

      There is so much that genealogy software can offer. With photoshop you have to design the tree yourself, actually drawing the boxes, putting in the text, and moving lines and boxes which can be quite fiddly.

      With genealogy software you enter the information for say yourself, then your parents, and grandparents and watch your tree grow. You can also link up to genealogy sites such as Ancestry or and they can give you hints to documents that may relate to your ancestors. This will then help you research your genealogy further.

      There is just so much that the software offers. Here as some posts that I have written which will help you further:

      Best Genealogy Software Programs – Your Top 5

      Family Tree Maker Deluxe – A Popular Choice

      Easy To Use – Family Historian 6

      Hope you find this information helpful. All the best with your genealogy research

  8. Matt's Mom

    Oh no, does it really take years to research your family genealogy? Ugh, if so, I don’t know if that is something I would want to do. I consider myself a patient person, but I would want more instantaneous results. Does purchasing the software speed up the process? As you can tell, I have never looked into genealogy before. I have only heard the numerous commercials about the ancestry website. What is it like compared to purchasing software?

    1. Owain Post author

      Well unless you can follow on from someone in your family who has made a start ten it can take years. But to be truly honest genealogy is a never ending hobby. It depends on how much time you put into it. This post will be of use to you – How Do I Start My Family History In 10 Steps.

      Purchasing software can help you in so many ways. To make sense of your family tree you need charts. And if you do it by hand then you will be drawing charts each time there is an addition or correction to be made. With software you can do this very quickly and simply.

      You can join a genealogy site like Ancestry, but I prefer to have my own software. That way I have my tree at home. I can backup my files quite easily as well

  9. Josh

    Owain – Thanks for putting this post together! I had not thought about the pro’s and con’s of web based vs download versions of softwares like this. Looking into tracking my history back here soon, so I’m following your articles regarding your recommendations of which softwares to go with and things like that.

    One question for you, maybe this is totally irrelevant, but about how much storage space would you recommend having available to do a thorough search and keep process of family tree? As in, I’m sure an 8GB flash drive would probably not suffice depending on the types of files and stuff, do you about how large a nice sized backup of search and history data would be on average? Or is that even possible to quantify an average for?

    1. Owain Post author

      I have a 8GB flash drive that is half full. With that I have my GEDCOM file, my scanned files, transcriptions of index researching, my book that I have written, and so much more. So yeah 8GB is definitely big enough. All the best with your family history research

  10. Sherry

    Hello Owain,

    This is actually something that me and my family has recently looked into. There is a lot of valuable information here. I have looked into ancestrybut that did not help much. I also used a version of this software but I think for me and my family we are going to actually need a person to help us and one that can do gene/DNA testing. The reason being is that my great grandparents on both sides were slaves and the record keeping was not the best to say the least. However, for those that have less complicated genealogy I am sure this will work great. ~Sherry

    1. Owain Post author

      It seems that these programs do cater for simple family trees and relationships. But they are being updated to cover such things as same sex relationships for example. I am planning to write a post about DNA testing. I will have to investigate whether you can enter results into a genealogy program.

      All the best with your family history research.


  11. Tiffany

    This is a very informative post on genealogy software issues. You really do remind us all that software has vulnerabilities and its important to make sure you are protecting, synching, caring for and backing up your data. I also never really considered even using genealogy software to aid me in researching my family history. But this is a great post to support those of us who are interested in software and needing to know how to care for our data once we have it.

    1. Owain Post author

      Technology in any form has its shortcomings I’m afraid. So it’s always best to backup your information. Otherwise you would not want to lose years of research

  12. Estevan Artmin

    Hi Owain, I think the information on your site is quite thorough the only thing I noticed that might make it a little easier to read is the headings for the most part seem to be in bold lettering. Using a h3 or h5 header for these spots might help the different areas to POP a little more giving your page a bit more depth and help someone reading to remember the areas as different points better. Look forward to seeing more of your work.

    1. Owain Post author

      As with all of my posts I try to be thorough with my research before presenting it. Thank you for the tip. I will keep it in mind when I write more posts.


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