What Family Tree Software Do You Use? Why?

There are other surnames to research and deeper details on individuals to discover. If you wish to strike out on your own, we have some guidance to offer regarding which Family Tree software to use. 

Best Family Tree Makers 2021

  • Ancestry.com: The one we use
  • My Heritage: The one we can’t afford
  • Family Tree Maker: We began here
  • FamilySearch: We hope to find European cousins
  • WikiTree: We like their organization and philosophy


If you want to research records for your ancestors, the free trial is the place to start. They will let you access all their U.S. records during the trial. If you don’t decide to continue, it is nice to know that the research you do is saved should you continue later. You also can access completed work as a guest. Without a subscription, you lose access to the powerful HINTs feature.

After the trial, we suggest continuing with at least a one-month subscription to U.S. Discovery for $24.99.  

U.S. Discovery – Access all U.S. records on Ancestry $24.99

Decide later if you wish for a 6-month membership. Also, put off the decision to add international records, Newspapers.com Basic, and Folds3.com. Yes, you can save $50 to $100 on 6-month memberships, but find out first if you need them. Or if you have the available time or stamina needed for an extended membership.

I plan to play catch up by subscribing for a month every couple of years. Submitting suggestions for product enhancements is both frustrating and a waste of time. – John, IV

John likes the one month at a time approach. I enjoy savings with a longer-term – Beth


MyHeritage is a joy to use and has excellent support. Basic sites are free. You can only have up to 250 people in a family tree on a basic site and 500 MB of storage. Beyond this, the pricing rises dramatically.

6 Things You Need to Know about MyHeritage

MyHeritage only offers annual subscription plans, which was a non-starter for me. I have a basic account and used a Premium trial to support a MyHeritage DNA test. – John, IV

FamilyTree Maker or RootsMagic for Backups

For several reasons, we supplement Ancestry.com with a second program.

  • First, John only researches 1-2 months a year, so he’s interested in avoiding an annual subscription.
  • Second, downloading a GED copy of the database only preserves the family tree itself, not the media (images or documents).
  • Finally, we both like the security of having a local copy of our work as a backup.

Two programs provide data sync with Ancestry.com that can preserve your family tree and your media on a local personal computer: 

FamilyTree Maker


John has worked with both programs, and they cover the basics. John feels that both programs are remis in not backing up web links created within Ancestry.

We both primarily use FamilyTree Maker because we thought it easier to use. That was a subjective decision. John can create a backup file in either format, so choose the one you prefer.  – Beth

What Family Tree Software Do You Use? Why? - John and Beth's Signatures

John P. Elcik & Beth Gamache