, Family Tree,, from the beginning

From the Beginning #3: Choosing a Program or Online Tree

choosing a program or online tree

In my series ‘From the Beginning’, I have talked about putting together information about yourself and contacting family.  After gathering this information you need a place to put it.  It’s time to choose a Genealogy Program or Online Tree to work with.

What is a Genealogy Program you say?  It is a computer program that stores genealogical data.  You enter the information – names, dates, places, notes, sources, photos etc.  The program can create charts, forms, and lists for you.  Many of these programs have the ability to communicate with online trees.

Things to know about Genealogy Programs:

  • Some are free, some cost money.  Check here and here or google the phrase ‘free genealogy software’ to find some free programs.  I suggest trying out a free version before spending precious pennies.  See what you like.
  • If you take the time to create a tree using one, be sure to make regular backups – email them to yourself, put them on a thumb drive etc.
  • They print much nicer reports than most online trees.
  • No one can mess with them but you.

Now what about those Online Trees?  In my humble opinion, the two best online trees are found at and  An online tree allows you to do many of the same things a Genealogy Program allows you to do.  The one big difference is that they don’t generate reports.  One of the best reasons to use one is that you can access it anywhere from any computer that has internet access.

Things to know about the tree feature on

  • You need a subscription to use this feature.
  • You can choose to make it private or public.  If you make it private you can invite people to view, contribute or edit your tree.
  • It allows uploads of photos, stories, audio, and video.
  • You can attach records you find on very easily.
  • You can search for records directly from someone’s page in the tree.
  • The hints are awesome.
  • When you attach a record that has multiple family members in the record, you can attach the record to every family member in a few very fast, simple steps.
  • You can add web links to records you find on other websites.
  • You can create a pretty fancy book based on your tree.

Things to know about the tree feature on

  • This service is free but requires an account, which is also free.
  • This tree is designed for collaboration – no private trees here.  It is essentially one great big tree that all users contribute to, edit and sometimes mess up.
  • You can add photos and documents.
  • You can attach records you find on familysearch fairly easily.
  • You can search for records directly from someone’s page in the tree.
  • Living people are only visible to themselves and people in their direct lines.  I can see my parents, husband, children, and grandparents but not my siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I can add living people to my tree – like siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins – but if I add them they will only be visible to me.
  • Because anyone can change anything, sometimes your tree will suddenly be very, very wrong and you will need to be patient and fix it.  Some people prefer to also keep a tree elsewhere like on or on a Genealogy Program so that they can use that to help guide the fixing process.

Are you wondering what I prefer?  I started off years and years ago using PAF (Personal Ancestral File – a Genealogy Program).  Years ago I added an ancestry tree to my routine.  Then when Family Tree on became available I started using that also.  For a while I kept myself busy updating all three – slow going.  A while back I quit updating PAF and now I use my ancestry tree and Family Tree.  When I want to generate a report or list I download my tree from, open it in a Genealogy Program at the Family History Center and print what I need.

Choose a program or online tree that works for you.  But choose something so you can start adding and updating your family’s information.

After you choose something, get to work!  Add or update information about yourself, your spouse and children, parents and siblings.  Continue to add and update family members.  This is your BIG START!

2 thoughts on “From the Beginning #3: Choosing a Program or Online Tree”

  1. I started with an ancestry tree and then I bought their tree maker program and tried that. It was too cumbersome for me because I just don’t have time to mess with stuff. I like the ease of the online tree to match up with the trees of other people. So now I only use that. If I had more time to spend I would do something else . . . .

    1. I think the ancestry tree is the best choice. I agree that the programs require more work. That’s why I haven’t continued with any of them. The tree is so user friendly. I also love matching up with other peoples trees.

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