Why Buy Genealogy Software for Mac?
The top performers in our review are Family Tree Maker 3, the Gold Award winner; Heredis, the Silver Award winner; and RootsMagic, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 programs.
With genealogy increasing in popularity, there are a lot of options for searching your family history. You can use an online source or CD-ROM Mac genealogy software to organize data spanning many generations of family members. You can then publish the data you find in books, charts and other formats. Family history and family stories can also be passed down by word of mouth from living relatives. You can record these stories on digital voice recorders and store them on your computer.
Mac users are known for their design savvy, and some of these programs have a strong design element. With them, you can customize and create a wealth of reports and charts displaying your heritage. The best programs provide customizable templates for anything you want to publish. The interfaces on these programs are sleek and simple to mirror the minimalist design of other OS X programs. There are also numerous options for Windows users who want to use genealogy software to research their family history.
Even the most basic software can handle thousands of names and facts about the ancestors you have already found. All the programs we reviewed follow a basic pedigree format for entering names in a visually organized way. As you research, you can create a virtual library of family history with images and links attached to each individual. The best genealogy software for Mac also connects to online genealogy searches. These features make research faster and easier by combining the abilities of genealogy websites with genealogy software. Depending on the kind of genealogy software you choose, you may find extra features such as instruction manuals, genealogy books or memberships to genealogy web searches.
To be the best, these programs must be able to keep track of thousands of individuals and let you work online through genealogy searches and within the software. Genealogy software is available for both Mac and PC, but this genealogy review site focuses on Mac software. If you're a PC user, check out our reviews for genealogy software. Many of the programs we found have close associations with genealogy websites, but we based our reviews around traditional software that requires a CD-ROM or online download to acquire. Check out our articles on Mac genealogy software to find out which programs can make your research and data entry easier.
Genealogy Software for Mac: What We Found
The best Mac genealogy software is fast and has enough storage capacity to hold all the data you need about your family with room to spare for other projects. When you add generations of names, images, facts about individuals, sources and other data, genealogy databases grow quickly. It's common to see programs with thousands of individuals listed.
The best programs go beyond a genealogical database and become a research tool. More and more, internet connectivity is becoming a crucial feature in the tools genealogists use. Our Gold Award winner, Family Tree Maker 3, connects you to popular genealogy searches and syncs with online sources like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. Expert genealogists we spoke with said web enablement and easy sourcing features are high on the list of priorities because they allow you to research hundreds of names quickly. The best programs allow you to not only research quickly, but to import what you find and attach these notes to the correct person.
Correct formatting is important for organizing giant batches of data and helps professionals share their sources within the correct guidelines. Auto-formatting creates correctly formatted citations of the materials you gather for your database.
Selecting Genealogy Software for Mac: What to Look For
In essence, genealogy software's job is to store, organize and chart the family history you have. We ranked software based on features that make the job easier. Before you purchase any genealogy software, it's best to consider what you already know about your family. If you're just beginning to research your family, look for software that connects to online databases. On the other hand, if you already know a significant amount about your family or just want to digitize your records, look for strong reporting and citation options.
The best Mac genealogy software connects you to research databases, like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, and imports your findings into the program. When you have enough information, you can create webpages, printable charts and reports based on your research. You'll want to look for a wide range of publishable options to create the best visual representation of your family. The best genealogy software provides templates and predesigned backgrounds for reports. MacFamilyTree is a program that, like our top picks, connects to major databases like Ancestry.com and lets you send and receive files from other genealogy programs.
Listing features allow you to connect various family members to each other correctly. Once you have a large group, other features connect or allow you to connect the dots between people. Families don't always follow the nuclear model, so the best genealogy software should make it easy to list multiple and same-sex marriages, divorces, adoptions, step-relationships, and more.
Notes and media help your family tree feel more alive, but working with so much information can be overwhelming. When you add details about your family or add images to their profile, you'll need to keep them organized and easily accessible. Many family tree programs for Mac provide catalogs for your sources, multimedia and individuals.
The best Mac genealogy software gives you a wide variety of chart and report types to choose from. A program with diversity gives you options like a basic ancestor chart or to attach photos or siblings to an ancestor. It also lets you choose styles of ancestor charts such as fan, bow tie and hourglass. This allows you to customize the chart to your style and needs. The best programs also give you a variety of options for printing and publishing. You can print charts so you can see them laid out on a table or print books, like one detailing an ancestor's story with illustrations, that you can share with family and friends.
The best programs have templates and clean, modern backgrounds to apply to your charts if you want to create heirlooms and gifts for family members. Some allow you to upload your own backgrounds to the charts. This means you can add treasured family photos into the design of anything you create. Even the most basic chart-designing features allow you to adjust the nodes and information contained in the chart and report based on what you find most important.
Citation & Organization
The more you learn about your family, the more records and sources you'll accumulate. Genealogy requires a dedication to finding and recording proof for the claims, notes and stories about your family history. This proof comes in many forms, such as old newspapers and certificates. Look for genealogy software that helps you manage your sources and create citations to find them later. Even if you're a beginner with no interest in citing your sources, organization features like a to-do list help you keep a tally of what tasks you need to do and the priority level for each. Reunion is one of the programs with a lot of features to help you organize and customize your family tree research the way you want it.
Help & Support
As your family tree grows, you'll likely have questions along the way. The best Mac genealogy software has an easy-to-navigate help section within the software so you can get answers to your questions quickly. Some of the software we reviewed links to user forums and blogs with information about genealogy or the software itself. As more companies go paperless, so do their support methods and user manuals. Most of the genealogy programs we looked at offer a print or PDF copy of the user manual full of tips, tricks and how-to sections. In addition to our top picks, GEDitCOM II has a wealth of support options, like online tutorials, to provide assistance as you're learning to use the software.
Mac Genealogy Software: Verdict & Recommendations
Our Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards go to programs that exemplify the best and most essential features. Family Tree Maker 3, Heredis and RootsMagic all have outstanding charting and publishing features to create family tree charts. They each also make it easy to customize information that appears in charts and reports, letting you focus on details important to you.
Family Tree Maker 3 has uncommon style options that let you insert background templates into your family charts to give them a unique feeling and look. It also gives you access to a huge genealogy database with direct links to Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
Heredis is a well-designed program that lets you easily apply your family charts and dig up all types of relationships, even unconventional ones. RootsMagic offers an abundance of tools to help you find people and connections in large databases, and you can search for specifics beyond an individual's profile.
Ancestral Quest for Mac is another feature-rich program that is easy to use and lets you search through a sea of people and complex relationships to find exactly what you need. All of these top programs can also sync sources you find online into your own database. So when you find information on your family, you can immediately store it in the software.
Contributing Reviewer: Noel Case