Family Historian 6 has a feature set that’s suited for novice family historians and serious genealogists alike. The research tools and GEDCOM accuracy make it a powerful program for tracking down and recording family stories, but ease of use sets this family tree builder apart from other software. The interface has the shortest learning curve and most efficient data entry of the evaluated programs. With excellent scrapbooking tools and above-average charts, it’s my pick for the best genealogy software overall.
Ease of Use
To test genealogy software, I imported four GEDCOM files containing two large genealogical records and two complicated records. The purpose was to test each program’s ability to interpret the information contained in this universal format, since GEDCOM files are a big part of sharing records and furthering genealogical research.
In the GEDCOM test, Family Historian received an A+ because its import accuracy was perfect. The only other program to achieve a perfect score on this test was Legacy Family Tree. Every genealogy program can import GEDCOM files, but my tests showed just how difficult it is for most programs to interpret the data accurately. With this program, you have the best chance of getting it right.
Family Historian also received an A+ for navigation ease of use. The modeless design relies on modules with floating tabs, letting you access most features and forms without leaving the main interface. Because you’re never more than one click from the home page, the learning curve is exceptionally short.
The software also earned at A+ for data entry efficiency. I tested this parameter by timing how long it took to enter the information of 10 individuals. With Family Historian, it took me just under five minutes in total, compared with an average time of 13 minutes for the other programs tested. Only Family Tree Maker was as efficient. Family Historian’s data entry efficiency is due in large part to its modeless design; the software doesn't require opening multiple windows for each individual.
Family Historian is one of the few programs with an undo and redo tool. If you notice something is wrong but you’re not sure what it is, you can retrace your steps to find the mistake. Other programs typically have an undo tool or a Control Z function, but once you’ve stepped back, you can’t step forward again.
Family Historian’s chart quality received a B+, which was the lowest grade this program received throughout testing. There are about 26 chart options (perhaps more with the customizable chart option), but the charts’ overall quality isn’t elite. The lines are often too pixelated, and the text doesn’t fit the boxes well. The software doesn’t have the variety or style of charts of Heredis, which is the best genealogy program for charts. That said, it’s still better than most genealogy programs.
There are 30 report options. As with most genealogy programs, it lets you create narrative reports based on the scrapbooking details you’ve recorded, but you can also build less-common reports based on LDS ordinances, census information and emigration/immigration records. And you can compile all the reports you want, including charts, into a genealogy book to print or publish via the web.
The scrapbooking tools on Family Historian received an A for quality. The tools are prioritized alongside the basic information for an individual. You don’t have to search for the tools. You can add facts, events and media of all types. You can even edit photos within the program. The only reason Family Historian didn’t receive a perfect grade for data management is that the location mapping tool isn’t easy to find, because it’s not featured alongside the scrapbooking tools.
The data management features are comprehensive. The function automatically backs up when you close the program. It provides warnings when data is potentially inaccurate. The source citation tool keeps all your sources organized and even lets you add notes.
After a week of research and testing, I ranked Family Historian as the best ancestry software overall because of its combination of GEDCOM accuracy, ease of use, charting capabilities and data management. This program has the most efficient data entry process, and its interface has the shortest learning curve. The software is ideal for novice family historians and expert genealogists alike.