Family Tree Software

A family memoir is mostly full of stories. However as soon as you start to collect stories, you realize that you need accurate information about the family to put the stories in context.
Initially you will record information about a family on paper and then set up a software family tree package on your computer.
Once you have build up a few names it’s exciting to then add them to one of the many computer Family Tree software packages. You can then see your family grow and print out family trees. A family tree print out makes it easier to link everybody visually and have one document to refer to and discuss with other family members.

Start collecting data on sheets and begin to draw up your family tree manually on a paper chart before rushing into a software package. You can download free Ancestor/Pedigree charts and several other useful recording sheets from Other free charts can be found on

Write all information in pencil and when you have confirmed a date or name with a primary record and backed it up with a secondary record – THEN change the pencil text to ink. If you are still uncertain alway put a ‘?’ beside the information. File you paper sheets carefully so you can refer back to them.

When making a family memoir you do not need to learn complex genealogy techniques for researching back hundreds of years, so get a basic Family Tree software package that is easy to learn, does useful printouts and is preferably free! But do get a quality package so that you can extend the tree in the future and one that is GEDCOM compatable so information can be easily exchanged if you want to switch systems in the future.

Try downloading a free trial version first to see which package you prefer.

Windows or Mac?
Family Tree software will not work on both platforms, so the first decision is – do you use Windows or Mac? Most genealogy software has been developed for Windows computers, however Macintosh computers are increasingly popular and more software is being developed. The new Macs can run ‘Windows’ in ‘Parallel’, and can run any PC or Mac software, though running a Windows Famly Tree on a Mac defeats the purpose of Mac’s beautiful graphics.

Family Tree Software for Windows
– PAF – ( Personal Ancestral File) is FREE! It was developed by the Mormon Church ( Latter Day Saints), who also developed the GEDCOM standard for interchanging Family data between programs. PAF is easy to use and has a great range of printouts.
Download for free from or do a Google search for PAF Download
– Legacy – There is a Free Version and a Deluxe version with extras that you can download from

There are many other Family Tree software packages for Windows, but I suggest you start with one of the above two as they are free. Others are:- Family Tree Maker / Roots Magic / Family Historian / Family Pursuit / Family Tree Legends / Master Genealogist / Behold.

Family Tree Software for Macintosh
– Reunion version 9 – is the most popular Mac software Easy to learn and use, it’s been the biggest selling Mac Family Tree Software for many years. It is not cheap, but very extensive. You can buy it from Magnum Mac shops in NZ NZ$ 249 or buy it online from US$99
– MacFamilyTree Version 5.4 US$ 49 – Claimed to be the most advanced Genealogy Software for the Mac. Developed in Germany with a stromg European folowing. Download from
– iFamily for Leopard US$ 29.95 – This new software recently developed in Australia is very innovative. It has all the basics of other packages, but is structured around one person making it more useful for memoir building. Also since modern families frequently involve second marriages and step children, being based on one person makes it much easier to see the full picture. It has a split screen so you can work on notes while seeing the relevant part of the tree. Download a trial from

As soon as you begin to add material to your software, find out where your family tree file is located and learn how to back it up!! Why spend months of years developing a tree which could fall over! Most programs go File> Save a copy > location. Then keep a copy in a separate location away from the computer (preferably in another house for extra safety.).

There are several web-based systems where you can build a Family Tree on the web and search through the system you use, but you will pay over $20 a month to use most of the good ones. is the top rated system with the largest number of on-line users and might suit New Zealanders better. These systems are very powerful and designed more for those serious genealogists rather than someone doing a family memoir. There is a free system called but that has limited services at this stage.

Deciding which system to go with is a big decision as you will be using it for a long time, although most information can be transferred with GEDCOM from one software package to the next. Talk to people who use different systems to get advice, or Google software packages you are considering and type the work ‘review’ in the search, you will then get lots of info, (good and bad) about a package.

Data is normally categorized as ‘Events’(Birth.Death,Marriage etc) or ‘Notes’ where you add extra detail, or ‘Sources” where you record how you found the info Most software packages now have sections for storing photos and linking them to people on the tree.

We live in a visual world so make sure your family tree can accept and printout, photos of people. This improves the final presentation, especially in a memoir, as you can see the people referred to. Always modify COPIES of photos, NEVER the original.!

This is the exciting part! After many hours imput you get a ‘picture’ of your family and relations. Software packages can printout trees which cover many pages and can be joined together. For a memoir you may only want a reduced print out of part of the tree relating to your key person, or printouts in a reduced size that will fit on a page.

However if you bind a plastic holder at the back of your book, you could add in a large family tree printout. There arte many ways of printing out the information but they fall into two main categories. When printing information, you decide how many generations you want to deal with at a time.

Charts The two most common charts are Descendants or Ancestral
– Descendants Chart This is the most traditional form of family tree, starting from one older person and following all the branches to the youngest.
– Ancestral (or Pedigree) Chart This starts with one person at the bottom of the family tree and follows the generations backwards.

Relative Chart – can be fun to print as it shows how the families are linked, but if you select several generations, the print out may be longer than your living room
Fan Chart – is concise way of summarising the family in a small space, excellent for adding to a book
Timelines – are a great way of depicting the key episodes in a life. Some software programs will produce a timeline or you can obtain special Timeline software such as ‘Timeline 3D’ (for Mac) from or locate others at
Reports There are many types, and since they are more concise than a large family tree, they can be a great way or presenting factual information in a memoir. Your reports could run over several pages, rather than having to do fold outs like a tree.
Index Report – a printout of data on all members of your family tree, or a selection of some member. Useful to have when working to remind you of what data you still have to collect.
Ancestor Report – Lists all data for ancestors above the selected person, including a useful summary of key events.
Family Group Report – List of the data for one set of family members. A good summary to put in a memoir.
Filtered Reports – Your tree can build up an immense amount of data, but there are ways of filtering that to produce a report on a certain topic, (eg all members with the same name.)

Putting Charts in your Memoir
You need to find some way of printing the key charts to fit on an A4 sheet, or whatever size book you are producing. Some software packages will print charts at various sizes, but if not then simply save the chart as a PDF and then reduce the size of the PDF to fit keeping the print size legible. Also once a chart is in PDF format you could take it to a commercial printer to produce a full size chart on one large piece of paper.

Popular family tree software with shaking leaves which indicate somebody else in the world maybe studying the same person. If they are and you are 100% sure it matches, then it can save you a lot of work by connecting their information with yours. is a popular family tree software program