Contributed by Richard Beaver-2009


Genealogy research is my hobby. Hobbyist genealogists typically pursue their own ancestry and that of their children and spouses, without spending a lot of money.  That will guide my recommendations on family history software packages.

  • If you want free, then checkout Personal Ancestral File.
  • If you are going to subscribe to a service like, then you might want to consider Family Tree Maker.

Personal Ancestral File by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Personal Ancestral File (PAF) is a widely used Windows®-based genealogical management program. It helps users organize their family history records. It can produce, either on screen or on paper, family histories, pedigree charts, family group records, and other reports to help users in their search for missing ancestors.

The best news is that it is free! I have used it for many years and it does everything that I needed it to do.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides a huge amount of information free to all. The Church operates the largest genealogical library in the world—the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Church also operates branch libraries throughout the world that are open to anyone interested in family history. You may trace your ancestors and find information about family history resources at the Church’s family history web site.

Family Tree Maker by

As I mentioned above, if you are going to subscribe to a service such as, you should consider purchasing Family Tree Maker. The program retails (as of June 2009) for $29.95. The “U.S. DELUXE MEMBERSHIP” is $155.40 annually.

By using Family Tree Maker together with, you can:

  • Quickly compare information you find on Ancestry with the data in your tree and use a merge wizard to selectively import new facts and records
  • Take advantage of Ancestry Hints—a contextual search feature that automatically suggests records pertaining to people in your tree
  • Back up your Family Tree Maker data by automatically creating a member tree on Ancestry (you can choose to share your tree with others or keep it private)
  • Create heirloom-quality books using the new Ancestry Press self-publishing tool

What about online services?

I do not recommend using an online service for your master database. Most will use your data to drive more subscribers and it is just too difficult to use, especially if your laptop is not in wireless range.