Genealogy Software Comparison, Part 1: Purchase and Installation

In preparation for delivering some help sessions at my local genealogical society, I have set out to become at least moderately proficient in three genealogy applications:  Family Tree Maker (FTM), RootsMagic  (RM) and Legacy Family Tree (LFT).   I used an early version of FTM in the late 90’s and I’ve been a user of LFT since 2008.  RM is completely new to me.   RootsMagic and Legacy FamilyTree offer a free version of their software with a limited set of features.  Since FTM does not have a similar free option, I decided to use the paid versions of each software package.

RootsMagic, version –

Purchase:  RootsMagic Essentials is a very basic, free version of the software, containing approximately one third of the features of the paid version, called simply RootsMagic.  As you might expect some of the more advanced capabilities are only available in the paid product.  These include back up to CD, additional navigation views, DNA test recording, advanced printing and reporting, wall charts and research features among others. RootsMagic is $29.95 for the download and an additional $5.00 shipping fee for the CD.  I chose the download option.  The online secure ordering process worked smoothly and a few minutes later I received an email with download instructions and my software key.

Installation:  The installation was straightforward.  I ran the executable file I had downloaded along with the optional Place database setup.  I could choose to install the program in the usual “Program Files” directory or a different directory.  When the program launched, I was presented with “RootsMagic News” items such as “Visit the RootsMagic Cyber Café at FGS” and “Roots Magic’s New ‘Who Was There’ Report” and the option for “Do not show me this again.”

Family Tree Maker, version –

Purchase:  I did not see an option to download a simpler, free version of FTM, only the full-featured product at $39.95 for the download.  The CD would cost an additional $5.00 shipping and $1.60 tax (in Colorado).  Purchase includes an electronic version of the Companion Guide (397 pages) and a 14-day free trial to  There is also the option to purchase the “Complete” package including the printed Companion Guide, Family History Toolkit (6 electronic books) and Photo Explosion Album, photo editing software for $79.95.  I chose the $39.95 option.  Since I am already an Ancestry subscriber, the 2-week free trial extended my subscription by 2 weeks.  That was a nice touch!  Secure purchase, informational email with software key and download were simple and very similar to the RootsMagic experience.

Installation:  I simply ran the executable program I had downloaded and entered the software key when prompted.  Again, I had a choice of where to install the software on my hard drive.  The application came up with an inviting “Getting Started” screen.

Legacy Family Tree, version –

Purchase: I purchased Legacy Family Tree 7.0 Deluxe in September of 2008 for $39.95 + $7.00 shipping.  That price included the Legacy Charting Deluxe software, the print version of the User’s Guide and the CD.  I received a free upgrade to version 7.5 in February 2012, and another free upgrade a few months later with support for the 1940 census.  Today, that same package with version 7.5 still costs $39.95.  The download-only cost is $29.95 for Legacy Family Tree 7.5 Deluxe and Charting Deluxe software.  Add the electronic User’s guide for a package price of $34.95. There is also a slimmed-down free version, Legacy Family Tree 7.5 Standard Edition.  My recollection is that online purchase was secure and simple.

Installation: I installed LFT and Legacy Charting from CD and encountered no difficulties.  Subsequent upgrades were also easy and problem-free.

In summary, the purchase and installation of each of the three software programs was simple and easy to do.  Prices of the three are also very similar.

Next time: Getting started and how to find help


Comparison of Genealogy Software

I am on the board of my local genealogy society.  Another board member and I have been discussing how we can help society members with their genealogy software.  We’ve talked about giving lectures and small-group, hands-on help sessions.  Obviously, since members could use one of several popular programs, focusing on a single one in a general membership meeting would not be appropriate.  And then there is the question of which programs to cover.  I use Legacy Family Tree and my fellow board member uses Ancestry’s Family Tree Maker.  What about RootsMagic?  I believe that addressing these three software programs would give us good coverage among our members.

Since I have a background in software (over 30 years coding, testing and managing), I decided that I could purchase RootsMagic and learn how it works.  Then I though, why not get Family Tree Maker, too, and compare the three packages?  I could do a software “Bake Off.”  The next several postings will focus on my experience with these three genealogy software packages: Legacy Family Tree, Ancestry Family Tree Maker and RootsMagic.

Disclosure: I have purchased my own copies of each software package.  I have used Legacy Family Tree since September of 2008.  I used a previous version of Family Tree Maker in 1997.