Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What Do the Reviews Have to Say About Genealogy Programs?

I have mentioned a number of times in the past. This website is one of the very few places where you can go to get user views of genealogy software products, both online and desktop based. After seeing a few reviews in my blog reader list, I decided to see what they had to say about some of the popular programs. Keep in mind the fact that any program with only a few reviews is subject to question. With reviews, more is always better. Here is my summary with a few comments of my own.
There are 218 total reviews of and it is at 4.22 stars out of 5.0. The most recent reviews are most complimentary about the support from the company. Where else do I see that? Some of the reviews characterize customer support as "fantastic," "personalized help," and "simply the best." Some of the other positive comments include statements such as "ease of use," "intuitive software," "their instructions were perfect," and so forth. Not all the entries are uniformly so bubbly and positive, but by and large the almost five stars seems warranted. One comment caught my eye, "I am thrilled with “Discoveries” as it gave me an ancestor earlier that my earliest! WOW!"

Customer support is mostly very spotty in the online genealogical software business. It is nice to know about something positive. Family Tree Builder, the free desktop program is rated at 4.42 stars, putting in the high range for all programs. Again, excellent customer support is the big factor.

I found no reviews for either or There were only three reviews for, all of which were quite old. There were no reviews for I find that interesting, but puzzling.

As of the date of this post, has 3331 reviews of 931 products. Here is one that is not quite so highly ranked.

Family Tree Maker - Current Version (This is's desktop program)
With a ranking of 1.69 stars out of 5.0, you have to wonder what is doing with this program. There are 466 reviews so the "average" can't be skewed by a few sour notes. The Mac version of this program is rated even lower at 1.5 stars with 116 reviews. Complaints include the following statements, "can't get the program to open," "my tree shuts down constantly," "lack of compatibility," and many comments that there are no pros. I have thought about this issue for some time. I think the program is OK. But I realize that they have updated the program almost every year, often with a completely new version. Many of the complaints compare the present program with previous versions and do so in an uncomplimentary fashion.

The next review is one of the great genealogical mysteries of all time.

Personal Ancestral File (PAF)
What can I say? Personal Ancestral File hasn't been updated now for 13 years. It is unsupported and has few of the features of the new programs. It does not connect with any online program at all. I could go on, but the reviews give this program 4.68 stars. It seems that all of the other programs are still competing with the free version of PAF. This comment summarizes the users' opinions: "It does most of what you want and may not be perfect but I haven’t found one that is yet." There are only 46 reviews. The reviews for this program illustrate the reason why I do not do software reviews per se.

Legacy Family Tree 
At 2.59 stars, this program must be experiencing some problems. The reviews from before 2014 were at 3.95 but the reviews for 2015 are at 1.77. User support seems to be one big factor. Another big factor seems to be lost data on imports. This confirms several reports I have heard from users first hand the last few weeks. The lost information seems to happen when you update the program. This is an excellent reason for reading reviews.

Ancestral Quest
This may well be the highest rated desktop genealogy program at 4.76 stars but it only has 26 reviews. Apparently, the people who buy it, like it. It has been as high as 4.98 stars in the past.
Here is another very popular program. At 4.34 stars overall and 4.79 for 2015, it is a close race with Ancestral Quest. There are a 93 reviews, which makes the rating a little more solid. The biggest pros seem to be full featured and easy to use. They also have customer support. My blogging friend, Randy Seaver, left a five star review.

There are a lot more. Take a look for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Hi James. I have only one problem with FTB. I like it because they allow the import of spreadsheets.
    However, in Version 7, they only have the import of people, whereas in previous versions they allowed the import of couple (howsoever styled). I have not checked recently, so that bug may have been remedied. I think the import of spreadsheets fantastic. I keep most of my data in a spreadsheet and then periodically upload it to FTB. It's easier to update the spreadsheet.