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

Sunday, August 14, 2016

My Top Ten Genealogy Programs for Now

It has been a while since I wrote about the "top ten" of anything. When I was a lot younger and listened to the radio (the radio? what is that?) many of the stations used to feature countdowns of the most popular songs of the times. The most interesting part of the this countdown, of course, was when the DJ got to the last ten, the Top Ten, hits of the day. I must say that my tastes in music at the time were quite a bit different than what was popular in many cases and I was not always in agreement. It might also be important to repeat, as I have written before, that I spent my summers on the Colorado Plateau and I could only hear a very few radio stations, mostly KOMA in Oklahoma City.

Genealogists are just as partisan about the programs they use as some people are about sports teams and political parties and so, as they say, your results may differ. In the course of one day's use of my electronic devices, that include my iMac, my two iPads and my iPhone, I can easily use forty or fifty different programs. Any list I would compile would include the programs I use the most. I debated whether to list separately purchased programs along with subscription programs or "free" online programs, but I thought for this go-around I would simply list my impression of the programs I use the most.

Since what I write about and work on all day involves genealogy, I will confine this list to those programs that relate more directly to what I am doing in genealogy. For this reason, I will include and exclude some really valuable programs that I use that might seem a bit strange to those not working on genealogy day in and day out. I am also going to lump some closely related programs together into one category so there really are quite a few more individual programs than just ten.

OK, so here is the list. Unlike the radio stations, I am not going to put the list in reverse order.

1. Google and all its apps
I use Google for email, word processing, blog writing, searching the Internet and maps. I have been decisively moving to online programs or apps as opposed to downloadable programs for the past two years. The reasons for this are complex but mainly as based on the proliferation of online subscription services and the atrophy of the stand-alone programs in general. I use Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Keep, Google Translate and Google Maps more than any of the other Google programs or apps.

2. Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop
Of course, most of my readers understand the importance of illustrations and images, especially photographs, and since I am a professional photographer, I use these two programs constantly every day.

3.,, and
These four programs form the basis for most of what I do each day with my own genealogy and that of those people I am helping. I am always amazed that people who consider themselves to be genealogists and/or family historians are not completely familiar with all four of these programs.

Along with a Google search, no genealogical investigation is complete without involving Books are an important part of any genealogical search and is where you go to find the books.

5. Apple's Keynote and Microsoft PowerPoint
Since I am presently doing a number of webinars each month, I use these two programs constantly. I also use them to teach my classes and presentations. I use Keynote and then convert the presentations to PowerPoint, mainly because I like Apple programs more than others.

Genealogy is heavy into sharing files and I could not do as much with moving files around as I can with Dropbox. There are some other options, but Dropbox is still the easiest and most convenient to use.

I do a lot of source citations and is my favorite for doing citations and adding sources. I should probably do a webinar on adding source citations using some of the online tools such as

Right now, I am spending a lot of time cleaning up entries in the Family Tree and this utility is very helpful in pointing out all the problems that exist.

9. Scanning and Adobe Acrobat Pro
I use the scanning software that comes with my scanner of the moment, in this case, the Epson Scan program. I also use Adobe Acrobat constantly for PDF files.

10. RootsMagic
I have to admit that I do use Rootsmagic very frequently. I have been focusing on moving all of my data into for some time now for reasons I have explained in other posts, but I still use RootsMagic for helping others.

Now, just because I did not list a program you like or use does not mean that I do not use that same program occasionally. I use fifty or more a day so I use a lot of programs but this is list of those that come up the most frequently. If I were going to tell you to use certain programs as a beginner, my list would be vastly different than if you were a professional genealogist.


  1. Sorry... your WORLDCAT spelling is incorrect and the link is faulty.

    1. The link is still incorrect - wordcat - which starts attacking my computer immediately.

    2. Second time might be a charm. I don't why my correction didn't work.

  2. Hi, James. Like many genealogists, I love lists. Mine isn't quite the same as yours, but we can all learn from each other. I would really like to see how you use so hope you will do a webinar soon.

    1. is a very sophisticated (interesting) program. I will have to think about how to explain it. There are several videos on the program if you search for them.

  3. Actually with the exception of one, these are not genealogy programs. It is an assorted list that I think are more in the lines of genealogy tools and not programs. Websites are not programs, they are tools. Various Word Processing, Media tools and such are great programs to have, but they are not genealogical specifically. Think the title of this is a bit misleading ....

    1. Well, I guess we have a different idea about what is and what is not genealogically related. Perhaps I should have named my blog my top ten programs and left it at that?

  4. You've introduced me to a few, and as you observe we will all use different programs, or tools, if you prefer, to advance our genealogy. I regard Excel/spreadsheeting and Word processing as a fundamental part of my weaponry. I prefer the flexibility that comes with narrative documentation, including footnotes which is why you've caught my attention with Zotero. Horse for courses as they say. I have never really liked what are typically called genealogy programs as they make me feel like I'm in a straight jacket.

  5. This is the first time I have seen Zortero mentioned in years, I think I'll try using it again.

  6. Glad to see Zotero made your list. I was introduced to it when I was writing my dissertation, and continue to find it invaluable for my research. It seems to be relatively unknown in the genealogical community. (Maybe eclipsed by Evernote?) I hope you move forward with your idea to do a presentation. Look forward to signing up!

    1. I am planning a BYU webinar for September about adding citations including Zotero.