For ten years, Louis Kessler's GenSoftReviews
website has been naming the annual Users' Choice Awards. The insights that come from this compilation go way beyond mere numbers of users and overall popularity. They are, in fact, an accurate commentary on the entire genealogical community. One of the consistently astonishing facts is that so many of the programs that are highly rated by genealogists are actually long discontinued and unsupported. In addition, many of the programs are free or have free versions. First, an explanation from the official announcement which came to me as an email.
During 2018, there were 410 new reviews given to 83 of the programs listed at GenSoftReviews. Along with the review, users rated the programs from 1 to 5 star, with 5 being best. Programs with at least one review in 2018, ten or more all-time reviews, and a cumulative user rating of at least 4.00 stars out of 5 receive a GenSoftReviews User Choice Award for 2018. The award is indicative that a program is well-liked by its users.
Here is a screenshot of the Award Winners for 2018:
And here is a list of the winners. I strongly suggest that you go to the website and read the descriptions of the programs.
1. iFamily for Mac - Rated 4.99 out of 5
2. Evidentia - Rated 4.99 out of 5
3. Famberry - Rated 4.95 out of 5
4. Family Historian - Rated 4.91 out of 5
5. The Next Generation - Rated 4.83 out of 5
6. Genealogie Online - Rated 4.77 out of 5
7. Ahnenblatt - Rated 4.73 out of 5
8. Personal Ancestral File (PAF) - Rated 4.72 out of 5
9. Generations - Rated 4.72 out of 5
10. Family Book Creator - Rated 4.71 out of 5
11. rootstrust - Rated 4.70 out of 5
12. Brother's Keeper - Rated 4.66 out of 5
13. webtrees - Rated 4.65 out of 5
14. Familienbande - Rated 4.61 out of 5
15. Relatively Yours - Rated 4.60 out of 5
16. Ancestral Quest - Rated 4.49 out of 5
17. Ancestris - Rated 4.47 out of 5
18. Family Tree Maker - Up To Version 16 - Rated 4.41 out of 5
19. MyHeritage - Rated 4.20 out of 5
20. Clooz - Rated 4.18 out of 5
21. RootsMagic - Rated 4.12 out of 5
22. oxy-gen - Rated 4.10 out of 5
23. Reunion - Rated 4.10 out of 5
24. Family Tree Builder - Rated 4.08 out of 5
You might notice that Ancestry.com
, and Findmypast.com
are not on this list. The only major online website program that is on the list is MyHeritage.com and also the MyHeritage.com program Family Tree Builder. The following programs are no longer supported by the original developer and are discontinued.
- Personal Ancestral File
- Family Tree Maker -- up to version 16
- Relatively Yours
Some of these programs simply will not die. I think the dead programs can be best summarized by this five star review of Personal Ancestral File from October 2018:
Have used PAF for years without issue. For whatever reason my program has left the building, but my files are still in place but unsupported. How can I get PAF back?
Biggest Pro: Excellent, understandable, flexible
Biggest Con: Gone?
Here is a longer five star review for Personal Ancestral File from 2018 that needs some additional commentary that I have added in brackets and bold type.
Wow, it’s been 5 years since it was discontinued? [The last version of PAF was issued in 2002] I’m still using it, simply because I like the simple interface. But my cousin said that Roots Magic allows her to use the SAME database, and she can go back and forth between her old PAF and the new Roots Magic. My husband wants to update his computer; the old one had Broderbund… Broderbund went out of business and so we will get Roots Magic on his and try it out. [Brøderbund Software was a software company formed in 1980 to create educational titles. It created many successful gaming franchises such as Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, Zoombinis, and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. In 1997, it opened Red Orb, the subsidiary for publishing mature games. In 1998, Brøderbund became a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Learning Company, which itself was purchased by Mattel year after. After Mattel experienced financial difficulties, it sold Broderbund to Gores Technology Group, who turned the company into profit after only 75 days. Ubisoft purchased Brøderbund's Entertainment Division in March 2001, while Riverdeep Interactive acquired its Education Division in September that year. Then in August 2002, all of Brøderbund assets became part of Riverdeep. In the early 2000s, budget software publisher Encore, Inc. acquired the trademark of Broderbund; it currently publishes software titles from the company under said name. See Broderbund Software http://www.closinglogos.com/page/Broderbund+Software. The Broderbund genealogy software referred to was sold to The Learning Company in 1998 and then to Genealogy.com in 2000. The program was sold to MyFamily.com in 2002 and became Family Tree Maker then it was sold to Ancestry.com in 2008. Ancestry.com sold the genealogy program to MacKiev.com in 2017.]
As an old programming teacher and Office products instructor, I have spotted two programming errors which result in titles not being centered in the Ahnentafel and Descendency reports. Whatever. I can fix those myself. But it is apparent that is an error, because Preview shows it correctly, but when you “save” it during Print, it comes up wrong. [It is hard to guess what operating system these folks are using]
The thing is, we all got PAF for free. Computer folks reading here will agree that the price for commercial software is VERY high per year. [I consistently hear this complaint and genealogy software is among the most underpriced software on the market. This person obviously does not use Adobe or Microsoft software] The LDS folks probably found that it was too expensive to maintain a knowledgeable programming staff. [The descendants of the program are still in existence as Ancestral Quest, a highly rated program that is only $29.95 and has a free version]
Biggest Pro: Simple interface
Biggest Con: Slightly incorrectly formatted word processing output [The program has several other more serious defects and bugs depending on the operating system you are using]
So much for the entertainment section of this post. Nearly all of the reviews for current and actively supported programs are a valuable asset to the larger genealogical community. But it is still a sad commentary on genealogists that they think that spending a few dollars for a supported program is too expensive. By the way, three of the highly rated programs have free versions: MyHeritage's Family Tree Builder, RootsMagic, and Ancestral Quest.
is an extremely valuable online resource. But it is sad that the genealogical community seems caught in a pre-2000 A.D. time warp when it comes to software.