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Tip 06: Tree Software

You may or may not use FamilyTreeMaker or Rootsmagic or one of the other genealogy software programs. I bought them and used them years ago.
That said, it is very true that Ancestry Trees have major limitations. For example, if you are working on the descendants of someone, it is impossible to print out a descendant chart to work with. It is difficult to cut off a branch from a tree and start a new tree. It is impossible to merge two trees. I also get aggravated because you cannot search by location. In a large tree, trying to figure out which members of which families were in the same place is horrible.
So there is a real point to having genealogy software even if you just use it for downloading and doing a few things. I don’t actually recommend using them for backing up your tree. If you want to back up your Ancestry tree, download a Gedcom, keep it on your hard drive and whatever back up system you use. This is not just a good idea it is mandatory. Over the years we have had several people who intended to hit the download gedcom button and accidentally hit the delete tree button. If you delete your tree, you can’t get it back. The screams of agony from these people was awful. I suggest doing a Gedcom download once a month when you back up your computer. If you use a software database as a backup, remember that this can be a disaster when you lose the program or it changes, and can’t read the database. I think a backup of both is an excellent idea.
The downside of using a gedcom to backup your work is that it does not keep the sources of the facts as well. That is one reason to have a program which will automatically synchronize trees.
Back a few years, Ancestry got hit by a denial of service ransomware attack. Ancestry disappeared for days. Most people who had no backups panicked. I know I did. We got it back, but anything you had done after Ancestry’s most recent backup was gone. I hope this never happens again. But what does it cost you to back up your trees once a month?
This site compares all the available software programs. I don’t have any strong opinions. I am sure there are some users out there who just love one or another. I got irritated with the need to pay for upgrades for some of them.
The one I happen to use just to do printing and cut off branches and merge trees is Brother’s Keeper. It is shareware, simple to use, and free to try. I paid the licensing fee years ago and my pw still works on upgrades.
It prints descendants which is what I primarily use it for. We are ALWAYS messing with descendants. I don’t know why Ancestry makes it hard to use the trees for that.
If you are trying to see relationships between people it can be very helpful.
Most of these programs will also show you if you have something crazy like a birth after the death date of the mother. Many of us have enormous trees. And just running it through a program and asking for obvious errors is a good thing. Brother’s Keeper will do this.
But my advice is to have at least one program to use for things that Ancestry won’t let you do. And do backup gedcoms regularly. Do the Gedcom even if you have a program which will automatically synchronize trees.
I remember when I first bought a home computer back in the early 80s, a friend of mine said this. You will lose data. This is inevitable. But how much you lose is up to you. So he made me keep my backups at work actually. This was in the day of floppy disk backups. I thought he was insane until I did completely mess something up and my backup somehow did not back up and the floppy disk was not usable. So we are way past that now. But the principle is the same. Extreme paranoia is a good thing when backing up. Back up on site and off site. Do it religiously.

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