Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Why I Use Genealogy Software (It's Not Why You Think)

RootsMagic is my genealogy software of choice for one big reason: It syncs with Ancestry, my research/tree site of choice.

But unlike most researchers, I don't do my work in the software and then upload to Ancestry.

On the contrary, I prefer to work in Ancestry (including research and uploading photos/documents) and then download to my computer, via my sync with RootsMagic.

My Technology May Not Be Their Technology

Why? My mind is constantly thinking way ahead to what happens when I someday join my ancestors.

On that faraway day, even though my Mac computer will remain on my desk, it may as well be a pile of bricks as far as my genealogy heir(s) are concerned.

I'll bet none of the next generation will be bothered to open my genealogy software, let alone learn how it works. They'll have their own technology preferences, and any specialized genealogy software on my desktop Mac is unlikely to appeal to the mobile-first younger generation. Just ask your younger relatives and see if they agree.

With this in mind, I don't think of my genealogy software as the primary place to keep my tree and media. In a sense, my computer-based software acts like a backup to my Ancestry tree.

A Family Tree Grows Online

I believe descendants and relatives (and cousins I don't yet know about) are far more likely to find my public family tree on Ancestry, if they have any interest at all.

As I wrote in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Pastonline trees should be noted in any genealogical "will." For my part, I'm leaving my genealogical heirs a bit of money for an Ancestry subscription so they can noodle around and see how the tree works. They can use mobile or desktop devices, whatever suits their fancy.

Of course, I sync with RootsMagic very frequently so I always have the latest version of my tree on my computer, including all media. This is because I work on the Ancestry tree (multiple trees, actually) every week, sometimes every day. New documents become available, or new photos surface in the family--those are good reasons to add to my online tree and share with those who have been invited to see it. Also, I like to look at DNA hints and compare those trees with mine on Ancestry. It's just convenient to have the latest tree online.

Way in the future, my heirs can decide if they want their own genealogy software. If not, they and I can rest easy, knowing the tree and documentation are on Ancestry for the family to see at any time.


  1. Hmm, interesting perspective. Now you have me thinking.

  2. Thank you for sharing. I agree that the descendants and distant ocusins won't care about the software, but may be attracted to the Ancestry tree. They may also be attracted to the FREE FamilySearch Family Tree. My sticky point with Ancestry is the terrible source citations. So I do them in RM, and sync with Ancestry and FSFT. The descendants may find the next to last RM sync version there!

  3. Randy, you have an excellent point about source citations. I'm slowly going back and digitizing my source images, then adding them to my Ancestry tree so it's clear what is supporting what. Maybe I better speed things up! I prefer not to have a FamilySearch tree able to be changed by others, because so much info out there is either incorrect or incomplete. Especially with names like WOOD. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Interesting way to do it. I guess I must be less trusting than you are. I prefer to rename all my images, regardless of the source, and save them on my own computer. Then I enter the people and docs into RootsMagic. I never, ever work in Ancestry and I don't want any disappearing collections from their site breaking any of my links.

  5. Linda, your way is better! But I also save all my images on my own computer, independent of the genealogy software. I organize images by surname or family. And by saving images rather than relying on links, I can be reasonably sure that they will still be up on the tree even if the links no longer work. Thanks for leaving me a note!

  6. I prefer to work in Ancestry and backup to RootsMagic, too, but I need to do it more often! I like having my research online where others can find it and use it, too. And, of course, using it as cousin bait!

  7. Dana, I completely agree with the idea of a public tree as cousin bait! It works. Thanks for posting a comment,

  8. You’ve actually raised a very good point. I use Legacy as my primary tree. I do have several trees on Ancestry, one in particular that I work on. However, all my notes, nearly all my sources and anything of importance is on Legacy. I don’t link Legacy with Family Search as I don’t use the tree there.
    Thanks for getting me thinking.

  9. Diane, someone on Twitter also reminded me to add news clippings when I have them. Up to now, I've usually added obits but not everything else from the news. Have to put this on my "to do" list going forward. Thanks so much for your comment.