Looking for the best family tree maker to record your family history? Wishing for an easier way to visualise how people are related to each other? Or wondering how best to show off your family tree?
Whether you are just starting out or have decades of research in need of some organisation, this guide covers the latest (and greatest) family tree makers online and offline.
Talk to anyone who has spent some time researching their Irish ancestry, and they'll all tell you "it grows legs." Despite all our best efforts to keep things simple, Irish genealogy research is a bit... a lot... like our confusing signposts and winding boreens – a fun journey, but difficult to navigate. This article will help you explore how modern technology can ease the pain of planning, comparing, and organising your Irish family tree.
My Irish Family Tree
With Irish ancestry research, it's only a matter of time before one discovery leads to many branches, and with any luck some sturdy roots. Along the way, we find ourselves gathering a wild assortment of wild goose-chase vines (along with the desire to quickly weed them out).
Irish family tree building can be particularly complex because:
- Irish families in the 19th and 20th centuries were famously large.
- Any given Irish household or townland can contain various degrees of kinship.
- With few surviving 19th-century Irish census records, brick walls are common.
READ MORE What is a Townland?
To overcome these challenges, digging into the records of neighboring cousins for hidden clues is required. So researching multiple trees in tandem is common in Irish genealogy. To confound matters the Irish custom of naming a child after a grandparent creates a particular conundrum:
- Multiple individuals of the same name frequently appear on record in the same parish, sometimes sharing the same townland address.
- Church records often reveal several cousins (of the same given name and surname) baptising children at the same time with these very same names.
- It's easy to get overwhelmed searching for a needle in a haystack, especially when the name is a particularly common one.
To pin one's own ancestor down (by the power of elimination) one faces the painstaking task of collecting the data of all of these families. And that's why the visual mapping power and organisation of a family tree application fast becomes an Irish genealogy must-have.
This guide to Irish family tree makers (best suited to Irish Genealogy) has been compiled to help those:
Even if your Irish family tree is only a bit of a stump right now, keeping tabs on your research and mapping out your findings (especially name matches yet to be confirmed or disproved) will call for the support of a family tree maker app eventually, and ideally, one that avoids you having to start over.
Just getting started?
Preparing to interview a relative by phone or in-person? This printable family tree will help you jot down and visualise key names of shared ancestors, their vital dates, and more.
Know your family's Irish Pedigree? Here's a free family tree template
Most of us find our way into family history research with the dream of creating a family tree to frame and/or share with relatives. We imagine a simple tree with the name and vital dates of one's immediate ancestors. With that (and an aesthetically pleasing design) we'd be happy. If you are one of the lucky few, who already have all the pieces of this puzzle, then you're probably reading this article looking for family tree layout ideas, how to design a family tree, or which family tree chart is best.
For something tactile to print out, gift, or hang on your wall, the most popular options are:
- a fan chart – where subsequent generations fan out in a semi-circle from the base individual (you or a loved one);
- a pedigree chart – where each previous generation branches upwards (or outwards) from the base individual.
Whether you decide to make a manual or digital family tree, ready-made templates are a great way to help you visualise what you want. Canva's FREE online app is a good place to start:
To put your tree, pictures, and text into book format, Blurb.com has FREE downloadable software.
Which Family Tree Makers?
With so many Genealogical apps, websites, and software programs (and upgrades) available today, it's hard to keep up. Some are new and some have been around a long time, and many do different things. This guide is intended to serve as a springboard for you to explore which option best suits your needs.
The suppliers featured here have made this list based on independent research by Ireland Reaching Out (we are not on commission for promoting any of them).
Here we give an overview of the range of family tree maker options for you to explore (separated by offline and online categories). We have included both free and paid options (many with free versions) highlighting operating systems, synching compatibility, and any special features of interest.
ONLINE FAMILY TREES
Online Tree Makers are the obvious go-to for those who care about sharing their tree freely (in the hope of discovering more, by way of matches with other researchers).
Pros: accessible from any computer or mobile device, no software upgrade costs, can collaborate with others;
Cons: privacy management (esp. living family members and photos).
Most of the big-name online family tree makers today offer access to the same primary records and digitized archives, but some do better than others for "in Ireland" records (and Ireland-based member family trees).
Don't forget that adding your Irish ancestor to our FREE online database is probably one of the most powerful complementary tools out there for sharing and discovery.
Features: MyHeritage family tree is easy to use and has a superb range of charts. Its Map feature also allows you to discover more about where your ancestors were from.
Synchs with FamilySearch, Family Tree Builder, Family Historian, Legacy and many more.
Ancestry offers easy-to-use and intuitive tree-building with the power of collaborating with other member trees. Gre for US-based discovery and research.
Family Search online
FamilySearch.org has a FREE family tree maker. It also gives free access to most records and has a powerful search filter for international records.
Features: Colour-coded fan charts and the ability to MAP your ancestors to place.
FindMyPast (FMP) offers a FREE online family tree builder and is every Irish researcher's go-to for unique records. Irish siblings emigrated in every direction and FMP specialises in records for Ireland and Britain (pretty much anywhere the Irish went – India, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and more). Building and storing your family tree on Findmypast is completely free (viewing its family tree hints & records requires a paid membership).
Synchs with Family Historian
Genes Reunited online
Features: This UK-based service is great for Irish and Welsh ancestry. Genes Reunited has a free basic family tree builder (paid subscription for more options).
OFFLINE FAMILY TREES
Desktop Software for family trees is a standalone program that you install on your computer so that you can work privately offline.
Pros: a database where you can log and preserve your research, "no internet – no problem", privacy.
Cons: software updates, cost, compatibility.
Ancestral Quest [mac & windows] FREE
Ancestral Quest Basics is FREE software that has the essential features to get the job done.
Synchs with FamilySearch Family Tree online.
Brothers Keeper [windows] shareware
Brothers Keeper is shareware (free to try, with voluntary payment therafter). With over 25 report options and the ability to import GEDCOM files, it does everything you need it to do. Its multigenerational chart is clean and easy to follow.
Note: there is NO Mac version of Brother's Keeper (unless you have a new Mac that can run in Windows mode).
Family Tree Builder [mac & windows] FREE+
Family Tree Builder has a user-friendly FREE version that creates beautiful charts and many types of reports. It offers full privacy control, easy GEDCOM import, and can synch with mobile.
Synchs with MyHeritage Family Trees and other tree sites.
Family Historian [windows]
Family Historian 7 (by Calico Pie Ltd) is award-winning software that is easy to navigate while packing some powerful tools to suit both beginners and experts. It also boasts an excellent support network.
Synchs with MyHeritage Family Trees and other tree sites.
Note: there is NO Mac version of Family Historian 7. Not smartphone compatible.
Gramps Project [linux, mac & windows] FREE
Gramps software is intuitive (for beginners) and rich in features (for professional genealogists) and best of all it's FREE! The only downside is that it does not integrate with any online database.
Heredis [linux, mac & windows]
Heredis is the most widely used family tree software in Europe and facilitates interaction between users on different platforms (windows, mac, linux). Well laid out, easy to navigate with easy-to-use buttons, good viewing options, and bookmarks. You can edit in the app itself and coordinate on the go researching on-site at a courthouse or family member. Good support on their website.
Synchs with FamilySearch
Legacy 9 (by FamilySearch) has good charts and a nice clean layout that makes it easy to focus on research. It has a FREE and deluxe version. While it has no option to save TXT, PDF, RTF, or DOC reports, it does export GEDCOM files.
MacFamilyTree allows you to change the views, select reports, and ways to export.
Reunion for Mac has an app that allows you to take your info on the go (on your iPhone or iPad). Its handy sidebar panel (with drag and drop features) facilitates source citation. At a glance you can see who has more in their ancestry (such as parents or children).
iFamily for Mac Main screen facilitates multiple views such as an extra window open offside
My Family Tree™ (the genealogy application for Windows®) comes free with Windows 10. It is quick and easy to use with comprehensive GEDCOM support. The charts are good and the family history timelines and interactive maps are a plus.
Roots Magic [mac & windows]
RootsMagic 8 offers a variety of easy-to-use software products to help you unite past, present, and future generations.
Features Colour coding by family | History icon (to pull up recent work) | Handy icons for info in a compact space and single screen adjustments.
DIY Family Trees
Got your own family history website and want to display your tree? There's help for that too...
Tribal Pages Family Trees facilitates the building and maintenance of your own family tree online.
It offers a FREE version that can be upgraded to premium as your needs grow.
The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding© ("TNG") helps you manage and display your family tree on your own website (all without generating any static HTML). Your pages are created on-demand from the information you store on a database. If you already have a family history website, then all you may need is TNG.
Got a story to share?
While most of the family may show little interest in genealogy, they do enjoy the narrative around an ancestor's story.
A unique and FREE way to share an ancestor's story is available online via Ireland Reaching Out.
Each ancestor gets their very own story page with a link for you to share (online or print out) and the added advantage of being discoverable by Google search by other researchers who may know more.
Got an Irish ancestor with a story to share? We'd love it if you added him/her to our Ancestors roll-call here: