This post is titled ‘The best place to keep your family tree safe’ and the key word here is ‘safe’. What do I mean by safe? I don’t mean safe from predators who want to steal your identity. Common sense internet ethics apply when doing genealogy research. Don’t publish anything that you don’t want other people to know. What I actually mean by ‘safe’ is making sure that all of your hard research doesn’t accidentally get lost in the internet ethos or in your computer files. Keeping your family tree up to date and saved in multiple places is just as important as doing the research itself.
There are so many websites and software programs out there that allow you to upload and save your family tree. Ancestry is probably the most well known, but they also have their own program called Family Tree Maker, which you can download onto your Mac or Windows computer. Then there’s the best Mac family tree program called MacFamilyTree, which is now up to it’s 7th version. Personally I don’t think that you can publish your family tree in enough places, until google searches of your family name retrieve your tree as the top results. You want to be easy for new researchers to find your family tree. But you also want to be able to have a centralized publishing program that will allow you to edit your tree as you find new information. Here are some of the ones I use and why:
Family Tree Maker
I don’t really use this to store or publish my tree. But it is by far the best program out there to create family charts and printable forms for all that pesky hard copy genealogy. I’m using this program to put all my research together for ICAP Gen. It’s really invaluable and worthy of the one-time cost.
This one is my favourite family tree application. It was the first one I ever used to store my family tree on my computer and while it has some drawbacks, it is the easiest to navigate and visualize. I have it open on my Mac all the time to reference as I go through FamilySearch and other websites to do research. Sometimes while you are flicking through one record to another you start to forget the name or dates that you’re actually looking for. Having MacFamilyTree on in the background helps with this. It also has some fun reports including the Distinctive Person Report and the statistics map that visualizes events based on the location of your ancestors at the time.
I’m not a big fan of their family tree uploading system. When you have almost 1000 individuals in your tree, things get complicated and while their system for filtering out incorrect information is great, it can also filter out correct information that just hasn’t been pulled from your GED file correctly. For example I recently had a lot of trouble going through the results of uploading my tree because individuals that I simply had no death date for were categorized as “living” and therefore invalid to be published on FamilySearch. Very irritating. But FamilySearch’s Family Tree is useful to connect actual records with your ancestors, without having to manually search for them by name. It is probably useful to note that MacFamilyTree has FamilySearch integration and will allow you to match individuals on FamilySearch without having to go through FamilySearch’s pesky Family Tree process.
Obviously ancestry.com is THE place you want to be publishing your family tree. Why? Because you can bet that 99% of first time family tree seekers are going to their website to search their last name and see if there’s anyone else out there who is related to them. Blame it on the billions of dollars they have and their magnificent advertising *wink*. But seriously, they’re really an awesome place to publish your tree and see the connection you have with countless others in the world. They also have a great record system, connections to the Ellis Island records so that you can save your ancestors immigration records and a wealth of information in census records and so much more. Most of their records are from the United States so if you’re American you’re in luck. But if you’re like me and all of your ancestors were from Italy, you’ll only really use Ancestry for the personal connection you can make with other researchers.
There are a lot of other family tree programs and websites, but the truth is, you’ll figure out for yourself which sites and programs are best for your family tree. Keep in mind that many of them come and go, an example of this was Geni which was acquired by MyHeritage, another start up heavily competing with Ancestry.