Genealogy Software: Should I Be Committed?

March 24, 2011

Finding your perfect genealogy software matchShould I be committed? Probably. You’d have to ask my family, who has to put up with endless genealogy conversations. Or ask my co-workers. (But it’s a good thing I work in a related field where research is appreciated.) I’d hate to think what would happen to my career if I were, say, a brain surgeon. Talking about death records and cemeteries while holding a scalpel would probably be frowned upon.

On second thought, don’t talk to anyone who knows me. Anyway, that’s not the type of commitment I’m talking about. It’s the other kind of commitment, the kind where you choose “the one” and commit till death do you part. It’s been almost a year now, and it really is time. I’m talking, of course, about choosing a genealogy program. What did you think I was talking about?

The first obstacle I encountered in my search for true genealogy software love is that my primary computer is a Mac. Having a Mac is not the problem; finding genealogy software for Macs just seems to limit one’s options. Or maybe it’s me — I just don’t like the Mac software that’s available.

Here’s what I’ve tried so far. If you have an opinion (because there is such a shortage of opinion on the internets) on any of the software, please leave me a comment. I really do want to know what more experienced researchers think!

  • MacFamilyTree: This was the first program I bought. It’s OK, but it’s not very pretty. And I must have pretty. Call me shallow. There’s also a learning curve. I don’t want to learn software, I want to research.
  • Reunion: Too expensive, and I’m too cheap. Although given what I’ve spent trying out all the other software I could have easily bought Reunion. I’m going to be really peeved if Reunion turns out to be “the one.” (Read Family Tree Magazine‘s review of Reunion 9 here.)
  • Family Tree Maker for Mac: I waited (im)patiently for the Mac version of Family Tree Maker to be released last fall. I was sure this would be the answer to all my genealogical prayers, and I was so excited when it finally arrived. Unfortunately, although it’s better looking than MacFamilyTree, it has an even steeper learning curve, and it seems clunky. Even the integration with (where the bulk of my research currently resides) doesn’t outweigh the clunkiness factor. I’d rather spend my time researching than trying to make my genealogy program behave. (Read Family Tree Magazine’s review of Family Tree Maker for Mac here.)
  • RootsMagic: Then I heard you could run RootsMagic, which is a Windows program, on a Mac with some “helper” software. I wasn’t real crazy about paying for two pieces of software, but I decided to try it anyway. Surprisingly, I like RootsMagic much better. It’s easy to start entering the basics immediately and go back later to pick up all the bells and whistles. On the downside though, I’m having occasional problems with slowness and other hang-ups. I’m not sure if the helper program is to blame or RootsMagic itself, but it’s quite annoying. And annoying doesn’t really work for me long-term. (Read Family Tree Magazine‘s review of RootsMagic 4 here.)

So there you have it. Commit or be committed. Possibly both at this point. What are your thoughts? Have you found “the one” yet?


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Nancy Shively of Skiatook, OK. Read all her posts at Family Tree University.

18 thoughts on “Genealogy Software: Should I Be Committed?

  1. I do have Reunion 8. I did not realize that Reunion had upgraded to Reunion 9. I have used Reunion 8 since about 2004 after I purchased my iBook. I did use Family Tree Maker (Mac Version) on my iMac, but I absolutely love Reunion. It is basically an index card system. You can add pictures if you wish and if you want to print out information, Reunion works very well with Microsoft Word.

  2. What Windows emulator are you using to run RootsMagic?

    I recently made the switch from a PC to a Mac, and I’m using RootsMagic via Crossover. I’m very happy with it so far (and it wasn’t all that expensive…there’s a 30-day free trial too).

  3. I’m using Crossover too. I think it’s down to Roots Magic and Reunion and since I’ve already paid for RM I’ll probably stay with it. Don’t you love your Mac? I’m a total Apple convert now.

  4. I’ve been a Mac user since the Apple IIe first came out and am currently on an iMac 24″.
    Love it. I have been committed to REUNION since it first showed up, transferring all my records from Family Roots which went bust. I have never been sorry. Initially the cost might be a factor but for the long run it really pays off. It is quite intuitive which goes along well with the Mac. Very functional; set up to your own liking, copy/paste, add pictures, and probably more that I can not think of because I use it automaticlly. Adding to this the manual, the updates and great support I think it is THE ONE for any Mac user.
    Take this wisdom from an 86 year old grandmother.

  5. I use Reunion 8. I upgraded to Reunion 9, but I reversed it later. 9 was no great improvement over 8. I used FTM (my first software was Family Origins, hwich is no longer available) when I had my PC, but Reunion is a whole lot easier and better. It takes a bit to get used to, but it’s much better

  6. As a long-time PC user, it took a lot of pressure from my adult son to get me to switch. The Mac laptop is great. The only problem is the lack of software that the PC had available to it.

  7. I purchased Reunion 9c two weeks ago and am very, very pleased with the program and support. I was able to import a GEDCOM file from Family Tree Maker for PC without any problems. I, too, looked at FTM for the Mac but did not like the fact that if you want to use their iPad application you must store your family data on I just received my iPad2, purchased Reunion for iPad ($14.99) at the App Store and synced up my family files, all done in less than three minutes. I am very happy to have converted to Apple.

  8. You can download a free demo version of Reunion at:

    I’m currently using version 9 and have used Reunion since at least version 5. I wouldn’t use anything else! I love it! Leisterpro is very supportive of the software and one can subscribe to their interactive mail list. They encourage ideas for improvements and incorporate as many as possible.

    By the way, the website cited above was created by Reunion. I’ve also recently completed 6 volumes of a family history of my father’s side. The volumes were created using the reports features in Reunion automatically exported to MS Word (or Pages, whatever you set as the default word processing software within Reunion) and then tweaked as I wanted. I could send a .pdf copy of one of the volumes if you waned to see what can be done with Reunion.

    All the best,

  9. Try iFamily for Leopard. It’s by far the best genealogy program for the Mac that I’ve seen. It concentrates on the individual, not the couple, is very visual and Mac-like, and is inexpensive: currently $29.95 US.

    Download it from the website:

    You get a free trial before you buy.

    I too was disappointed with Family Tree Maker for Mac, having used iFamily for a couple of years. FTM’s integration with is a definite plus, but the clunkiness factor is huge.

  10. That’s five for Reunion.

    G.E.Kingsbury- you and my dad! He’s 83 and been a Mac user almost as long as you have. My first computer was a hand-me-down from him. Then I went to a PC for 10 years. Came back to a Mac last year and so glad I did!

    Bill Wilson- Glad to hear I’m not the only one who thinks FTM for Mac is clunky. I’ll definitely take a look at iFamily.

    Karen C.- I’m so jealous….I want an iPad. Not in the budget right now. :(

  11. When my PC crashed in 2006, I was using FTM, it was okay. I went with a Mac and decided it was better to use Reunion 8. I went with the upgrade to Reunion 9 which I believed made it vastly better and with the upgrades that Leister has every so often, I think it’s a great program. I would never go back to FTM or PCs, for that matter. Additionally, I use Reunion for iPhone and iPad, and could not be happier. If other programs require workarounds i.e. emulators, you’ll be spending your time managing those instead of your family tree.

  12. Here’s number 6 for Reunion. I started with a Commodore 128 using Superbase, then switched to Scion for the Commodore Amiga 1200. Scion was the first one I had to create family trees using boxes and able to create a Gedcom file for transferring to Family, but was limited to nine generations. We bought an eMac in 2003 and did a lot of research on genealogy software for the Mac. I started with Reunion as soon as I found it and downloaded the demo file. You’re right, $100 was high, but I’ve never been disappointed! Upgrades are free and support is great! I’m up to to version 9.0c. I was able to email my Gedcom file to my wife from the Amiga and had NO problems downloading the file to Reunion.
    I especially like being able create different family trees and up to now was able to keep the tree on one page (17 in all), plus if you put pictures on individual cards, they print out on the tree. A cousin just found two generations (I now have ten) and the tree has gotten more completed.
    Sorry for being so wordy, but I think Reunion is the best software no matter what platform you use.

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  14. I’ve been using Reunion 8 for a number of years. I purchased it right after I caught the genealogy “bug” and found it pretty straight forward to use. I have also found that it has many features that I haven’t used, so when I run into one of those I often think, “Wow, I could have been doing this for all this time!” I am not a subscriber to and so don’t have any experience in syncing the two files together.

  15. Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Its pretty much between Roots Magic and Reunion right now. Hoping to get some time this weekend to play with both and make a decision.

  16. Does anyone want to sell their old Reunion 8? I did not upgrade after my upgrade to Mac OS 10.4 and now my old Reunion v.2 (I think) won’t open. I’m searching for a used copy of v.8. I found one on Amazon but the guy canceled my order right when he was supposed to ship. I’m unemployed and have time to work on the family history but can’t open the files I have, and have lots more information to enter in.


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