Research Your Scottish Ancestry

Robert WilbanksGenealogy Software

by Robert M. Wilbanks IV, B.A.
Chief Genealogist & Historian, C.S.A.

I recently hinted at the idea of producing a ‘finalized’ family history story resulting from the extensive time and research you will have put into searching your genealogy. I’m not asking you to become a world renowned or Pulitzer Prize winning author, and you don’t even have to have professional writing skills and abilities. However, in a sense, you are the ‘world renown’ researcher of your family’s history. So, you need to get it out there for all the family to enjoy, creating a presentable story of the exploits, endurances, and experiences of the family that came before.

This isn’t necessarily the daunting task that you may be dreading. The genealogy secret to writing a reasonable family history can be summed up in one word . . . Software . . . Genealogy or Family Tree Software to be specific. There are a number of genealogy programs out there, and these programs, such as RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, Family Tree Maker, and more, have the ability to generate narrative reports (in addition to your basic pedigree charts), with decent sentence structure, citations and footnoting, even creating indexes of names and places. They can also create entire books, and even websites. You can usually have the option to save it as PDF file as a completed document, or you can save it as an RTF (Rich Text File) which will allow you to open it in your favorite word processing software and tweak it, insert photos and documents, change formatting, etc.

So, not only do you not have to fear writing your ancestor’s story and family history, but there are great tools out there that can make it easy and fun. These are also a great tool for organizing and keeping track of your research, and the family and history.

Just to clarify, I am not talking about subscription systems online that allow you to build your genealogy, such as,,, etc. While these are great systems and tools for your research, they can be very limiting in being able to control the information, adding information not found on their sites, writing more stories and history, and some don’t give you the ability to print or save as a PDF or some other format onto your computer outside the online subscription service.

Genealogy or family tree software are independent programs, similar to any other program or app that you would load onto your computer, laptop, notebook, etc., usually for a one-time fee with occasional free upgrades and updated versions every few years. Some of these programs are fairly easy to use, somewhat intuitive, yet can be complex. They are powerful in their record keeping, document and photo storage, citation generating, and many other features. Some now have the ability to interact with your online genealogy subscription accounts, including transferring information back and forth.

There are many programs out there, so the question is “Which one is right for you?” It can vary depending upon your computer skills, your genealogy research skills, if you wish to publish a book, or create a website from your data, etc., oh and if you are a Mac user. I recommend you do an internet search using keywords “top OR best genealogy software” for listings of different programs out there, including sites that compare or review software. TopTenReviews at annually does comparison reviews, and I found a Wikipedia page titled “Comparison of genealogy software”. And of course, you can also review software individually by name. Also, don’t forget, there are plenty of YouTube videos that review genealogy software, and also are instructional. This way you can see how it works and what you like.

I personally use RootsMagic at Other programs include: Legacy Family Tree at; Reunion for MacIntosh at; Ancestral Quest at; and many, many more. There are some free ones out there, and some of the ones above offer a free version to test and learn. It is a personal choice, so you will have to research and learn on your own as to which genealogy program is right for you.