Get with the program - sounds easy doesn't it?
For a real look into the future check out the video on this page:
Currently this is only for MAC users, but I hope one comes out for us ordinary PC users.
Some things to consider for any software are:
- which offer the most useful features (eg. reports, charts etc)
- how easy they are to use
- which offer the best resources for the country you will be researching
- what level of privacy can you assign to the tree
- is the program compatible with your PC
- can you generate a GEDCOM file (very important!)
- support offered
On the web here are some sites (there are lots more) you may want to look at:
Find my Past
Working on the web can be easy, and the link it provides with the website can make your research easier, Ancestry hits are a good example of this. You must be sure that you can keep information private though, particularly when recording information about living people in the family. For this reason, many people don't put living people into these types of files.
You can't really customise these types of family trees either, which I have found to be a disadvantage with them, they tend to be a bit inflexible. The most successful website programs seem to be the simplest, but that is offset by the lack of complexity in the program. Consider also, if you only keep your family tree on one site, you may miss potential connections (this is a reason for any program you use to be able to generate gedcom files).
If you decide to look at a piece of software for your own PC, you will need to decide whether you want to pay for the software. A good way to start, is to download a free version (which most seem to have) and get started, then when you are a bit more confident you can pay for a more extensive version if you want to. (This is what I did, and once I started to really get into my research I paid the small amount for all the 'extras', but I could just as easily stayed on the original program.)
Here are some to consider, but by no means is this a full list:
Legacy Family Tree
Family Tree Builder
Family Tree Maker
I found the advantage with starting on my own PC was the flexibility, it was easy to delete incorrect information, add tags (eg. all the Irish family), use colour coding, back it up and save it to disk so that the information is never lost, and organise and analyse my information. Desk top programs have to do lists and research logs, so that you can come back to your research at any time and understand what you have done and where you are up to, what you need to do next.
Possibly, the most important thing about this type of program is that you can share your information easily with anyone in the family.
I found a Research List that lists all the features, costs etc and compares many of the software programs available, it may help you make a decision.
The best advise I can give is that features you don't think you will ever use - you will use. A good example of this with the program I use (Legacy) is searching and tagging. It has a very sophisticated search function, and through this I was able to generate a list of anyone born in Ireland, then tag them all. From here I was able to use the list to look through Ancestry when it had free Irish records online, and it took me a very small amount of time compared to the time it would have taken me without the search and tag systems.