Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why Legacy?

I get a lot of questions about why I chose Legacy Family Tree as my genealogy database program so I thought I would talk about it a bit on the blog.  I do not work for Legacy Family Tree nor do I get any compensation for anything I say about it. 

I used Family Tree Maker (FTM) for many years starting with the very first version.  In 2007 Family Tree Maker completely changed their overall look and I just didn’t like it.  I tried Legacy’s free version and almost immediately upgraded to their full version.  For one thing, Legacy had a lot of built in error checkers that FTM didn’t have.  When I ran the ”potential problems” for the first time I was really surprised to see the number of errors it found.  Many of these were simple data entry errors but FTM hadn’t caught them.  It found a lot of standardization errors and I am all about uniformity and standardization.  It also caught more significant errors like women who had babies at age 6.  It has a county verifier so if you enter a place name where that specific county didn’t exist for the date that you also entered, it will tell you.  I spend many days just cleaning up my file.  I am not familiar with the current version of FTM so maybe they have error checkers now. 

Two of the most powerful features in Legacy that FTM didn’t have were their search and advanced tagging.  You can search for anything you can possibly think of within your file.  You can have as many search parameters that you want.  After you have done your search your can tag everyone that met the criteria on one of nine different tags.  A simple example would be a list of the males in your file that would have been alive and of the right age to have served in the Civil War.  You could then use that list on Fold3 to find their compiled services records.  I use the search and tagging all of the time. Another example is that  I can find everyone that is buried in a certain cemetery if I am planning to go out to that cemetery to get photos.   These are two simple examples but you can do very complex searching. Again, perhaps FTM has something like this now.

You can customize Legacy to your heart’s content.  You can pretty much get it to do whatever you want it to all the way down to customizing your event sentences so that your reports read out exactly like if you had hand typed them.  There are simple customizations you can do that will help you navigate through your file such as color coding and highlighting direct lines.  The program is very flexible.

Legacy has excellent customer support and they offer FREE webinars done by the top genealogists in the country.  Most of these are not Legacy specific but rather they cover general research techniques and strategies as well as very specific topics based on geographic location or record sets.  You can watch the webinars live as well as for 7 days after the presentation totally free of charge.  After that 7 day period you will need to pay to access them but I have never paid.  I put them on my calendar and I watch them during the free period.  To get an idea of what they have to offer, take a look at their list of Upcoming Webinars.

One thing that FTM does that Legacy does not do is that it interfaces with  This makes sense since owns FTM.  I don’t have my file on so this isn’t a problem for me at all.  As a matter of fact, I will say that being able to interface with is a big problem for a lot of researchers, specifically the newer ones that don’t have a lot of experience.  FTM/ encourages you to upload and download information to and from trees that haven’t been properly sourced.  You can easily fill up your file with a lot of junk.  If you are an experienced researcher then this isn’t near as much of a problem because you know better than to accept  anything you see on blind faith. 

Legacy, RootsMagic and Ancestral Quest all interface with FamilySearch’s Family Tree.  They are the only three programs that have been certified by FamilySearch to have this kind of access.  This interface has the same pitfalls as the one does. It is easy to upload and download information that hasn’t been verified and sourced.  However, I do like the concept of Family Tree better.  FamilyTree is a single unified tree that everyone contributes to.’s public member and private member trees are a collection of a gazillion individual trees.  I like to be able to search for a person and see everything that everyone has on that one person in one place but that is just me.  This is totally a personal preference thing.

One thing that I would like to mention is that I do have RootsMagic on my computer.  I had a client that had RootsMagic and wanted me to help him clean up his file.  It was much easier for me to work with him within RootsMagic itself so that no data was lost during GEDCOM transfers.  I just don’t like it as well as Legacy. I don’t think it is near as easy to navigate through people and their data entry screens are harder to use, in my opinion.  RootsMagic has a free version.  It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles but it will give you a good idea of how the program works. 

I also have Heredis on my computer.  I bought it when it was on sale for $10.00.  This one is out of  France and I actually really like it.  The biggest drawbacks are that it doesn’t have citation templates like the top US programs do, it doesn’t have the powerful error checkers and it doesn’t have any sort of built in research calendar/log  but it is a really good program.  It has an easy to navigate data entry screens and it produces quality reports and charts.  It has all of the major features that you would need.   Heredis does have a trial period so that you can evaluate it.

I have never used The Master Genealogist so I can’t really give much of a review.  I do know that its strength is being able to customize everything, or at least that is what the users say.  It does have a 30 day free trial so I should probably take a look at it so that I at least know the basics.  I did go through their guided tour video and I have to say that I like Legacy’s data entry screens better.

Another program that I haven’t personally worked with is Ancestral Quest.  I give it some brownie points for being certified to interface with FamilySearch.  Obviously it has to be a pretty okay program or FamilySearch would not have given it the green light.  It has a totally free version just like Legacy and RootsMagic do.  I probably need to download the free version just so that I know what it has to offer.

What don’t I like about Legacy?  I wish their to-do list looked more like a traditional research calendar.  I wish that they had Polish characters.  I wish they they had a spellchecker that worked as you are typing, or at the very least, a global spellchecker.  I wish you could have two files open at the same time.  They do have a “split view” but it has serious limitations. 

Deciding which program is best for you is a very personal decision.  The features that are essential to me may not matter to you.  You might think a certain feature is a must have and I might think that feature isn’t important at all.  Between free trials and free lite versions you can try all of them out yourself except for FTM.  FTM neither offers a free trial nor a free lite version which I really don’t like.  I might have given FTM another look if it wasn’t for that.

I will be sticking with Legacy though I might use one of the other programs for very specific purposes.   

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. I use the free version of Legacy and love it! I haven't felt the need to use any other genealogy database program because it is sufficient enough for me. But I do keep my family tree on as a backup, to attract cousins and so that I can get hint notifications.

  2. The free version is a full version. It isn't shareware and it has no ads. The only thing it doesn't have are the advanced bells and whistles. Most of these bells and whistles just make your life easier, they aren't essential to doing good research. Good research is dependent on the person, not the genealogy program.

  3. Have you updated to Legacy 8 yet? I keep putting it off because I'm afraid to lose information. If I update it, will my family tree still be there or will I have to upload the GED file?

  4. Legacy 8 isn't out yet though Geoff Rassmussen has been teasing us with screen shots and explanations of the new features. It will be out before the end of the year but we are hoping it comes out before then :) When you update, there will be no lose of information because it will be Legacy to Legacy. However, it is always prudent to back up your file before you update to a new version. Once your file is converted you will not be able to open it using an older version of Legacy.

  5. Judy,

    I'm so glad to read your ringing endorsement of Legacy Family Tree. I too have been using it, since 2009, and I've been very happy with it. But I've wondered if the grass is really greener and if I should use some other program, like RootsMagic or TMG. I've been reluctant to check them out because I've spent so much time learning how to use Legacy effectively. I don't want to spend all the time needed to learn another program. I'd rather spend that time doing research!

    Now with your review, I can rest easy that Legacy is fine, and I can get back to my research!

  6. I used to use Legacy and now use RootsMagic (though I'll probably upgrade to 8--sure like the look of it from the teasers Geoff has shown). Both programs have features that the other doesn't. The main reason I switched to RootsMagic was the Research Notes Report and the Research notes comments. I couldn't find a way to do the same thing in Legacy. So with the Research Notes comments, I am able to write about the source, what it looks like, what is correct, what is not, what I learned from the source, etc. and can then print out a Research Notes Report that summaries my research on that person. I learned about this on the TGF list from Elizabeth Shown Mills. What I don't like about most programs is you have to click so many times to get to where your notes are. I wish there was a simple way to view what you have on a person by clicking on them. You can view a person in their timeline on RootsMagic and then edit from there. That is nice.

  7. Yes, RootsMagic's research log is much more comprehensive and integrated than Legacy's to-do list. I am hoping that this is one of the things that Legacy updated in version 8.