Where to build your family tree?

Before talking about the portals and programs for building a family tree – those available both on the Internet and possible to be installed on a computer, it is worth passing a few words about what connects them, namely GEDCOM.

What is GEDCOM?

GEDCOM (an acronym standing for Genealogical Data Communication) is an open de facto specification for exchanging genealogical data between different genealogy software. GEDCOM was developed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) as an aid to genealogical research.

It is very important to remember that when we create a tree and save it in the GEDCOM format by trying one program, it will be easy for us to transfer it to any other one.

Collecting genealogical information about your family, it is usually quite late reflection to store and organize it as part of a genealogy program – information base. And it is the organization of that data at the earliest stages of discovering a family history that may be necessary to be able to move freely among hundreds or thousands of entries about our ancestors in the future. Programs and genealogical portals also give the opportunity to generate a graphical version of the family tree, thanks to which it will be easier for us to present it to the family history or explain complicated relationships. What programs to use? Below there are some suggestions from our side as polish users, so from polish genealogy point of view.

ONLINE bases and portal, family tree on the Internet:

1. Anectsry.com

– probably the most popular online genealogy portal on the web. You can create your family tree here, as well as store family documents or family photos. In addition, as part of the portal, one of the largest databases of digitized documents in the world (about 20 billion scans) can be used. These materials are primarily associated with the residents of the United States, but slowly spread throughout the world. We can also search for documents from Australia, Great Britain and China; there are also materials from Poland. Here, too, we can order a genealogical DNA test that will compare its results with the data we have entered into our family tree – within this portal.

The way of entering data into the tree being built is very intuitive. Facts about subsequent people are displayed both on the chart and in sub-pages related to individual family members. Below there is an example of a family tree created on ancestry.com:

Source 1. Internet portal https://www.ancestry.com/. (March 21, 2019)

An interesting tool of the portal is the so-called smart match. This function consists in the fact that if the portal detects information or parts of a tree that is identical or similar with other users – it will inform us about it. Thanks to this we will have the opportunity to contact closer or further relatives, as well as to supplement information about our ancestors that are in the bases of other family members. Currently, around 100 million trees have been introduced into the portal – this number may raise serious hopes for new finds.

Working with ancestry.com, we also use hints. Thanks to this tool, the portal compares the data of people entered into our family tree with the documentation stored in the ancestry.com resource. If it finds a link, it informs us about the possibility of assigning new documents to the history of our ancestor. Ancestry.com with all its functions is also available as a phone app.

Nevertheless the portal is not free of charge. After 2 weeks of the free trial period, the option of further use is payable (monthly – 35 USD or an annual subscription – 149 USD) – in case of international user.

2. Familysearch.com

– another big “player” on the western market of the genealogy industry. The website is distinguished by its availability in 10 language versions. This portal is completely free – starting from creating an account, through the ability to use a powerful database of digitized documentation and indexes. The graphics are very clear, and when adding data to each subsequent person, the portal automatically verifies that this person is already available in the database of entered records within the entire portal (and there are as many as 1.2 billion, which gives huge comparative possibilities). Below there is an example of a tree on Familysearch.com:

Source 2. Internet portal https://www.familysearch.org/en/. (March 21, 2019)

3. Myheritage.com

– popular in Poland, another worldwide genealogical internet portal – giving the opportunity to create your ancestor chart online. It has 42 language versions, including Polish. It also contains its database of digitized documentation. It is useful for the Polish genealogy researcher – it has taken over such Polish genealogical databases as bliscy.pl or moikrewni.pl as part of their resources. It has 92 million registered users worldwide. We can find here similar tools as in the case of ancestry.com regarding smart match and record matches. A sample tree on MyHeritage:

Source 3. Internet portal https://www.myheritage.pl/. (March 21, 2019)

The basic version gives the possibility of introducing up to 250 people on a tree. Admittedly, as mentioned above, there is the smart matches function, but without buying a premium version, we are not able to contact the administrator of the tree with which we have connections with. The subscription is annual, and the prices are up to around 10 USD/ month. My heritage has its own mobile version, as well as – off line, more about it in the second part of the article.

4. GENI.com

– GENI is a portal that in its mission has above all creation of all humanity family tree. As of today, the base includes about 128 million people. There are also profiles of people known from history, we can verify whether we are anyhow related to one of the US presidents or to Maria Curie-Skłodowska. The portal is available in Polish. What is important from the user’s perspective is that as part of the free account version there are no restrictions as to the number of people entered into our family tree. On the other hand, it is not possible to search other users in the trees. However, there are ways to bypass this page – by entering Google search engine: name and surname of the person you are looking for and dates associated with the person, as well as adding the word GENI. This procedure will allow us to move to the desired profile, thanks to which we will be able to examine a specific tree. Full access to GENI costs about 150 USD / year. Below the GENI interface:

Source 4. Internet portal https://www.geni.com/. (March 21, 2019)

OFF – LINE, so a family tree on your computer

Off-line programs are chosen by users for essentially two reasons: they allow you to create and manage our family tree without having access to the Internet. The second important point is the matter of publicly sharing the family data we have. Although the portals and programs available on the Internet make it possible for us to control who and how much can see within the profile and tree that we create, it does not convince everyone. Below are a few program proposals that we can install on our computers:

Drzewo genealogiczne 2.0 

– program highly rated by Polish users. According to the authors, it is recommended for intermediate and advanced genealogists.

The program contains many useful tools and additional functions: family form, automatic creation of family trees, the ability to add multimedia files, application of unique technology for group photo description, attaching data sources with the assessment of their credibility, creating monographs, anniversary calendar reminiscent of important dates: birthdays, name-day and anniversaries, website generation in HTML format, templates of genealogy sheets in PDF and DOC format, statements and statistical data, numerous reports, and natural support for the GEDCOM format. This application gives you a wide range of possibilities to customize the design of collections, reports and views of family trees. Below there is a main window of the genealogical tree that is created in the outline:

Source 5. Program website http://www.drzewo-genealogiczne.pl/o-programie.html. (March 21, 2019)

One of the most important advantages of the program is service in Polish, as well as the possibility of transparent presentation of complicated family affinities. The demo version gives the possibility of introducing up to 50 people. The full, paid license is 200 PLN (once).


– one of the most popular free programs for building and managing a family tree. It is available in many languages, including Polish letters. There are no limits as for the number of people entered and records stored. In its scope, it gives you the ability to generate various types of tables, charts and reports. In addition, the program offers the function of detecting genealogical errors – it will note when instead of 1824, we enter 1248. As of today, the most current version is 2.99g (updated on 11/02/2019). The view of the tree:

Source 6. From the program website https://www.ahnenblatt.com/screenshots.html. (March 21, 2019)

Despite its very simple graphics, the program is extremely intuitive and user-friendly. Below there is an example of a family tree generated as part of the program:

Source 7. Private archive – Kinga Urbańska.

Family Tree Builder 

– created by the above mentioned MyHeritage. Probably one of the most popular programs of this type in the world. It supports content in 40 languages – including Polish. An important aspect is also the ability to synchronize the tree with an account created online. It includes, among other things, the ability to add photos, documents and videos, and organize them in albums, as well as the task wizard. It is equipped with face recognition technology in pictures, as well as in the function of creating reports and charts. An interesting tool is also allowing the location of people on the map on the tree. By deciding to synchronize the program with an online account, you can use Smart Matching. In addition, there is so-called Smart Research – comparing our family tree in one hundred other online genealogy sites.

Below there is the main program window:

Source 8. Private archive – Kinga Urbańska.

Of course, there are many more programs and genealogical portals on the market – we can use, among others, Brother’s keeper, My Family Tree, Family Tree Maker, Personal Ancestral File (PAF) – a program created by FamilySearch.com, GenoPro, Legacy Family Tree, Find My Past, Family Historian, or Family Tree Now.

Family tree ONLINE and OFFLINE - conclusion

Everyone will surely find the application in line with their expectations. In our opinion, we believe that the simpler the better. It is also worth knowing too that you shouldn’t be too afraid of building your genealogical tree on – line. Internet portals give the possibility of limiting or removing the access to our family information at all by third parties. On the other hand, the data that we place on the Internet will be protected against the likelihood of losing them as a result of damage to the physical memory of the computer. The most important is to create a GEDCOM file – this will give us the opportunity to verify any programs, avoiding the need to enter the same information once again.