Source Citations & Genealogy Software

As with all genealogists, it started as a simple hobby. Mostly out of curiosity. Over time, I became more serious. I took a certification course and attended my first genealogy conference. I even told myself, someday I might expand my hobby to become a professional genealogist in my retirement years. Twenty more years to go.

I have been writing posts for my genealogy blog for two years now. I started this project primarily to capture what I had learned through my years of research. It’s me practicing, you see. To articulate their story. It’s the next phase of any research. What’s the point of collecting dead people if you don’t report what you learned? I have no delusions of grandeur, I promise. But writing about one person a week sure beats writing for an entire month on the whole shebang. And I hate finding family manuscripts or county histories with no source citations. I will not be that family historian.

My spare time this week (my hobby time) has been spent on trying to re-organize my records, specifically my source citations. The certification course taught me how disorganized I really was. I already had neatly organized folders. I have a database (or two, or three, who’s counting?) I have memberships with genealogical societies and online databases. I can find the answer to any ancestral question within minutes. I have copies of all the records that support my assertions along with notes. But my source citations are a mess. doesn’t really help either, those little leaves are the devil.

Enter software. I have been using three; Family Tree Maker (Ancestry online), Heredis, and Mac FamilyTree. They all have their pros and cons, but if anyone were to ask me which one I recommend, I would have to say Family Tree Maker. However, here are my caveats: unless you…
a) have aspirations of being more than an “idle hobby genealogist”, and
b) are very proficient (nearing expert) with a computer and are not afraid of new software, or
c) are already a good genealogist with just paper records or a small database.

Sure, you can import a GEDCOM file from one software to another software. But anyone who has ever done this will tell you that it’ll muck up sources and place names, and a few other itty bitty things you won’t find until you stumble across it. And it won’t import images if you do that sort of thing.

If I had to start from scratch with a digital database today, I would say Heredis. I like their interface between multiple platforms. What does that mean?

Well. You buy Heredis one time. You load it onto your computer and create your database and save it to the cloud (any cloud). Then you load the free companion app on your tablet (I use iPad) and sync the app to your “shared local network” or Heredis cloud. If you want to, you can make it available online either publicly or privately, for viewing from any computer. This is handy for sharing with other non-Heredis users and does not require viewers to create a user profile. But this is for viewing only, you can not edit records this way. Syncing across platforms is clunky, so that’s why I would only recommend it to a proficient to expert computer user.

Yes, yes, it sounds just like (minus the membership fee and making a user profile). But…I like how it feels on my iPad better than Ancestry. With the Ancestry app, you can only look at one view at a time; either the family (parent, spouse, child), the individuals facts, or the sources. With Heredis, you can see the list of all the people in your database, the person’s grandparents, parents, spouse, and children – all in one screen. Ancestry app is clunky. The Heredis app is comfortable. Also, it is much more user-friendly to take to libraries or courthouses and enter information on-the-spot from scratch. It seems Ancestry would prefer you use their database for sources, as I have not been able to figure out how to add sources manually using the iPad app.

Screen captures of Heredis on iPad.

It’s great for catching up on my source citations too. Unlike Family Tree Maker and Mac Family Tree, Heredis can open sources in a new window so you can simultaneously see the person you are working on and your whole source list. You can update the sources in the new window also. This makes it easier to update/correct sources one person at a time without having to navigate back and forth between screens.

Heredis uses pop-up windows to create and manage sources while keeping the main screen on the person you are working on.

Screen captures of Heredis for Mac.

Heredis online.

No, this is not a plug for Heredis. I am not being paid for my thoughts. Though I could write all day about it. It’s just my preference. So, no ancestral article this week. But for the sake of keeping up with practice, here is my post.