Modern Software Experience


Best of 2009

GeneAwards 2009


Genealogy 2009 provides a look back at some of the events, companies and products that shaped the year in genealogy.
Here, without further ado, are the GeneAwards 2009.

GeneAward Best Product 2009

Best Genealogy Product of 2009: RootsMagic 4

RootsMagic 4 is a Unicode-based rebuild of RootsMagic that provides a solid foundation for its many features. There are some complaints, such as a few somewhat unresponsive items in a generally fast application and a poor GEDCOM import log, but the overall product quality is high.

The user interface sports new database views, a collapsible sidebar to ease navigation, a groups feature, support for alternate names, EE-style citations and DNA tests. RootsMagic To-Go lets you take RootsMagic and your data and run it from an USB stick.

RootsMagic 4 is the best all-round desktop genealogy application available today. RootsMagic 4 is quite affordable, but its latest improvement is that RootsMagic Essentials, which includes all the core features of RootsMagic Standard Edition, is available as a free download.

GeneAward Best New Product 2009

Best New Genealogy Product of 2009: 1911 Census

Not only is the 1911 Census of England and Wales arguably the most anticipated new resource introduced this year, a carefully phased introduction ensured that the site did not buckle under the predictable rush of genealogist eager to check out their recent ancestors, and a blog kept everyone up to date with their progress.

honourable mention: MyBlood

MyBlood 1.0 seems to have gone 1.0 a bit too early, and I do not consider it recommendable yet, but it is a serious improvement on the MyBlood Alpha. It is a fairly complete, Unicode-based cross-platform genealogy application that compares well to Family Tree Maker.

GeneAward Best Organisation 2009

Best Genealogy Organisation of 2009: Footnote

Footnote simply did what it should be doing; continue to enlarge and improve its collections. It introduced the interactive census for 1930, and later announced it will make all USA census available this way.
Footnote also worked with the USA National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to make the Holocaust Collection available.

Often, new collections are briefly available for free. An issue with footnote is that they are a bit spam-happy.

Special Recognition 2009

GeneAward Special Recognition 2009

Most Surprising Product of 2009: GenealogyCloud

GenealogyCloud is is a new product of OneGreatFamily. It is a web database service, but one specifically for genealogy databases. What makes GenealogyCloud intriguing is that it is not just a new genealogy product, but a new genealogy product category. It is a ready-made database back-end for web genealogy applications that includes all the features of OneGreatFamily.

Asked about it, OneGreatFamily claimed that quite a few desktop genealogy vendors had expressed interest in GenealogyCloud, but so far, no vendor has announced GenealogyCloud support.

GeneAward Special Recognition 2009

Most Improved Product of 2009: RootsMagic

RootsMagic is not just the best application of 2009, it is also the most improved application of 2009. Version 4 introduces so many new features that you might think it is version 5.

Almost every aspect of RootsMagic has been improved. It has become Unicode-based, it has become portable, it has more views, even easier navigation, more flexible reporting, many new features large and small, and a free edition.

honourable mention: Behold

Behold is still in Beta and definitely not release quality yet, but has improved considerably; it has been upgraded to Unicode, and is now about six times as fast and considerably less memory-hungry than earlier versions.

Worst of 2009

Worst Genealogy Product of 2009: MyHeritage Family Tree Builder 4.0

Family Tree Builder is a dated code-page design. GEDCOM import is fast, but not reliable, there is no import log, and the quality of the post-import log is poor. Family Tree Builder is slow to start up, memory-hungry and too unresponsive to be used with anything but toy-sized databases.

Family Tree Builder isn’t a great genealogy application, but many genealogy applications suffer from the aforementioned and similar issues, and Family Tree Builder is not the only application to show little fundamental improvement between two officially major versions either.

What really earns Family Tree Builder the dubious honour of the GeneAward for Worst Genealogy Product of 2009 are its many installation and start-up issues.

The recommended default installation is invasive. Upon installation it hijacks your browser’s home page and default search engine. It installs another product without telling you. It configures four things to run at Windows start-up - again without asking your permission or even telling you. Family Tree Builder phones home every time you start it, and there is no way to turn that off. It also starts your browser to show an advert every time you start it.

The wording of several dialog boxes is less than open and honest and most of the recommended options are not best for you, but best for MyHeritage.

Family Tree Builder prompts you to upload your data every time you open a project - and not by presenting a Yes/No dialog, but by always checking an option to upload; if you carelessly choose the Next button without unchecking that checkbox first, Family Tree Builder will upload your data to

dishonourable mention: USA Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait

A dishonourable mention goes the USA Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait. This new product is less capable than the application they released four years earlier, it is user-unfriendly, remarkably slow, and lacks consistency checks. It is a waste of taxpayer’s money.

Worst Genealogy Organisation of 2009: MyHeritage

Judging by their behaviour this past year, several organisations seem eager to receive this award, but one company is considerably more deserving of this dishonour than the rest. MyHeritage has truly gone out of its way to deserve this award, and not just because their web site is slow.

Early this year, MyHeritage proudly boasted how fantastic their improved search engine is - but even now, close to a year later, it still works in Internet Explorer only. What good is a web search engine that does not work in real web browsers?

In December of 2008, MyHeritage lowered the limits for maintaining a free account from 1000 to 500 individuals, forcing many users to choose between either paying them or abandoning the service. In July of this year, MyHeritage lowered the free limit again, from 500 to 250 individuals, again trying to force members lured with promises of a free account into paying.

To make sure that Family Tree Builder 3 would seem to have received an award, MyHeritage marketing almost immediately rated their own software on a download site, and then later presented the resulting automatic Best Software badge for the five-star average they had fabricated with their single five-star rating of their own software as an consciously given award, and their own self-congratulating description as text written by the download site.
After I exposed this scam in MyHeritage wins Awards?, MyHeritage removed mention of the award without giving the same attention to the removal as they gave to the ostensible award, and did so in a way that makes it seem there was never anything there.

All this makes MyHeritage seem incompetent, untrustworthy and dishonest already, but what truly solidifies MyHeritage’s position as the Worst Genealogy Organisation of 2009 is the deliberate creation, distribution and deceptive promotion of Family Tree Builder 4.0.
That is malevolent.

dishonourable mention: receives a dishonourable mention for the Big Disconnect; after repeatedly promising and boasting that the basic service would always be free, limited member access anyway.
Angry users took to GenSoftReviews, and’s average rating there plummeted.

dishonourable mention: FamilySearch

FamilySearch has been neglecting its responsibilities as keeper of the GEDCOM standard. It has not released a new version in more than a decade. FamilySearch has not even bothered to keep the GEDCOM site running, and the latest version of the specification is not available on their own site either.

FamilySearch hasn’t done anything to maintain PAF in years. Not only has the feature set been frozen, FamilySearch has not bothered to fixed defects and shortcomings either. Although aware of defects and shortcomings, it keeps pushing PAF on unsuspecting visitors.
FamilySearch is not just providing a download of the latest versions for those who search for it, it promoting PAF to gain new users. Although they do not maintain PAF, although it contains known defects, FamilySearch keeps promoting it to all visitors through nothing less than large and prominent placement on their home page.

dishonourable mention: FamilyLink

That FamilyLink did not just hire one of the former Pearl Street Software owners who left their paying Family Tree Legends customers bungling without support or upgrades, but actually boasted about hiring him, did raise a few eyebrows.

FamilyLink gets a dishonourable mention for making promises it does not deliver on, for its April 1 joke, for its GenealogyWise censorship and for being incredibly spam-happy.

Not-so Special Recognition 2009

Vapourware 2009: GenSeek

The Vapourware Award 2009 goes to FamilyLink’s continually delayed and postponed The promised revolution will happen Real Soon Now.

not awarded

Once again, Best New Genealogy Organisation and Worst New Genealogy Organisation have not been awarded. Worst New Genealogy Product has not been awarded either.


2009-12-31: most improved

RootsMagic is both the best and the most improved product of 2009. Yesterday’s text presented these two achievement under just one heading, but caused misunderstanding regarding Behold’s honourable mention. The two achievements are presented separately now, as they should be, as both are deserving of recognition.

2010-01-02: GenSoftReviews User Choice Awards 2009

GenSoftReviews just introduced the GenSoftReviews User Choice Awards, for products that received high marks from their users. I’ve calculated GenSoftReviews rankings in 2008 and 2009. This list is presented by GenSoftReviews itself. The list of Best Liked Genealogy Software for 2009 is led by RootsMagic.


Ancestry has acquired Footnote, see Buying Spree.


The GenSeek site is defunct. The broken link has been removed.

2011-08-18 Footnote renamed Fold3

Ancestry has renamed Footnote to Fold3, see Ancestry renames Footnote to Fold3. The Footnote link has been updated.



honourable mentions


RootsMagic 4


dishonourable mentions


Family Tree Builder 4.0