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2,396 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

Choosing software for your One-Name Study


With any One-Name Study a method of storing your findings is necessary. The Guild does not specify any one method of keeping your information, because there are many ways of keeping that information. Most people come into the Guild having first collected information on their own family, be it on paper on in a software program designed for the purpose.


Many early One Name Studies were done by collecting information on paper since computers in 1979 were not a reality for family historians. However now you could feasibly collect your study on your mobile phone using the cloud for storage.

The main things to look for in any storage medium are:

  • The flexibility to collect information the way you want to do it.
  • The ability to quickly find an individual from a list of those with a similar name
  • The ability to extract information to share with others.
  • The ability to take the information out and turn it into a website, and perhaps take advantage of the “Guild’s Members’ Websites Project” to preserve your study for future generations.

We suggest you plan how to start your study, and lay out a method of collection and storing it, but having flexibility to tweak your requirements if you want to change the way to record information or save it.

There are three main players in the software market with the sophistication to record and store a One-Name Study. These are in alpha order Family Historian, Legacy, and Roots Magic. All have a learning curve but you should pick one you are comfortable with, because what you don’t want to do is have a change of heart in a couple of years’ time. All offer a trial download, so you can try before you buy.

All the software options enable the user to record source and citation information, both in terms of locations for example a records office or individual who holds a record and in terms of specific facts for example a birth or settlement document.

There are many others but these are the main players, and the advice of many Guild members would be to go with one of the big three.

Smaller studies possibly could be recorded in other programs, but they are not as flexible as these programs. The temptation is to stick with what you have been using, but all the others have problems in the long term. More advice is available in the Guild’s WIKI and is available when you become a member.

Over the years we have had occasional situations where a member has been unable to restore files from an old family history program that no longer works. So, we recommend you always upgrade software to the latest version.

There are other programs that can be used if you have no intention to go into family reconstruction, such as Spreadsheets, and databases, but to many members this is the fun part of One-Name Studies. They are like a jigsaw when you don’t know how many pieces you may find and that keeps growing. In most cases the pieces of the jigsaw keep multiplying.

Many members collect information in other mediums and then construct family trees in a Family History program, others collect information and store it in a Family History Program at the outset. The choice is yours, our advice is to think about how you want to do things and then make your choice.

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