Genealogy on a Mac: what to choose

In the days of Covid 19, many people try to find ways to spend their time during lockdowns. One way is to take up genealogy.
Nowadays there are many programs available, but two of the main contestants are Reunion by Leisterpro and MacFamilytree by Synium.

I have been using both these on and off for many years, sometimes even side by side. I have in the past made Swedish localisations for both these programs, and I like them both.
But I now have so many persons in my genealogy file, that it just takes too much time from the genealogy itself when I sync the programs and edit the problems that have occurred when migrating the GEDCOM.

So in order to finally decide which one I will use from now on I decided to put my own subjective pro’s and con’s for them both. I post my thoughts here and hope it may help someone to choose what is best for her or him.

First: they are BOTH very good genealogy programs. So what one person feels is best might not be the best choice for someone else. My advice is that you try out demo versions of both of them before you decide.
But in case you feel unsure even after the testperiod, here are my thoughts for what it is worth.

The look, feel and editing
Basically these are two different takes on how to build a genealogy program. Reunion is built around “cards” where you put your info in different cards depending on type of info:

This is a good way to put in info, since there is less scrolling. On the other hand you need to know in what window/card you are supposed to put your facts. This is however not a big problem, you learn fast. It is an “old-fashioned” way to put info into databases on a Mac. And that is essentially what you do.
MacFamilyTree uses a more “modern” way, all info is entered in a list. No cards, just a long list. The upside is that you don’t have to click around in different cards, the backside is that there can be a lot of scrolling when you have a lot of info.
As I see it these ways to enter input is just a matter of taste, and I can’t really say I prefer one before the other.
MacFamilyTree also has a dark mode. However this follows the settings in your system, you can’t choose light mode in MacFamilyTree and dark mode in your system. Myself I prefer to work in light mode in my genealogy, so it is a small minus. Also, MacFamilyTree is rather cluttered and it can be difficult to actually find all the reports and views. On the other hand the look/UI of Reunion doesn’t feel as if it has developed much for the last 20 years.
Both programs have a left sidebar, a main window and a right sidebar. MacFamilyTree has a way to display facts in the right sidebar that Reunion in my opinion lacks. I can display not only a list of places, but also group them after counties and countries. Which I find helps me when I have thousands of places and some with similar names. In Scandinavia, the names of our villages, towns and counties can be similar, so it helps me a bit. However, this is not a big issue and not something of a dealbreaker.
A minus for MacFamilyTree is that I can’t mark twins. In Reunion I can mark them so I get a green square around their names. In macFamilyTree I just have to check their birthdates. No biggie, but nevertheless. Also it feels more natural to mark a child as adopted in Reunion than in MacFamilyTree, even though MFT has that function too. And when you get used to MacFamilyTree it is no problem.

Update: MacFamilyTree does not import the geocodes correctlu from Reunion in an export/import. According to MacFamilyTree developers this is an error in the way Reunion exports gedcom. However, when I import the same file into another genealogy-app called Heredis, there is no errors at all. This can be s problem: if you have large gedcom files with many geocodes you will have problems migrating from Reunion to MacFamilyTree.
Winner: Reunion

The way Reunion shows places is basic, but then it is what you need and why make things difficult? They are displayed in a list in the right sidebar, and you can choose to see them listed by first letter or in reverse order. That’s it.
And every place also has facts at the bottom of the sidebar: you can see which persons those places are linked to, you can add notes to them and you can geotag them. When geotagged you can also see a map over where the person has lived, which can come in handy if you want to see a persons migration pattern.

In MacfamilyTree you open Places in the main window through the menu bar in the left sidebar. As in Reunion you get a list of the places in the right sidebar, but the place you want to read about or edit also opens in the main window. As in Reunion you can geotag them, and as in Reunion you can see a map over a persons migrations. However you also-in the main window-get a map over ALL the geotagged places so you can see where the persons in your database have lived. To me this is a plus, since I can see if there are any “clusters” of migration. If they have lived in the same area for generations, and if the fact that they moved from one county to another actually only means they moved across the road to another farm or homestead. This is a function I miss in Reunion. However, if you use Heredis you get the same function. Myself I have put the villages, cities and stuff in a map on Google Maps.
Winner: MacFamilyTree

Diagrams and reports
Both programs have a very good choice of diagrams and reports. MacFamilyTree has them under two different menus in the sidebar, Reunion has gathered them under just one menu. Which to me feels more obvious, since they to me just are different ways to show reports graphically. In Reunion you also find the link to the print-function, which MacFamilyTree has in a separate menu in the sidebar. As with other things, this is not really a big thing. Whatever you choose you will get used to it.
However the sorts of diagrams and reports are more in MacFamilyTree. Some of them are useful, some aren’t. And the ones that Reunion actually has are in my point of view more useful.
MacFamilyTre also has a meny “Views”, where I find the Virtual Globe fun and maybe even useful. You basically get a spinning globe where all places where people in your research have lived are shown. A bit like the function in “Places” but on a globe. The Virtual Tree is however as I see it pointless since it is difficult to get a meaningful view of it.
MacFamilyTree also have menus for Lists and Publish in the right sidebar. The list-function in Reunion is however more developed as I see it, with more useful options.
Winner: Diagrams and Reports a tie, Lists Reunion

Since Reunion Touch does not support any language than English, some things get a bit obscure when you use a Swedish (or probably other aswell) translation on your Mac. For instance, in the Mac-version I use the Swedish word “yrke” for occupation. In Reunion Touch this shows up as “O”. Not even Occupation, but “O”.
I feel MobileFamilyTree works better for me. It is in Swedish, and looks as the Mac-version (but smaller and more compact obviously).
Winner: MacFamilyTree/MobilefamilyTree

This is a big problem for Reunion. Since I am Swedish I prefer to use programs that have Swedish localisations. Not that I have a problem with English, but some words can be difficult to understand and then it is positive when the program is translated to your own language. My guess is that people from Norway, Denmark, Poland, Argentina and other countries feel the same.

In MacFamilyTree there is a Swedish localisation. OK, it has some minor errors, and some things are -even if correct- just not the way we express ourselves. The translation of the different ways of migration is translated, correctly, to Immigration and Emigration. However in Swedish that is mainly used when migrating from one country to another. When moving from one county or city to another in the same country we usually say Inflyttad and Utflyttad. In Reunion I actually can change such translations myself without having to fiddle about in the source code.

The price for a full version of MacFamilyTree is 59:99 USD. Which in itself is a silly price. Say 60 USD instead, nobody will run away to another program to earn one cent.

Reunion is only in English. If you want a localisation to another language, Reunion/Leisterpro does not provide that. Instead you will have to buy these elsewhere.
A Swedish localisation of Reunion 13 costs 500 SEK, which is 48 Euros (56 USD). So if you want to buy a full version of Reunion 13 with a Swedish localisation the cost will be 1396 SEK, (156 USD/134 Euros). An upgrade from Reunion 12 including Swedish localisation costs 896 SEK (86 Euros/100 USD). The English version itself without localisation costs 99 USD (85 Euros), and an upgrade 49:95 (43 Euros) from Leisterpro. So a Swedish upgrade costs almost the same as a new full version in English. However: even if the Swedish language file isn’t 100 percent, it feels more accurate and as mentioned above, I can change labels.

The cost is probably a problem for Reunion in non-English countries, and probably a reason why people choose MacfamilyTree (or other programs) instead. However, if you don’t need another language than English, then Reunion-even if it is more expensive- I think it is worth the extra cost. And if you have an older version of reunion you get a discounted upgrade. And even thoiugh Reunion is much more expensive wéven with a localisation, in my mind it is worth it. Since it is a better program.
Winner: English: A tie. Other localisation: MacFamilyTree

A full version of MacfamilyTree costs 59.99 USD (51 Euros/534 SEK) on Mac App Store. That includes localisations to several languages. A Swedish full version of Reunion costs (as noted above) 156 USD (1396 SEK/134 Euros). And even an upgrade from Swedish Reunion 12 to Reunion 13 costs more than a full version of MacFamilyTree, 100 USD instead of 60 USD.
Reunion has a few things that it does better than MacfamilyTree, but on the other side MacFamilyTree does a few things better aswell. It all comes down to your own taste.
So: if you are new to genealogy on a Mac and need a good program, choose MacFamilyTree. If you are a previous (or current) user of Reunion 12 and are considering upgrading to Reunion 13: go for an upgrade of Reunion. There IS a bit of work when migrating from Reunion, which is why I think it is just as good to stay on the Reunion platform.
As programs come they are both very good choices, but to me the Reunion is a better program. If price is of importance: choose MacFamilyTree (or why not Heredis?). If you see the cost as an investment for a few years, and are serious about your genealogy then Reunion is the best choise.
There may be some errors or mistakes or functions I have just missed. So feel free to post comments below, that will be helpful for readers when they search info on Mac genealogy.

Feel free to comment on this article HERE or below.

/Tomas A

Standup comedian, writer & diabetic. ‘Sweden’s own dirty uncle, brilliant writing and some very dark humour.”

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