Free Mac family history apps are rather thin on the ground. If you can put up with the daunting user interface, Gramps offers all the power and most of the functionality of expensive paid-for solutions, but if you don’t need all those bells and whistles, then Personal Ancestry Writer II (known as PAW2U to its friends) is a decent alternative.

The user interface is a little old-school – harking back to the days of OS 9 – but that’s no bad thing. The program is based on the recently discontinued Personal Ancestral File program for Windows, and so the user interface may look a little dated, but quickly reveals itself as a triumph of form over style.

Everything you need for building, managing and viewing your tree is accessible from this single window, yet despite packing it all in, navigation is straightforward. In terms of features offered, all the core functionality is there for recording and organising your family tree, with some nifty features like the ability to tag people into user-defined groups based on all kinds of criteria, including name, birth place or date of death.

Only the core details of a person are displayed, but two handy buttons – Notes and Wallet – make it easy to attach facts, photos and other media to those people for extra context. You’ll also find a number of exporting and reporting tools – nothing on a par with the best programs, but more than enough for the average user.

It all adds up to a program that might not appeal to the power user looking for advanced features such as mapping and extensive media management tools. Nevertheless, if your needs are more modest and your budget stretched, Personal Ancestry Writer II has everything you need for keeping your family history in one, neatly organised place.


If you're looking for a simple, user-friendly family history tool for your Mac with no fee to pay, this fits the bill.