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Genealogy Software

    I’ve spent the past two weeks preparing two new lectures which were given last Monday (Getting the Most out of FindMyPast) and yesterday (Genealogy Software).  If you want to learn something, write a lecture about it <g>.

   Not too many years ago, the choice of technology for keeping your genealogy was fairly easy.  You picked a desktop program based on your platform (Mac or PC).  With the advent of Cloud based solutions as well as mobile and tablet software the choices become more varied.  One thing to remember is that the choices are not mutually exclusive.  You may choose your desktop platform based on its integration with the cloud or a particular mobile environment. 

   When selecting software you need to think about your goals.  Do you want to print large charts with pictures and graphics?  Do you want to publish a book?  Do you need to integrate with an online program?  Do you want to create a website?  Once you decide what you want to do, then look at the software packages that match up with your requirements.

   I decided to look at two features that were important to me.  How does the software handle source citations and can it print out a register style report with footnotes.   I created a citation (using Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book Evidence: Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian) for a death certificate.  I then used that information to add the source to each software.

   It’s no secret that I’m a Mac user.  I’ve used Reunion software since the early 90’s when it was just a hypercard stack.  I’ve been happy with the software, and for many years was amazed that features I took for granted weren’t available on PC software.  For example, when using source citations in notes, the footnote references printed exactly where I placed them, while in PC software (back in the 1990s) the references all moved to the end of the notes field.  I have about 2500 names in my database and haven’t really done much research on my own family in many years.  I have my tree online at Ancestry, and when hints pop up, or someone contacts me, I have updated the information in Ancestry.  I now have a major problem…my Reunion file and Ancestry are completely out of sync.  I pray to the genealogy gods that at some point in the near future there will be a standard that will allow programs to talk to each other, but so far my prayers have not been answered.   I also discovered another problem with Reunion.  In the latest version of my word processing software (Pages) Apple removed support for RTF files, and my reports, which have always been one of my favorite features of Reunion won’t open.  According to LeisterPro (the developers of Reunion) I have to change word processors…not something I want to do.  For now, I pulled an old version of Pages off a backup drive and am using that, but I’m not happy.  An upgrade to the OS could break the earlier version of Pages so this is a temporary solution.

   Ancestry a few years ago, finally introduced a version of Family Tree Maker for Mac.  According to most reports, this is the number one selling genealogy software.  Ancestry is a big company and does lots of advertising and Family Tree Maker has been around forever.  I think it was originally developed by a company called Banner Blue, then sold to Broderbund and may have been owned by a couple of other companies prior to Ancestry.  The newest version for Mac syncs with Ancestry Trees, so if you want to work seamlessly between your online Ancestry Tree and your desktop, FTM is the only solution.  I have to admit that I only use it to sync with my Ancestry Trees.   I found adding a source citation to be different.   I selected the death fact, then in the panel on the right clicked on add a new source.  The window asked for a source title, repository, citation detail and citation text.   I wasn’t sure what the difference was between the source detail and text, so I just pasted the citation I had created into the detail box.  But then when I clicked on Add a Source from the top menu, I got a completely different screen with a source template; a bit confusing.  The bigger problem I had was the report.  Ancestry had used census records as sources for the birth date (since an age is recorded).  For death, there were citations to the Social Security Death Index, the Florida Death Index and FindAGrave.  That’s great and I want all of those sources cited, however, when I print out my register report, I don’t want all of them to print.  The Florida Death Index is really not a source but a pointer to the source.  When the report prints I end up with 7 citations for birth and 6 for death.  I could find no way to supress a source so it wouldn’t print (Reunion has a check box that says “Exclude from endnotes.”)

   What is it that you’re looking for in your genealogy software?  Your criteria could be different from mine.  Make your own list and compare the features to find the best choice for you.  Next week I’ll talk about my experience with RootsMagic and Legacy Family Tree.  

    Happy Hunting!

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2018