Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Software Programs

I probably should have written this post a few weeks ago. A fellow genealogist was in a dilemma about what to do now that Family Tree Maker was no longer around. First and foremost, this person missed the announcement that came out late one afternoon during RootsTech in early February. Family Tree Maker is not dead! MacKiev software has taken over support for it and has the latest edition available through their website. 

With that said, there are many different software programs available on the market that you can use. The price varies for free upwards and with many different features from the basic to awe inspiring.

What do I use myself? I know at least one sharp-eyed person who saw this picture of me with my MacBook Pro laptop immediately knew that I had Reunion on my screen working as this picture was snapped. That’s what I use for my personal database. Although it is a Mac only software, it can open gedcoms from any program, Mac, PC, Linux or other. When working for a client, I use this to open any gedcoms that they have sent me and if I needed a more elaborate tree composed for them would create it in this. However, usually when working with a small number of people, such as a client project would be, I find it easier to do it on paper or electronically in a Word file. A straightforward numbered descent such as found in older genealogy books works best for me when working on a small amount of data.
A good place to start looking at what is available is Wikipedia. Seriously. There is a page on there that gives a basic comparison between programs. It is good to just get an idea of what is out there and what the name of software to look for while searching. You can narrow down your search by looking through their charts and comparing what the various software does, pricing and compatibility with your computer. However, when you get serious about picking out one to use for yourself, I would recommend a couple additional strategies.
First, see if you can get a trial version or if somebody you know has the program and can let you use theirs to see how it works. This is most helpful in getting a feel for the program and whether you like how it works. Many things are a matter of personal preference and depends on how you, yourself are used to working. At this point, you can also try putting in some of the weird quirks you’ve found in your family. We all have them. The person that marries three times and then goes back and marries the first spouse. Children adopted by a stepparent. How about a date that doesn’t exist on the calendar? Anybody born on February 30th? Born in the backseat of a Plymouth along Route 66? How does that software accept such information? Is there a way to work around it? I know, for example, that Reunion will complain about the February 30th birthdate, but will allow you to enter it that way and then enter a custom date of say, March 1st, to use in calculating the data within the program to determine age.
Second, ask around about various software. Ask at stores, of course, but also your friends and fellow genealogists. Ask your friends, ask at society meetings, ask in various places around the virtual universe. Ask what people like or don’t like about certain software. Find out if anybody knows if that one you’re looking at can create the type of report you need. Remember, people actually using it probably know more about the software than people trained to sell it!

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