Software Should I Buy?
Jim Byram takes a look at the latest versions of seven
major software packages.
FAMILY CHRONICLE'S Introduction to Genealogy published in
February 1999, I wrote two articles about how to choose your
genealogy software. The first article laid out criteria for
selecting a program. The second article applied those criteria
to seven major software packages - Personal Ancestral File,
Generations Family Tree, Family Tree Maker, Family Origins,
Legacy Family Tree, The Master Genealogist and Ultimate Family
Tree. Just over a year later in the March/April 2000 Family
Chronicle, the information on these seven programs was updated.
have passed and genealogy software continues to evolve. Six
of the above programs have been through at least one major
revision. Development of Ultimate Family Tree was discontinued
in the spring of 2000. In this article, we will take a look
at the remaining six programs and a newcomer, Parentèle, a
French genealogy program that was released into the North
American market early this year.
requirements for choosing your software remain as follows.
The program should allow you to record all data that you discover
during your research, including conflicting data for the same
event, and you should be able to document where each piece
of information that you record was obtained.
Genealogy Program Features
The reader is referred to the first of the earlier articles
for a detailed discussion of features to look for in your
The program should not create data. If the program adds data
such as a 'married name', the user should have control over
- Names. Adequate space and fields should be available
for recording names and there should be a means to record
all name variants a person might use in his/her life.
- Dates. All standard date entries should be accepted
and the user should be able to choose the form in which dates
are displayed in the program. The program should allow a 'sort
date' or other means to control the sorting of data in the
program views and reports.
- Places. Adequate space should be available to record
- Events and Facts. Programs have been evolving towards
storing each event or fact in a person's life in a discrete
'tag' structure as opposed to using a fill-in-the-blank approach.
Each tag should have at least four fields - event name (such
as birth, death, occupation, census, etc.), date, place and
notes. Tags have the enormous advantage that all conflicting
data frequently encountered in genealogical research can be
- Roles. Many events in your database will have more than
one participant. Some programs now have tools to link all
of those persons to that event and to allow sentences reflecting
these roles to be output to narrative reports.
Programs should allow linking a child to not only their natural
parents but also to adopted parents and handling other non-traditional
There should be provisions for linking multimedia objects
(photos, sound, video) to individuals and events and to be
able to incorporate those images into reports.
You need to record the source of any information that you
enter into your database to provide substantiation for your
research and to tell other researchers where they can locate
the data that you are reporting. Programs should include the
ability to record citation detail that links the event to
the source and to record the repository where the source was
(Surety). A provision should exist to enter a surety value
so that you can record your judgment about the validity of
any data that you enter.
Sorting/Filters/Flags. You will need tools to find individuals
and to designate subsets of your data for export and for printing.
Your program should give you the ability to record tasks as
you discover what needs to be done and to print a useful report
to aid your next trip to a repository.
Some programs provide direct import from the databases produced
by other software packages and every major genealogy program
supports GEDCOM version 5.5 (GEnealogical Data COMmunication),
a standard developed by the Family History Department of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) to
facilitate exchanging computerized genealogical data.
GEDCOM data transfer is somewhat limited to only data that
fits the specification. Since the higher-end programs can
record data for which no explicit provision is made in the
GEDCOM standard, there may be limits as to how much of the
data that you record in one program can be transferred to
another via GEDCOM.
To aid your research, you need to be able to produce lists
of a subset of people or events. When you contact a new relative,
you would like to be able to provide him/her with a concise
and readable report such as a pedigree or compact descendant
chart to show where you are in your research.
On the other end
of the spectrum, you need tools to produce that family history
that you have been planning to write. This includes creating
a readable narrative report with a table of contents, footnotes
or endnotes to annotate your data, a bibliography and one
or more indexes. Your report should be exported in a format
acceptable to the word processor of your choice for final
editing. If you include graphical images, the report should
include links to the external image files inserted into the
proper places in the text.
Web Page Creation.
Report output into HTML format files and tools for web page
creation are necessary features in today's programs.
Your program should have backup capabilities to safeguard
Prestige Edition Version 3.1.1 (Parentèle)
Parentèle 'Individual Information' screen.
(Alsyd Multimedia, $80 US, us.parentele.com)
Parentèle is a 32-bit application that runs under Windows 95/98/ME
and Windows 2000 that allows you to produce your own multimedia
family genealogy to be written to a CD-R. Your data is viewed
with a 'read only' version of Parentèle and the person viewing
the family file can navigate and can generate reports from the
includes fields for name, sex, occupation, and notes. Names
entry for an individual includes last name, first name, preferred
name, alias, last name prefix, last name suffix and first name
prefix. Several formats for date entry can be specified including
European and American formats and variants of each.
Event entry screens
contain a single place field. Place structure can contain from
one to five place levels. Each level can be labeled and the
level entry order and the order for sorting printouts specified.
Parentèle recognizes last name and place prefixes ('particles')
such as de, du, la, van, von, etc.
and couple events (events shared by husband and wife) are entered
from event entry screens. The screens include fields for date,
time, place, event type, note, source and repository and other
individuals (witnesses) can be attached to events.
An individual's relationship
to his/her parents (legitimate, illegitimate, simple adoption,
full adoption, unknown or uncertain) is chosen from a list box
on the birth event. An individual's relationship to his/her
partner is chosen from a list box on the union event.
attached to individuals or events can include photos, sound
and videos. Reports and charts can include the various images
Events have a source
field and a repository field. No explicit provision is made
for citation details or surety. The source field has a limited
length and there is no mechanism to record multiple sources
for an event. Non-event sources must be added to data or note
There is a powerful
multi-level Boolean 'Search By Criteria' tool and other search
and navigation tools are available. The Tools menu has options
to select a subset of individuals and to invert that selection.
Individuals can be added to the selected list or book-marked.
The Tools General
Operations window contains three tabs to perform global operations
on your family file - Find/Replace, Duplicate/Transfer/Switch/Erase
and Standardize. No explicit tool is provided to manage research
Data from a GEDCOM
file can be imported into an open or new family file and GEDCOM
5.5 files can be exported with a variety of options controlling
Parentèle can generate
over 80 different kinds of reports including charts, trees,
and narrative reports. All reports can be previewed and the
Ahnentafel, Register report, biographies and five list types
can be output to RTF files for editing in your word processor.
Web pages are created
using the 'Create web page (HTML)' tool on the File menu and
free space is available for your web pages on the Parentèle
You can back up a
family file and, optionally, the other contents of the family
folder to a standard ZIP file.
Tree Maker Deluxe Version 8.0 (FTW8)
Family Tree Maker 'More About Alonzo Byram - Facts'
screen where most of his data other than his marriage
facts is displayed.
(Genealogy.com, $40-100 US retail, www.familytreemaker.com)
Family Tree Maker is a 32-bit application that runs under Windows
95/98/ME and Windows 2000. FTW has been through two upgrades,
version 7.5 and version 8.0. The core program as covered by
this article has changed little. The Publishing Center has been
added with options to Create a Family Book, Edit your Book,
Create a Family Home Page, Update or Edit your Home Page, Add
a Tree or Report to your Home Page, Add a Picture to your Home
Page and Publish a Book on your Home Page.
A person's preferred
name, birth, death and burial facts are entered on the Family
Page and are linked to fields on the More About - Facts screen.
Unlimited facts for an individual, including name variants,
can be entered on the facts screen. Each pre-defined or custom
fact has fields for fact name, date and a 256-character comments/location.
Alternate or conflicting facts can be recorded and the preferred
facts marked. Facts can be sorted alphabetically or chronologically.
If fact text won't fit into the comments/location field, the
text is added to the person's notes field. Some information
is recorded on other screens (title, alias, address, medical
information, etc.). Each marriage has a facts screen where marriage
(or other facts linked to both spouses) and marriage status
are recorded and a notes screen. Other parents for a child can
be added with the Other Parents option and the nature of the
relationships is shown on the lineage screen. Unlimited multimedia
objects and OLE objects can be linked to an individual with
One or more sources
can be linked to each fact, but there is no way to link sources
to text in the notes fields or to fields on the other screens.
Source citation screens for each fact include citation details
and the footnote used in narrative reports. Source screens include
source details and fields for source location and quality.
and tasks are recorded in the Research Journal, which can be
sorted on one or two columns and printed.
FTW8 can import GEDCOM
files, various types of Family Tree Maker files and PAF 2.x/3.0
files and can export several versions of FTW and GEDCOM files.
Global find and replace
was added in version 8.0. A number of list reports using subsets
of the dataset and custom reports can be generated. As would
be expected, a variety of narrative reports and charts can be
printed. The 'trees' include an hourglass tree showing both
an individual's ancestors and descendants and an all-in-one
tree. Publication tools include three styles of genealogy report
and a 'family book'. Several narrative reports can be exported
to text or RTF files for editing. FTW8 includes tools for publishing
to the Internet and free space is available for FTW user websites.
FTW8 creates backup
files in the location of your choice and can span multiple floppy
disks as required.
Family Tree Deluxe DVD Version 188.8.131.52 (GEN8)
Generations Family Tree 'Edit Person' screen Events
tab with Alonzo's events.
(Sierra, $50 US retail,www.sierrahome.com)
GEN8 is a 32-bit application that runs under Windows 95/98/ME.
Generations was updated from v6.0 to v8.0 and v8.0 has been
updated four times. The DVD version can output a dataset to
an HTML presentation designed to be written to a CD-R. The feature
is beautifully designed.
The Edit Person screen
has tabs for Name (name, sex, user ID), Events (predefined or
custom with type, date, place, and memo), Facts (predefined
or custom with type and text), Notes (predefined or custom)
and Flags (predefined or custom). Additional name variants can
be defined as events or facts. Sentence output in narrative
reports for each event type can be customized. Images can be
attached to the family cards and marked as the primary image
for either spouse.
If you enter a date
form that GEN doesn't recognize, you will be prompted for a
sort date. If necessary, you can manually arrange the order
of events on the event tab.
The Edit Family screen
has tabs for Marriage (date, place, memo, type and status),
Children (with control of order and 15 types of child status),
Notes and Events (predefined or custom with type, date, place
and memo). A child can be linked to both adoptive and biological
parents via duplicate child buttons.
Sources can be entered
in a structured fashion or as free form text. Source fields
are predefined or custom and include a data field. The repository
is entered in a Library/Archive field. A Preview tab lets you
see how the source will appear in a report. Source citations
include a citation detail field. Sources can be attached to
most data (name, events, facts, marriage, marriage events) or
at any point in a note. Sources can be viewed, added or edited
from the master source list. Database-wide custom log files
can be used to track research progress.
Various lists are
available and you can mark individuals, lines, ancestors and
descendants. An advanced 'mark groups' function can be used
to build lists for reports or export and to mark/ unmark using
a one to four condition filter.
All data from GEDCOM
import not going into one of the available or newly imported
events fields is saved in the notes fields. Delimited text or
Generation family files can be imported. In addition to GEDCOM
export, data can be exported into a delimited file for spreadsheet/database
The GEN8 output menus
are separated into reports, charts and Internet. Some reports
may be generated in normal or questionnaire modes. Blank person
and family group sheets may be saved. A separate charting program,
EasyChart, is used for elaborate graphical charts that can include
Book publishing can
be accomplished with the family history report or the register
report. Reports can be saved as text or RTF files for further
editing in your word processor. Web pages can be created using
sheets, reports or the 'Internet Family Tree,' a simplified
version of the GEN8 family cards.
The 'save a copy'
function saves a copy of your database to a specified location.
Origins Version 9.02 (FO9)
Family Origins 'Edit Individual' screen showing most
of the events in Alonzo's life.
(Genealogy.com, $30-50 US, 800-567-2730, www.familyorigins.com)
Family Origins is a 32-bit application that runs under Windows
95/98/ME and Windows 2000. Family Origins has been updated from
v8.0 to v9.02. Custom marriage facts have been added and the
ability to bookmark any individual. Multimedia objects can now
be attached to any place. There are new charts and new website
The Edit Individual
screen contains fields for name elements, sex and a table where
you enter unlimited pre-defined or custom facts (name variants,
facts and events) that occur in a person's life. The Edit Personal
Fact screen contains context sensitive fields depending on the
fact (name, occupation) and/or date and place. The sentence
output in narrative reports for each fact type can be customized.
A place list is maintained. The individual and each fact can
have a note and source citations attached and an address screen
is available. Additional parents can be added with the Add Parents
option. An adoption fact can be added to the individual recording
the details and the adoption parents can be linked to the event.
Photos, audio clips
and videos can be added to an individual, family or place with
the multimedia scrapbook. The scrapbook includes fields for
filename, caption and description of each entry. The primary
image can appear in the Family/Tree views and images can be
used in charts and reports.
Each citation includes
fields for citation details and quality. Sources are listed
in the source manager and edited from the edit source screen.
A source tab includes fields for source name, description, author,
publisher and source text. A repository tab shows the repository,
call number and comments. Repositories are selected, added or
edited from a list. The edit repository screen has fields for
repository name, address, phone number and note.
The Explorer allows
you to globally find and edit any information for any person.
A selection dialog allows marking of persons for export and
similar dialogs allow selection during report generation. Numerous
lists (28 predefined) including marriages, places, fact types,
sources and repositories/contacts can be generated for viewing
log keeps track of your genealogical correspondence and a To
Do list allows research tasks to be attached to individuals
and includes fields for status, priority, task, date and place/person.
Reports are available for both. The To Do Item screen uses the
repository list and includes a details/results field. You can
filter reports by surname or individual.
FO9 can import from
PAF versions 2.1 to 4.0 and from GEDCOM files and will export
to several variants of GEDCOM file including version 5.5 and
to the third party software CLOOZ.
FO9 produces a variety
of lists, charts, reports and seven types of blank forms. A
'forest' list counts and identifies the family trees in your
database. Several reports have the output destinations of screen/printer,
text file or RTF file. Seven flavors of 'book' report can include
notes, sources with optional citation details, photos and index.
Tools are available to create and upload a website and free
web space is provided for Family Origins users.
are available and the backup will span disks if necessary.
Ancestral File Version 184.108.40.206 (PAF5)
Personal Ancestral File 'Edit Individual' screen, using
a custom display template, showing Alonzo's data.
(Free download, www.familysearch.org or $6 US, LDS Church Distribution
PAF5 is a 32-bit application that runs under Windows 95/98/ME
and Windows 2000. PAF5's database structure has been redesigned
to accommodate all Unicode data and language modules are available
for English, German, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Swedish.
Names are recorded in a single field to allow all cultural variations
with the surname delineated by slashes. PAF5 can export a database
for Palm OS handheld computers and you can download the PAF
program for Palm OS.
PAF5's Edit Individual
screen has sections for Personal (name, sex), Events (birth,
christening, death, burial), LDS Ordinances (optional), Other
(personal facts and attributes) and Other Events (predefined
or custom). The Edit Marriage screen records marriage events.
Templates can customize the Edit Individual and Marriage screens.
Notes can be categorized using default or custom tags. A leading
tilde marks notes as confidential.
Name and place fields
are limited to 120 characters. The edit individual screen allows
for married name, 'also known as' and nickname. Additional names
can be entered in the other events section.
The Define Custom
Event screen allows extensive customization of how events will
appear in narrative reports including 12 custom sentence structures
based on sex and date/place.
Children can be linked
to multiple sets of parents and the relationships can be marked
by type (biological, adopted, guardian, challenged or disproved).
can be added to any individual or source. Default photos optionally
display on the Family View screen and can be included on reports
and web pages.
Sources can be attached
to the data and events on the edit individual or marriage screen.
Tagged notes can also be entered as events on the edit individual
screen with date, place and sources. The source screen allows
full source documentation including the repository, citation
details, comments, full text and an image. Sources and repositories
are maintained in master lists. A source with citation details
may be 'memorized' and copied to new event entries.
Advanced search tools
are available, using wildcards, relationship filters and field
filters. Individuals or groups can be selected for reports,
GEDCOM export or editing. Global search and replace is available
Using TODO tags in
the note fields builds a collection of research tasks and specific
subsets of these tasks can be retrieved to generate a report
for a repository visit or field trip.
The GEDCOM listing
file detailing import errors can be included in the notes of
each appropriate individual during the import process.
A wide variety of
reports including pedigree, custom, lists, calendar, family
group, ancestry, descendants, book, individual summary and two
blank forms (pedigree and family group record) can be generated.
Six reports including the two book reports can be saved as RTF
files for editing in a word processor. Another Windows program,
the PAF Companion 5.0, can be used with PAF5 for printing many
of the same reports in differing formats and several additional
reports. PAF includes tools to create web pages.
File backup and restore
options are available.
Family Tree Version 3.0 Deluxe Edition with
07/04/01 Update plus 12/05/00 Maintenance Pack 2 (Legacy)
Legacy Family Tree 'Individual's Information' screen
showing most information about Alonzo's life other than
(Millennia, $20 US (download), $25 + shipping (User's Guide
and CD), 425-788-3774, www.legacyfamilytree.com)
Legacy3 is a 32-bit application that runs under Windows 95/98/ME/
2000. The full-function standard edition of Legacy3, which replaces
the 16-bit Legacy2, is free for download. Legacy3 is updated
on a frequent basis. At the time this was written, there had
been 25 builds since the March 2000 release build and the revision
history covered 13 pages.
information screen contains fields for name elements, birth,
christening or baptism, death and burial. An alternate name
list allows unlimited entry and an alternate may be switched
with the main name. A table allows adding unlimited pre-defined
or custom events. The event edit screen has fields for event
name, date, place and notes. An individual has three note fields
- general, research and medical. A marriage screen contains
fields for date, place, status and status date. Various 'family'
relationships could be recorded on the marriage information
screen and the report verb (or phrase) can be specified. Additional
parents can be linked to a child and the relationship status
can be set from the children's settings window.
Picture, sound or
video files can be attached to individuals or marriages. Pictures
designated #1 for the husband and wife are displayed on the
The assigned sources
screen lists sources for a person's events, notes and death
cause field. One or more sources can be attached to each event
with source (citation) details. The source details screen shows
detail information including surety, text and comments and pictures
can be linked. A master repository list is maintained and each
repository entry includes address and notes and pictures can
be linked. A master source list is maintained and a source clipboard
can store up to five sources to speed attachment while editing
events. Surety can be edited globally for all citations to a
Individuals and marriages
can be tagged at one of three levels and the tags used for exports
or reports. From the name list, you can globally tag or untag
individuals and display selected subsets. A Focus Group is another
global method of marking groups for export or report output.
Search tools allow simple to detailed searches with up to three
levels of conditionals. Search criteria may be saved. A number
of miscellaneous searches are predefined. A large number of
lists including 11 master lists are available. An advanced delete
feature under the name list allows you to delete all individuals
selected by a search. Global search and replace is available.
The To Do List lets you keep track of your research tasks.
Legacy imports from
PAF 2.31 or 3.0/4.0, comparable Ancestral Quest files, GEDCOM
and Legacy files and can export to various flavors of GEDCOM
files, Legacy and to CLOOZ. An import wizard guides you through
the import process. Legacy has a unique feature called Intellishare
that allows two or more persons to work on the same database
and to consolidate the changes made by those persons back into
a master file.
A wide variety of
lists, charts, reports and blank forms can be printed and report
options can be saved for reuse. The blank forms include well-designed
census forms. A list of all trees in your family file is available.
The three narrative book reports have extensive formatting options,
can include a table of contents and index and can be previewed
or saved as text, HTML or RTF files. Reports can be printed
as Adobe PDF files. Several reports can include pictures stored
with your family file and Legacy includes a superb Create Web
Legacy includes backup
and restore functions and produces standard ZIP files.
Master Genealogist for Windows Gold Edition v4.0d (TMG4)
Master Genealogist 'Person View' where all of Alonzo's
tags and flags are displayed.
(Wholly Genes, $99, 877-864-3264, www.whollygenes.com)
TMG4 is a 16-bit FoxPro application that runs under Windows
3.1 and later and includes Visual Chartform, a 32-bit charting
program requiring Windows 95 or later. The change log covering
TMG 4.0 to 4.0d runs about 14 pages. Many of the changes were
to accommodate the movement of users from UFT to TMG and include
more explicit features to cover items such as roles that were
already possible with custom sentence structures. Visual Chartform
(VCF) has been updated to version 1.2.
Every name, relationship
and event for an individual is recorded using a pre-defined
or custom tag. Unlimited tags are allowed including multiple
tags for name variants and for the same event. Attributes such
as gender or living are recorded with single character flags.
Unlimited and custom flags are allowed.
The tag edit screen
includes fields for two principals, date, sort date, place elements,
memo, sentence structure for narrative reports, and boxes for
unlimited citations and witnesses.
Besides two principals,
any number of 'witnesses' (other participants) can be linked
to an event. Each principal and witness may have a role with
a unique sentence structure and distinct sentence structures
can be designed for male and female participants. Any number
of child/parent links can be created and tags, such as adoption,
can record the details.
Exhibits (text files,
graphic images, audio and video clips and OLE objects) can be
attached to any person, event, source or repository. Images
can be used in pedigree charts and several reports.
Each tag is linked
to one or more sources with a citation screen that includes
fields for citation details and surety. There is a source list
and repository list. Full source details, text and multiple
repositories can be recorded. The source details vary with each
pre-defined or custom source type. Source elements are used
to construct templates for each source type for footnotes, short
footnotes and bibliographies. There are pre-defined source types
modeled after the examples in the books on genealogical citations
by R. S. Lackey (Cite Your Sources, 1980) and by E. S.
Mills (Evidence!, 1997). These default source types can
be modified and custom source types can be constructed.
For export or reports,
a subset of your database can be defined using the focus tab
of a report definition using Boolean logic and flags. The same
tools can be applied for viewing a subset of the Picklist (the
Research tasks can
be attached to any person, event, source or repository and are
managed with the Research Log. Tasks include keywords for retrieval,
a memo and progress indicators and you may, for example, generate
a custom report of tasks to do at a repository during your next
TMG4 includes a unique
technology, GenBridge, which allows it to import directly from
14 other genealogy programs, various versions and backups of
those programs, as well as GEDCOM files and can export to GEDCOM
4.0/5.5, text, spreadsheet and database files. With the Custom
Report Writer, TMG4 can produce just about any report needed
by a working genealogist with screen preview before printing.
Five blank reports are available. Report content and details
are specified by custom report definitions and file output includes
more than 50 native word processor formats and RTF files. Reports
can be automatically opened in your word processor after generation
and can include all publication features supported by your word
processor such as typeface variations, headers, footers, footnotes,
endnotes, table of contents, indexes and bibliography. TMG4
can generate several types of charts and open them in Visual
Chartform for further editing. TMG4 will produce most reports
in HTML format for web page construction.
TMG4 will backup
databases to standard ZIP files and will span disks as required.
The 32-bit sequel
to TMG4 is currently in development. Family Tree SuperTools
(FTST), a unique genealogy utility that is a standalone subset
of this new program, will be released before this article is
published and includes Visual Chartform v2.0.
Those packages marked retail in this article are available from
retail/mail order software sources and all are available over
the Internet. Some programs come with rebates, in more than
one version, or with different CD-ROM extras.
In terms of the criteria
evaluated in this article, Parentèle needs improvement in some
areas of data recording and in source documentation. FTW8 needs
to move comments from the fixed-length comment/location field
to a linked notes field. The length of some data fields could
be an issue for several programs. With most of these programs
and properly disciplined work habits, a person could do a reasonable
job of recording and documenting their family history. The higher-end
programs give researchers more choice over their data recording
and more control over report output with an accompanying increase
in program complexity and a steeper learning curve.
This article originally appeared in our September/October