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Which Software Should I Buy?
Jim Byram takes a look at the latest versions of seven major software packages.

FOR 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.
        Eighteen months 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.
        The fundamental 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 genealogy software.
        Data Integrity. The program should not create data. If the program adds data such as a 'married name', the user should have control over the process.
        Data Recording - 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.
        Data Recording - 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.
        Data Recording - Places. Adequate space should be available to record place names.
        Data Recording - 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 recorded.
        Data Recording - 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.
        Multiple Parents. Programs should allow linking a child to not only their natural parents but also to adopted parents and handling other non-traditional relationships.
        Multimedia. 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.
        Source Documentation. 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 obtained.
        Evidence Evaluation (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.
        Searching & Sorting/Filters/Flags. You will need tools to find individuals and to designate subsets of your data for export and for printing.
        Research Log. 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.
        Data Import. 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.
        Data Export. 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.
        Report Output. 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.
        Backup. Your program should have backup capabilities to safeguard your data.

The Parentèle 'Individual Information' screen.

Parentèle Prestige Edition Version 3.1.1 (Parentèle)
(Alsyd Multimedia, $80 US,
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 data.
        Individual information 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.
        Unlimited individual 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.
        Multimedia objects attached to individuals or events can include photos, sound and videos. Reports and charts can include the various images as appropriate.
        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 fields.
        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 tasks.
        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 the export.
        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 website.
        You can back up a family file and, optionally, the other contents of the family folder to a standard ZIP file.

The Family Tree Maker 'More About Alonzo Byram - Facts' screen where most of his data other than his marriage facts is displayed.

Family Tree Maker Deluxe Version 8.0 (FTW8)
(, $40-100 US retail,
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 the scrapbook.
        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.
        Research progress 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.

The Generations Family Tree 'Edit Person' screen Events tab with Alonzo's events.

Generations Family Tree Deluxe DVD Version (GEN8)
(Sierra, $50 US retail,
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 use.
        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 pictures.
        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.

The Family Origins 'Edit Individual' screen showing most of the events in Alonzo's life.

Family Origins Version 9.02 (FO9)
(, $30-50 US, 800-567-2730,
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 creation features.
        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 and editing.
        A correspondence 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.
        Backup/restore tools are available and the backup will span disks if necessary.

The Personal Ancestral File 'Edit Individual' screen, using a custom display template, showing Alonzo's data.

Personal Ancestral File Version (PAF5)
(Free download, or $6 US, LDS Church Distribution Center, 801-240-3800)
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).
        Multimedia objects 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 including dates.
        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.

The Legacy Family Tree 'Individual's Information' screen showing most information about Alonzo's life other than his marriage.

Legacy Family Tree Version 3.0 Deluxe Edition with 07/04/01 Update plus 12/05/00 Maintenance Pack 2 (Legacy)
(Millennia, $20 US (download), $25 + shipping (User's Guide and CD), 425-788-3774,
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.
        The individual's 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 Family/Pedigree views.
        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 master source.
        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 Pages tool.
        Legacy includes backup and restore functions and produces standard ZIP files.

The Master Genealogist 'Person View' where all of Alonzo's tags and flags are displayed.

The Master Genealogist for Windows Gold Edition v4.0d (TMG4)
(Wholly Genes, $99, 877-864-3264,
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 name list).
        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 visit.
        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.

Final Comments
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 2001 issue.


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