This page needs to be re-organized, revised and updated. Its last significant update was in 2009, so evaluations and comparison of the various software are not current and the information may be old.
One unfortunate change is that the free Personal Ancestral File family tree program was withdrawn by the FamilySearch/LDS website as of July 15, 2013 and is no longer available there. A Google search should uncover copies floating around to download. However, BEWARE of certain sites offering copies as they may also download unnecessary "installer" programs and toolbars loaded with advertising and other creepy stuff. Some software companies offer free versions of their family tree software which are limited bare-bones but functional and useful.
Also, there may have been changes regarding how the FamilySearch website described later processes family trees. I have not looked at it, tried to use it or update the narrative. The significance to the topics here is how it may or may not interface with various family tree software programs. That may be important to some users.
This page consists of an overview and some notes concerning computers in genealogy. The information technology field continues to change continuously and rapidly, and those changes directly impact (and hopefully benefit and assist) genealogists. Those changes far exceed the ability of this page to keep up with it all. There is now even an annual conference (Roots-Tech) needed to present all the genealogy-related information technology changes that occur during the year. So this page will be almost historical in nature, with some basic, brief and general descriptions of computer-based tools and facilites.
CyndisList - Software and Computers Section - Software and Computers Section from Cyndis List.
FamilySearch is the website maintained by the LDS Church as the gateway to search its genealogical data. As of June 2012, access has been limited to Church members. The website is evolving and its facilities will likely have a significant impact on how individuals maintain and communicate their genealogical data. One of those is "FamilySearch Family Tree." Reportedly, users can upload their family tree to the site BUT it appears that once the tree is uploaded, other users can modify it. It have a problem with that. I do not have much more information now, but this will be an area to monitor.
An associated aspect of importance is their "cerfification" of genealogical software for compatability and interaction with the FamilySearch website. The following article explains: "Which FamilySearch Certified Affiliate Software is Best for Me?"
Article: March 8, 2010 by Peter & Don; by Ileen Johnson
FamilySearch Certified Affiliates are third-party companies that provide products and services with features that are compatible with FamilySearch programs. Certification indicates the affiliate’s declaration of compliance with FamilySearch requirements. Note that these products and services are independently developed and supported by their respective organizations, not by FamilySearch. To see a list of certified software programs and Internet links to their Web sites, click this link: http://www.fami lysearch.org/eng/affiliates/index.html.
New FamilySearch features that can be certified are Access, Helper (assist others), Multi-Language, Ordinance Reservation, Ordinance Request, Ordinance Status, PAF Add-In, Print, Research Wiki, Print Service (poster-size reports), Synchronization (between new FamilySearch and personal database), and Update (publish new data to FamilySearch). New FamilySearch and all affiliate programs access the same database, but the affiliates add features to help users perform new FamilySearch functions. The affiliat es also perform some functions not yet available in new FamilySearch, such as print charts and reports, and download data from new FamilySearch.
... continued at above link
Family tree software maintains various information about individuals, their family group and creates a chain-linkage through the ancestral line. This characteristic is described as "lineage-linked." This software is the mechanized replacement for the old manual family group sheets and pedigree charts, maintaining the information on computer and producing those reports on the computer's printer.
All programs roughly operate the same and maintain mostly the same information. Just like cars. But also like cars, they have their unique characteristics and appearance and like politics people are very strong in their opinions about which they prefer and may or may not be right. Some have versions that are free to download. Some of the free versions are limited in capability from the full paid versions; others may be trial versions that expire or are crippled in some material way.
Many of these programs are constantly changing as vendors continue to tinker and add new features to stay competitive or beat the competition. Personal Ancestral File (PAF) is an exception, as it has been frozen and will not be revised or updated.
Family tree information can be exchanged and transferred between most of these programs by creating a GEDCOM file. A few can directly import the database from another program. So you will not be locked into any particular program. The GEDCOM standard has not been updated for many years, so there may be certain objects that cannot be transferred, but the essential data elements will still transfer.
See genealogy-software-review.toptenreviews.com for current product comparison and evaluation. But, like all third-party software evaluations, their methodology may be uncertain and your own experience may vary considerably. Also, they rated Family Tree Maker 2008 as #2, which is completely contrary to the near universal disparagement by people who have actually tried it. Their objectivity may also be in question. Also, they do not include certain free programs such as PAF and GRAMPS.
This section has not been significantly updated since 2009, so the information, evaluation and comparison here is not current.
The following are misc. consolidated comments are from my own opinions and observations and various newsletter and other sources.
The following list and comments are from my own opinions and observations and various newsletter and other sources. The sequence is roughly in order that I recommend considering them. These are all for Windows unless noted otherwise.
Current note, July 2012: Reportedly only three of the following programs come from FamilySearch "Approved Affiliates": Ancestral Quest (v14), Roots Magic and Legacy. That may be a key consideration for some.
As of July 15, 2013, LDS has withdrawn PAF and it is no longer available
However, copies will likely be available from other places on the
A Google search should uncover copies floating around to download.
of certain sites offering copies as they may
also download unnecessary "installer" programs and
toolbars loaded with advertising and other creepy stuff.
As of March 2014, a clean copy is available for hassle-free
(except for entering a captcha code)
Personal Ancestral File (PAF) Version 5.2.18 (28.10.2009)
Instructions for download and installation as well as a Users Guide is at: Surname Web
Personal Ancestral File is a family tree software program that was developed and distributed for free by the LDS Church, lastly through their FamilySearch.org website. Its name was derived as a "personal" version of the LDS "Ancestral File" which was an early attempt at creating something of an online world family tree build through users submitting their family trees which would be consolidated. That turned out to be an operational nightmare and quagmire of inaccurate genealogy which was quietly put out of its misery, but references to it will still be found.
Various versions of PAF were released beginning in the 90's with the latter GUI versions being based on code that was developed by Ancestral Quest. Users will certainly notice similiarities. Features and capabilities of the GUI versions are very similar to the paid genealogy software programs. Those paid programs have expanded by adding various features that general users may not necessarily find useful. While development had been frozen for many years PAF still possesses the essential features of a comprehensive program. Ca. June 2012, LDS announced that it would be discontinuing user support. As noted previously, it was withdrawn from all official distribution as of July 15, 2013.
There were active user communities and mailing lists for these programs. The initial PAF4 GUI version was reportedly a copy of Ancestral Quest (AQ). AQ supposedly is being actively maintained and may be a migration path for PAF users. PAF5 and AQ are Unicode compatible.
Existence of a Version 1 is not known to me. Version 2 was a very old loose collection of programs with limited functionality and extremely poor user interface which should be quickly forgotten. Version 3 (PAF-3/PAF3) was the first "real" comprehensive family tree program with data entry screens and lineage-linked database, a character-based version requiring only MS-DOS. I still use it, running under Windows 3.11. Version 4 (PAF-4/PAF4) was the first version developed to support the Windows GUI and retained the PAF 3 compatible database format with a few data element additions. It had the additional advantage of having a more comprehensive database integrity and repair routing than PAF 3. Version 5 converts to a different database format which is not backward-compatible with the previous versions. The user interface of 4 and 5 is similar; 5 has a few additional features. PAF 3 was issued on diskettes and not online for download but was, I think, included on the CD distribution which was ordered through the LDS Distribution Center in Salt Lake City. All support GEDCOM file generation.
A helpful history: A Brief History of Personal Ancestral File
This is a very sophisticated, complex program that requires a steep learning curve. Professionals love it; beginners may be frustrated.
Rated #1 in the above survey. Comments:
Reportedly, a FamilySearch "Approved Affiliate."
Touted as being easy to use. Reportedly, a FamilySearch "Approved Affiliate."
Didn't make the above Top Ten list, but has its very vocal supporters.
Didn't make the above Top Ten list. This was the basis for PAF4 which incorporates much of its design. As of July 2012, up to version 14 which works with the PAF5 database. A "basics" version is available for free download. Reportedly, a FamilySearch "Approved Affiliate."
Owned my MyFamily.com parent of Ancestry.com FTM 2008 has been universally despised by people who have tried it, according to postings I have seen in email lists and on websites. It was apparently completely rewritten; the previous version #16 (2007) is the last one recommended; it will work with Vista. Reports are that older versions do not work with Vista. They are also notorious for frequent, expensive "upgrades" which add little functionality.
GRAMPS is a genealogy program for Linux and other UNIX-like systems. The GRAMPS name stands for Genealogical Research and Analysis Management Programming System. GRAMPS can be downloaded at no charge. GRAMPS is an Open Source project covered by the GNU General Public License. You have full access to the source code and are allowed to distribute the program and source code freely. A Windows version is being worked on but is not stable and requires a very complex installation procedure. At this point, GRAMPS is more of a geek toy and not recommended for the general user community.
The only game in town for MAC users.
Was created by Genealogy.com. Development and support discontinued as of June 30, 2003. Looks like Genealogy.com bought out by MyFamily.com parent of Ancestry.com. Not surprisingly, F.O. website suggests converting to Family Tree Maker.
Apparently discontinued. Reportedly based on Foxpro for Windows 2,6a
"Gedcom" refers variously to a method, protocol, standard, file format specification or physical computer data file that allows different family tree software programs to exchange genealogy data with each other. GEDCOM is an abbreviation for "GEneological Data COMmunications" and is the name given to a standard file format for genealogical information specified by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) ("Mormons") for transmitting or transferring genealogical from one computer system or program to another. A gedcom data file contains the various genealogy data about individuals such as birth, death, burial, marriage and notes. It is a "flat" data file in plain text format, as contrasted with the hierarchtical internal format used within the programs, but is structured in a manner that it maintains an individual's relationships to parents, siblings, spouse(s) and his/her own children. The gedcom is generated from one family tree software program ("exported"), sent to another computer and read into another ("imported") family tree program where it reconstructs the hierarchital family tree relationships and adds them to its own database. The programming protocol for the gedcom ("standard") was originally developed by the LDS Church which is still the authoritative source for the specification, the last version being 5.5.
The gedcom standard is not precise in all aspects and certain aspects may have been interpreted differently by different developers who may also attempt to "enhance" it to suit themselves. Generally, though, gedcom files are interchangeable amoung offerings of the various vendors. Program glitches may also arise. PAF3, for example, FAILS to write notes into a gedcom if the text block does not include at least one line that starts in the first column. So, the user is warned to verify that the gedcom contains what he/she thinks it should.
As of 2012, there may be some movement among various affected communities to develop an updated standard. That will be a subject to be monitored.
Warning!!! A word of caution: When importing someone else's gedcom file into your genealogy database, always read it into a "test"/temporary family tree file/database and examine the results before adding it to your primary database. It may contain junk you don't want. Also, occasionally gedcom files downloaded may be corrupted, often with a strange character in the first position (column) of the first record (its "header"). That will cause the file to be unrecognized and rejected by the program. Just edit the file and delete the bad character(s) and try again. Gedcom files are just plain text files and can be edited with any ordinary text editor.
Excellent overview description of the GEDCOM standard with a sample. Does not go off the technical deep-end (like some Wikipedia articles do).
A more detailed description of GEDCOM, but first must wade through the author's walk through memory lane.
A more technical description of GEDCOM including version information.
Includes link to the current (5.5 as of April, 2006) standard and a couple utilities.
Randy Winch's page for GEDCOM utilities. Includes GEDSplit, Analyze, GEDPlace, Addnote, Addsour, Gedcaps, and GEDLiving.
Deletes personal information from a GEDCOM file about individuals who are determined to be living.
Deletes personal information from a GEDCOM file about individuals who are determined to be living.
Arbor Vita is a freeware that lets you display your genealogy tree on the web by generating HTML pages.
Bygones is a freeware software program designed primarily to keep genealogical research notes on a laptop computer. However, it also has databases that genealogists without laptops may find useful. It is available for Windows 95/98/me/XP/NT and Macintosh 8.1+ computers.
is a free genealogy software with a Web interface. It can be used off-line or as a Web service. It uses very efficient techniques of relationship and consanguinity computing. Available in English, French, German, Dutch and Swedish.
Family Tree Website Generator Software.
a free program which automates the task of "cleaning" the personal information about living individuals from a GEDCOM file containing genealogical data.
GedHTree: a GEDCOM to HTML converter.
GedView A Windows program to navigate through GEDCOM files
GedReporter : A tool for generating reports and web sites from genealogy databases. A scripting language similar to Visual Basic allows for complete customization.
KStableau : You can use KStableau.exe to generate HTML files to display a graphical family tree. Such a chart is a great way to visualise your family tree. Make an ancestor or descendants chart for web publishing. You can also use it to analyse kinship (inbreeding, pedigree loss, etc.).
UncleGED : a GEDCOM Reader, a GEDCOM to HTML Converter, and a GEDCOM Cataloging Tool
FamilyTree House. This site offers free family tree software and links to key genealogy sites. The software is available on-line. You can build your FamilyTree House in real time, no downloading is required.
My Family Health Portrait. Free download of a tool the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that will help you organize your family tree and help you identify common diseases that may run in your family.
Gendex.pl Is a free Perl script that will simplify search in your (many) files if you currently publish your Gedcom file with Ged2www, Gedpage, Ged2HTML, Gedbrowser, Ged4Web or any other genealogy program that generates a Gendex file.
England, Scotland and Wales Parish Locator for Windows. - A database of almost 25,000 parishes and churches. From the full listing you are able to select a 'Home' parish around which you need to identify other churches. You can enter a distance in either miles or kilometers from the 'Home' parish and request a listing of all such churches from the database within that radius.
FREEWARE! View, edit and print graphic files of various formats including JPG/JPEG and TIFF. Includes thumbnail viewer. Excellent product! One that I would pay money for.
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