You will find plenty of information when researching your family history. A computer program is great for storing data but there are genealogy software issues that you need to be mindful of. Incidentally the data that can be collected could be from certificates, old parish registers, censuses, or even given to you by relatives.
You will need somewhere to store this information so that you can retrieve it whenever you need it, or to double check whether you have the information already.
You will therefore need to purchase genealogy software!
Using such a program will help you sift through the mass of information that you have compiled. You will be able to see what data you already have and thus save time redoing what you have already researched.
Also, using a computer program will free you from redrawing your family tree with a pencil and ruler every time that you find new information.
There are also other benefits to using a computer program. Charts can also be created with these packages that can show relationships between ancestors and yourself, or the descendants of an ancestor for example.
Information such as birth, marriage and death for example can easily be added to these charts. Also. these charts can be helpful as they provide a stimulus for further research.
There’s even more that you can do with genealogy software programs!
Reports and maps can also be produced. Pictures can be attached so that we can add a face to the name that we are researching. And even videos and sound clips can also be added. Websites, CDs, DVDs and books can also be created with these software packages.
There are many things to consider when purchasing software to build your family tree. Below I have outline what needs to be considered.
Operating System (Windows or Mac)
Is the computer that you are using Windows or Mac? Or you may even be using a tablet or smartphone that either has iOS or Android operating system. The answer to this will determine which genealogy software that you purchase.
In my experience there are more genealogy software programs available to Windows users. But do not despair there are some that you can purchase for a Mac. One of the popular ones Family Tree Maker is available for both operating systems.
So even if you are using a Mac you will still have the same functions and features that are available to a Windows user. Using a genealogy software program is a must for any family historian and you should not be discouraged by whatever computer that you are using.
If you are researching at your local archives, the library or even at a cemetery you will need to have your data on hand with either your smartphone or tablet. Once you return home you can then continue working on your family history on your computer.
Some software programs allow you to sync with web based sites so that you can have your information at home and also online. This is a pretty useful feature to have.
For example, you could be at one of these places making notes on scraps of paper. You could be out all day and be writing a lot of notes. How do you order that?
Also, when you return home you need to sit down and make sense of it all. Pretty difficult task if you been to more than one place and you didn’t keep your notes in order. On the other hand if your research is all synched up then you do not need to worry about any of that.
You just pick up where you left off with your research. This will mean you do not need to ponder for a while and think “hey where was I again with this?“.
Product/Download versus Web Based
The more experienced genealogist will generally go with the at home package. Although they may have less flashy interfaces than web based they make up with the ability to store and present your information. A trial version may also be available to you so that you can try before you buy.
If you are a beginner though you may wish to consider creating your tree online. Not only can you access your information anywhere but you can disclose your tree to others in hope that they can help build your tree further. These web based sites also have records which may help further your research.
This approach is suitable for the beginner as they offer an attractive and less overwhelming interface.
Beware of the problems of working online!
There are disadvantages though with this type of service. For example you may have a slow internet connection so accessing your tree and doing any research may take you longer to do.
Also, if the company terminates or you no longer subscribe to them then your years of research will just disappear. A possible solution would be to host your information on more than one web based site.
One other disadvantage with the web based approach may be your level of computer expertise. Over time these sites alter their layout and the way the information is presented to you. This may then make your time researching frustrating as you try to figure out the new design. Also, the ability to produce charts, books, etc. may also be limited with this approach.
Export/Import and Create Information
If you want to share your information with any sites or to anyone then you will need to export your data as a GEDCOM file. GEDCOM stands for Genealogical Data Communication and was created so that information could be exchanged between different genealogy software and individuals.
It is far easier to exchange your research this way than sending your relative a pile of notes. It will also be easier for them to digest your research this way as well.
All of the top software programs available are able to do this. So you can import other people’s GEDCOM file that they have created. Even if you are using a different software package to them you will still be able to accept their information. The GEDCOM file is a standard format that any computer or program can accept.
Create your own reports and charts!
As noted at the top of this page reports and charts can easily be created. These can then be printed out and can be a useful aid to you, or be given to lesser tech-savvy relatives to look over.
What’s great about this is that you can include your colorful charts into a family history book that you are writing. What I have found to be quite useful are the relationship charts. These will break down how you are related to an ancestor of yours.
I have also used this feature to see how I am related to a distant cousin that I have just met online. It’s pretty easy to create and print out!
One thing to note when sharing your research with others is the privacy of your data. Your living relatives that are included in your tree may not want their information to be freely exchanged with others. So you will need to have full control of your data sharing on online sites and to individuals.
If you record your information on your computer rather than web based then there will be no question of privacy as only you have access to it. But if you do want to share your work with others then please consider setting controls as what is viewable by others.
When you create a GEDCOM file you will be able to edit what branches or information will be contained on the file. Genealogy is not always an individual hobby and you may want to share the workload with one or more people. So setting controls like this is handy to remember.
Backup Your Information
From time to time you will want to backup your information for safety reasons. You do not want to spend hours researching a branch only for the file to become corrupted resulting in you losing all that valuable time and information.
All of the top software packages allow you to make a backup file. It is also important to note that you should backup your information on an external device, such as a portable hard drive or flash drive. Not only do I have my work saved on my computer but I also use two other portable devices to save my work.
I know it can be a pain to get them out and hook them up to the computer every time you are working on you your research. But what is better losing a bit of time there than losing all of your research. Would you want to carry on researching?!
So if your computer does crash for whatever reason then you will still have your treasured information at hand. You will just have to go to the expense of getting your computer fixed or buying a new one. Even if you can get your computer fixed your information may not be able to be retrieved.
Over time upgrades to your software package are made available. All of the top software companies will provide an update and it is up to you if you decide to upgrade or stick with your older version. You can do so by visiting the company of the product you have bought and checking for product updates.
You can also be made aware of these updates by email. This is far easier than checking back now and again to the company’s website. Not only will you be made aware of new updates but maybe there will be a new version of the software being released.
The updates that you can expect are the usual bug fixes. Sometimes bugs will appear in the program that may make the program crash or do unexpected things. That’s when patches are made available to help solve those problems.
Other updates include improving the layout or design of the interface. So you can interact and find your information far quicker than before. More reports or charts could be added to the software, an in-app browser could be added and so on. There is so many features that can be added and these programs are being updated all the time.
While researching and using your software you may become stuck as to how to perform some action. All of the top genealogy programs offer their users help and support, and it is important to consider this when purchasing a software package.
You do not want to spend hours researching for help online if there is no support available to you. There are YouTube channels created by the software companies containing video tutorials for their users. Or you can find help through the guides or PDF downloads that are made available on the company’s website.
You may also be able to get help from the company’s forum if they have one. Or you may get help from any one of the genealogy forums that you will find on the Internet.
One source of help that you could consider is either joining a library or local family history society. Your local library may provide genealogy classes and resources and there you may get help with your software problem. A family history society may also help not only with your computer issues but give you tips, strategies and techniques with your genealogy research.
So there are a number of issues to consider when purchasing a genealogy software program. What from operating system are you using to whether you want to synch your information between your devices. Most of the programs on offer today provide good user support, have regular updates and allow you to print out a plethora of charts and reports.
Please note: Most of these genealogy software programs will work on a Windows computer. The Family Tree Heritage 9 software is available for both Windows and Mac users.
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