Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

PAF is not dead -- yet

Personal Ancestral File (PAF) is one of the most used lineage linked database programs in the world, but its utility is being challenged by the developments within the LDS Church's own online programs. In my last two posts, I discuss transitioning from PAF to a different database program in order to take advantage of the information being provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in its New FamilySearch database. Although New FamilySearch is only presently available to certain geographic areas of the Church, last week's announcement of the introduction of New FamilySearch into Utah and Idaho, presages its introduction throughout the Church. Also, since the very beginning of the New FamilySearch it has been the avowed goal of the Church to allow access to the program, "at some time in the future," to those outside the Church membership.

As it is presently developed, PAF does not support any of the additional features implemented by New FamilySearch without intervention by third-party (read non-Church) programs, such as FamilyInsight, RootsMagic 4 and Ancestral Quest 12.1. Ohana Software, the publishers of FamilyInsight, have developed a whole company around the concept of providing add on features to PAF.

As one reader commented to the post on Transitioning from PAF, "PAF is a wonderful, straightforward, program. What I liked best about it is that there were still many things that I hadn't learned about its capacity. It had layers of interesting challenges for me. I can't bring myself to uninstall it from my computer."

I would have agreed with that assessment ten years ago, but with today's higher standards, especially in the area of source citations, I must say that PAF is very much lacking in desirable features. For example, PAF provides the ability to cite a source only for selected events, none of the events entitled "Other" such as Title, Married Name, Nickname, Cause of Death etc. have source links. Also, there are no source links for common dates, like Death, Burial, Birth and Christening. The link is on the place field which makes the unfounded assumption that both the place and date records were obtained from the same source. I could go on and on with issues with the program, but either you recognize its limitations and are willing to live with them, or you are oblivious to the limitations. It is interesting that many of the newer programs preserve this lack of distinction between dates and places, possibly passing on their relationship to the PAF program.

As long as there is a huge body of PAF users and so long as the Family History Centers around the world continue to teach and implement the program on people's computers, it is highly unlikely that the program will disappear anytime soon.

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