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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Transitioning from PAF -- Part One

Personal Ancestral File (PAF), a lineage linked database program, was first released in 1983 in a text only version. The current version of the program for Windows is 5.2.18.0. (There is a multi-language version, 4.0.4.18). The Macintosh version of the program no longer works with the most recent Apple operating systems. The last update to the program was released on July 23, 2002.

There are no statistics available as to the number of PAF users but it is undoubtedly the most used genealogy program available. Many PAF users are totally unaware that other genealogical database programs even exist. There are two main reasons why PAF has achieved such dominance, first it was distributed for free or for a very nominal price by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and secondly it was extensively supported by the LDS Church Family History Centers. There are also numerous PAF Users Groups scattered across the world.

The official position of the LDS Church is that FamilySearch is developing Web-based genealogy systems. A search of the help system for New FamilySearch gives the following statement:
What is the future of PAF?
  • Is PAF compatible with the new FamilySearch?
  • Does the new FamilySearch replace PAF?
  • Is PAF dead?
  • Is PAF being dropped?

PAF Is Still Needed
PAF is one of the genealogy database programs that can produce GEDCOM files, which can be uploaded to the new FamilySearch.While there are no plans to further develop PAF, it remains a dependable and easy-to-use program. Users of PAF can receive support by telephone or e-mail, as well as through the knowledge base in the Product Support section of www.familysearch.org. Local support may also be available at a family history center or from a family history consultant. There are also inexpensive utility programs that provide enhancements. These include PAF Companion, PAF Insight, and PAFWiz. PAF Insight and PAFWiz do not receive technical support from the Church. For more information regarding these products, go to the respective Web sites.

If a PAF user later decides to switch to a different program, his or her data can be exported as a GEDCOM file and then imported to any commercial genealogy database program that uses GEDCOM. Some of these programs have the ability to import a PAF file directly so the data does not have to be reentered but can simply be loaded into the new program.

PAF and the New FamilySearch Are Complementary Products
PAF stores a wide range of data with sources and voluminous notes. With it, users can perform advanced searches of data and can print a variety of reports, including books. PAF has a built-in "Print-to-file" (RTF) feature, which allows users to create electronic copies of reports and charts that can be sent as e-mail attachments. If a free PDF writer such as PrimoPDF or CutePDF is installed on the computer, PAF can use it to create PDF copies of reports and charts that could then be e-mailed or even posted to a Web site. PAF has a Preview feature that allows users to see a report before they print it. Users can also link multimedia files to their PAF data. Many of the personal genealogical databases on the Internet were created using PAF.

The New FamilySearch Will Play a Different Role
The new FamilySearch will replace TempleReady. You will be able to prepare names using the new FamilySearch and then take them directly to any temple (you willnot have to take them to a family history center anymore). The new FamilySearch will make it easier for you to work with others on ancestral family lines since you can all access the same information. You will be able to see where individuals fit in the context of their whole family, unlike the IGI, which shows only individual births, marriages, and deaths. The new FamilySearch will also allow you to challenge errors that have been made and to work to correct them. As the program continues to be developed, the role of the new FamilySearch will certainly increase.
The transition from PAF to third party programs is well along the way. Unfortunately, there are some severe obstacles for present PAF users, many of whom lack even the concept of a different program. Future posts will explore the challenges faced by present PAF users and give suggestions about the transition.

1 comment:

  1. I am one of those who is transitioning from PAF to a commercial software program. I began my search for the appropriate program several months ago by downloading the free (standard) version of Legacy. It seemed a little alien to me; I have found an easier transition to Roots Magic which I had used occasionally for research I was working on for other people not in my family. Roots Magic is still going require me to adjust, but perhaps it will not be as foreign as Legacy, as I started many years ago with Family Origins, before I became a regular PAF user. 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.

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