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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Personal Ancestral File -- only mostly dead

I recently had a discussion with a patron at the Mesa Regional Family History Center who was trying to learn more about genealogy to help others with their research. She indicated that she was sort of serving by default as the Ward Family History Consultant in her LDS Ward. During the discussion she mentioned that a member of her Ward was teaching classes and insisting that everyone had to use Personal Ancestral File. Apparently, as I have mentioned in the past, some people think their is a religious mandate from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to use "the Church's genealogy program." This sent me back to do some research on current statements concerning Personal Ancestral File (PAF).

First of all, the program is still available as a free download from FamilySearch.org, where it is described as follows:
Personal Ancestral File (PAF) is a free genealogy and family history program. PAF allows you to quickly and easily collect, organize and share your family history and genealogy information.
Second, it is still being supported and featured in classes at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and at many regional and local family history centers maintained by the LDS Church. In fact, on November 20, 2009 there are two classes at the Family History Library scheduled.

As a side note, I have loaded PAF into my new Windows 7 operating system and it seems to work normally.

So where are we going with PAF? In a fairly recent article in Mormon Times, David E. Rencher, FamilySearch's Chief Genealogical Officer is quoted as saying as follows:
One of the most popular products being phased out is Personal Ancestral File (PAF), a free family history program that was introduced in 1997. FamilySearch is moving to an Internet-based system, usually referred to as the New FamilySearch. People will still be able to use PAF on their computer and export their data to the New FamilySearch. An additional software program will enable PAF users to import information from the New FamilySearch back to PAF.
Although it is not clear from the article, the "additional software program" referred to is likely FamilyInsight from Ohana Software.

Up to this point in the development of LDS genealogy software the Church has consistently indicated that New FamilySearch is not intended to replace PAF. To quote a recent FamilySearch help item:
To use FamilySearch, you do not need to use Personal Ancestral File or a similar computer program. FamilySearch, however, is not intended to replace these programs if you already use them.
There is the very suspicious phrase however, "if you already use them." Does this mean that if you do not have PAF or another program, that you are supposed to use New FamilySearch for your primary database program?

What is clear is that there is no future for Personal Ancestral File. Users of the program are living on borrowed time. Eventually, the program may not run on future versions of operating systems, the old Apple version is long since inoperable. The Microsoft Windows version may lose it viability with future changes. For the time being, there is no emergency, but it is time to change and use any one of the many commercially available programs.

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