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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

FamilySearch Beta Review

With the addition of over 300 million records to the FamilySearch Record Search website and the same records to the FamilySearch Beta site, it is becoming apparent that the now-traditional website will likely be totally revamped in the not too distant future. The FamilySearch Beta has the following statistics for the website:

Launch date
24 May 1999
Number of names in searchable databases Over 1 billion
Number of hits since launch Over 15 billion
Number of visitors since launch Over 150 million
Number of pages viewed since launch Over 5 billion
Number of hits per day Over 10 million
Number of visitors per day Over 50,000
Number of pages viewed per day Over 1 million
Number of registered users Over 1 million

FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. FamilySearch.

The new website has a much simplified homepage with the invitation to "Discover Your Ancestors." The historical records are divided into three categories; Trees, Library Catalog and "All Collections." The Trees link opens the advanced search and takes you to the Ancestral File, a "collection of genealogical information taken from Pedigree Charts and Family Group Records submitted to the Family History Department since 1978." FamilySearch.

The second link takes you to a modified search screen for the Family History Library Catalog. While the third link, All Collections, is a modified search of the present Record Search, however, without the map showing the geographic areas of search. The All Collections search has a useful option to show only collections with images. Otherwise, the collections with images are marked with a little camera icon.

In addition to the search options, the homepage has links to learning resources, directly to the Family History Library catalog, to Indexing and to the Blog. It turns out that there is also a link to the FamilySearch Wiki. The Wiki is not identified as such, it is incorporated into the basic design of FamilySearch and does not seem to exist as a separate entity until you sign in. There is nothing on the homepage that gives any hint that the Wiki site has been incorporated. The websites all use the newer consolidated sign-in identification only recently introduced. I found it somewhat too simplified, even though the site had vast resources the availability of those resources was well disguised by the simple interface. In my experience with Google, for example, many people never get past the simple interface and never realize that there are a lot more resources available.

Previously, the Blog was seldom, if ever, updated. With the new design and updated site, there have been new articles every day for the past week or so. It looks like FamilySearch is now committed to blogging.

FamilySearch encourages feedback and has a prominently featured feedback link. In my experience they are super responsive to almost any concern or question. They have the best support system I have ever encountered, hands down.

I guess I am impressed with the new website. I do think is a little too understated and it takes a lot of clicking to figure out what is going on with the site. It is very useful to finally have links to all of the research sources in one consolidated website.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Blog post from iPad

The question is whether the iPad is just a fancy toy or could be used as a production device. First of all, the compose screen in Blogspot doesn't work, probably because of the absence of Adobe Flash. Apple and Adobe are pretty much at odds over the Flash issue. Flash is used in a lot of online programs, such as New FamilySearch and Record Search. whatever the reason there seems to be a few impediments to using the iPad for online production. I am only able to enter the text of this post because I am using the Edit HTML mode. This means that everything I write has to be entered literally, not using the formatting buttons.

I guess that my conclusion is, that you can do it but you wouldn't want to do it for long unless you had no other choice. The keyboard is on screen. It has a very light touch, but if you got used to it you could probably type fairly fast. One advantage is that I can sit and watch America the Story of Us and type at the same time.

Announcement of over 300,000,000 records added to FamilySearch Beta

Apparently at the same time over 180 new collections of records were added to FamilySearch's Record Search (also known as Record Search Pilot) the same records plus most of the existing records from the Record Search were added to the FamilySearch Beta. The announcement was made to the FamilySearch Indexers upon their login to the FamilySearch Indexing website. The announcement also appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune. The announcement contained the following:

FamilySearch, the world's largest repository of genealogical information, today announced it will release records containing 300 million names that can now be researched online for free.

Jay Verkler, president of FamilySearch, the genealogy division of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made the announcement during the National Genealogical Society's annual meeting. More than 2,000 family history specialists, librarians and ancestral hobbyists are attending the convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City.

FamilySearch has established a temporary website, for the records. In the next several weeks, the site will become a permanent part of

I will have more comments on the records released as soon as I get a chance to review them.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

FamilySearch Record Search more than doubles the number of collections

In a little heralded and unannounced move, FamilySearch has added more than double the number of records to its Record Search Database. The number of collections went from 163 to 341 today, 27 April 2010. The list is incredible. Some of the countries that have new records have never had an online presence previously, such as Uruguay, India, Samoa, Paraguay, Panama, Honduras, Grenada, El Salvador, Ecuador, Austria, Belgium, The Channel Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Isle of Mann, Portugal and the Ukraine. I may have missed some. But wait, that is not all, dozens of the other record collections have been added to or supplemented. The list is too long to reproduce in its entirety, but there is something for everyone.

With this significant addition, Record Search moves from being an interesting site, to being one of the first places you should look for free online records. This is a must see! We heard a rumor that there would be a significant change on Record Search today and I guess the rumor was correct. I have been watching the site all day and the new collections came online sometime while I was out of town today.

Record Search adds almost 4 million Non-conformist records

FamilySearch's Record Search has added a huge index of 3,920,183 records of English Non-conformists held at the National Archives in London. These records are known as RG4 through 8. For example, RG4 are registers (authenticated by the Non-Parochial Registers Commissioners) of births, baptisms, deaths, burials and marriages. They cover dates from 1567 to 1858. You can find a description of the content of each series by clicking here.

According to the Research Wiki:

In the 16th century, Henry VIII of England broke from the Catholic church to establish the Church of England, also known as the Anglican church. The motives for this action can be debated. Many believe that it was based solely on his desire to have his marriage annulled so that could marry another woman who he believed could give him an heir to the throne. Some believe it was an act of religious faith.

In any case, the new church (also called the Established Church) was not universally welcomed and quickly became politicized. Rejection of the Established Church became seen as a rejection of the Crown. Many who dared to challenge the Established Church were interested in remaining loyal to the Catholic (i.e., universal) church headquartered in Rome. They became known as Roman Catholics. There were others who agreed with a separation from Rome, but had other ideas about the form such a "protest" should take. They were part of a larger Protestant movement sweeping through Europe around this time. However, in England, these ideas were seen as political protest, not just religious protest. For this reason, English protestants are often referred to as Dissenters or Non-conformists.

Monday, April 26, 2010

What do I need to know and do to restore damaged photos -- Part Three

In thinking about my last post, I realized that I had mentioned that all digital editing is destructive. That issue needs to be explained further especially to anyone involved in restoring scanned images of old photographs.

Before taking even the first step in restoring old photos, you should understand what happens when an image is scanned or otherwise digitized. The digitization process involves creating a numerical representation of the information contained in the original photograph. In both photographic and digitized images a major concern is the clarity or resolution of the image. In photographs, the discrete grains of the photographic chemicals are so small that absent microscopic examination, the grains are not usually visible to the unaided eye. However, if a photograph is is greatly enlarged, you can often detect a graininess to the image. The resolution of the image depends not only on the ultimate size of the film grains but also on the camera and lens system. You cannot get high resolution images out of a bad lens. The measure of resolution in a photograph and of a camera lens is measured in terms of the how closely printed black parallel lines can be resolved. The number of lines per inch (or other measure) is called the image's spatial resolution. There are standard resolution test documents that determine the actual physical resolution of a camera system and of a photograph produced by the camera and lens combination. One of those is the 1951 U.S. Air Force resolution test target. Various other systems of testing the resolution of camera lenses have also been developed, click here for another type of chart.

In the case of a digital image, the "resolution" is really nothing more than a pixel count. Each distinct microscopic pixel is a discrete sensor. The sensor array is made up of rows and columns of pixels. The pixel resolution is represented by two numbers, one for the columns or width and one number for the rows or height. Current technology has numbers of pixels over one million, so the actual number is divided by one million and referred to as "Megapixels." There are other references to pixel resolution that include describing pixels per length unit or pixels per area unit, such as pixels per inch or per square inch. These pixel resolutions are not true resolutions, but are commonly referred to as such; they serve as upper bounds on image resolution. Wikipedia.

So, digitizing a photograph will always end up reducing the amount of information present in the original. No matter how high the resolution of the scan, the discrete nature of the pixel elements will put an upper limit on the resolution and pixel resolution does not presently come close to equaling spatial resolution. Likewise, once the image is digitized, whether from a scanner or directly from a digital camera, any changes to the image will result in a loss of information and hence, all edits are destructive.

Next, digital formats for saving images, is there a RAW image in your future?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What do I need to know and do to restore damaged photographs? Part Two

Restoring old photographs

The photo above was scanned from small, 3 x 5 inch photo. As you can see the original is badly creased and torn. After spending some time with Adobe Photoshop, here is the first pass at removing some of the most obvious defects: (Click on the images to get a full size view).

The original image was scanned on a Canon flatbed scanner at 300 (pixels per inch) and saved in TIFF format. I used the Healing Brush Tool and the Cloning Stamp Tool to erase the defects in the original. I adjusted the contrast and sharpened the image slightly. It is important to understand that all editing of digital images is destructive. The original scan has as much data as it is possible to obtain. You can try scanning at a higher pixel per inch but it is likely that the higher setting will not increase the quality of the output but will measurably increase the file size and the document size.

Photography dates from the early 1800s. The first permanent photograph was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicephore Niepce of France. A variety of imaging systems were devised, including Daguerreotype, calotype, wet plate collodion, ambrotypes, tintypes or ferrotypes and finally in 1871, the dry plate process. In all of these imaging systems, the image is created by a chemical change in a coating on glass, metal or paper. If you magnify a photographic image enough, you can see the individual grains of the chemicals. The resolution of film depends on the size of the film used to record the image and sensitivity to light or speed of the film. The higher the film speed measured in a numerical scale (ISO or International Organization for Standardization) the larger the grains.

Digital images are fundamentally different than film. A digital image is created with a fixed number of rows and columns of pixel elements. It is inaccurate to talk about the "resolution" of a digital image because the size in number of pixels and sensitivity of a digital sensor is fixed at the time of manufacture. Digital imaging dates back to the invention of the charge-coupled device (CCD) that is the image sensor in many digital cameras in 1969. But the first commercially available camera using digital technology, the Sony Mavica, was only released in 1981. This camera had a 720,000 pixel image (.7 Megapixels). Technically, the Mavica or Magnetic Video Camera, was not a digital camera but a still analog version of the video cameras of the day.

Sensor technology has rapidly increased the number of image pixels on the sensors until today (2010) sensors of 10 Megapixels are common with expensive chips with much higher density. There have been attempts to develop different types of image sensors, including the Foveon sensor which collects information about red, green and blue light at every pixel or photo receptor site.

So when you make a digital image, the computer in the camera or scanner is recording the amount of light it receives from each pixel. The amount of light is stored as a series of numbers that can be viewed by having the computer reverse the process and send the light values to a screen or digital printer. Although there is a trend to increase the number of pixels available for storage, the quality of the image created is more dependent on the skill of the photographer and the way the image is used than on absolute pixel number. Here is an explanation of the relationship from Wikipedia:
The term resolution is often used as a pixel count in digital imaging, even though American, Japanese, and international standards specify that it should not be so used, at least in the digital camera field. An image of N pixels high by M pixels wide can have any resolution less than N lines per picture height, or N TV lines. But when the pixel counts are referred to as resolution, the convention is to describe the pixel resolution with the set of two positive integer numbers, where the first number is the number of pixel columns (width) and the second is the number of pixel rows (height), for example as 640 by 480. Another popular convention is to cite resolution as the total number of pixels in the image, typically given as number of megapixels, which can be calculated by multiplying pixel columns by pixel rows and dividing by one million. Other conventions include describing pixels per length unit or pixels per area unit, such as pixels per inch or per square inch. None of these pixel resolutions are true resolutions, but they are widely referred to as such; they serve as upper bounds on image resolution.
At the present time the optimal ppi or pixels per inch for most scanning is 300 dpi or ppi. Here is a good analysis of optimal scanning resolution.

Tune in for more.

What do I need to restore damaged photographs? Part One

In the recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are, Susan Sarandon carried around a old laminated photo of her grandmother. With today's technology, she could have had the old photo scanned and restored, however, that was never mentioned in the episode. Neither did they mention, later on in the hour, that the other photos she found could be easily digitally copied. I am sure that almost everyone realizes that any photograph can be digitized and the digital copies of old photos can be edited to "restore" them. Of course, there are limitations. Missing information in the photo cannot be restored. But the appearance of the photo can be digitally enhanced and some obscure parts made more visible.

Digital photography works on a variety of levels. At the most simple level, anyone can click a photo with an inexpensive camera. At the most complicated level, equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars can involve some of the most expensive software. For example, a simple digital camera with fairly good resolution presently costs about $100. The most expensive digital cameras, such as the Hasselblad H3DII-39MS cost about $31,000. Obviously, most genealogists are a lot closer to the $100 camera than they are to the Hasselblad. Digital flatbed scanners also have a range of costs, from around $50 up to over $6000.

Getting the old photo into a digitized format is only half of the story. You need to be able to edit the photo once it scanned. That takes a computer and software. The most popular photo editing software is Adobe's Photoshop and its less expensive junior partner, Photoshop Elements. The full version of Photoshop can cost around $500 (or less depending on discounts and special purchases), while Photoshop Elements is less than $100. So if you made the least expensive choices, you could be in the digital photo business for about $250 to $300 or you could spend close to $50,000 or more.

I have been scanning photographs for about thirty years and I would not even try to restore photos with the least expensive options. The real cost of photo restoration is in the time it takes to work on the photos and if you are going to spend the time, you need the right tools and the understanding of how to do the job without ruining both the original photo and the digital copy. If you take the time to start to learn about digital photos, you will soon realize that there is a lot to learn. There is a whole series of Digital Photos for Dummies books out there on the Internet, just try doing a Google search on "digital photo dummies" and see what I mean. If you want to really know what is going on in digital photography and scanning, try a book like Fraser, Bruce, and Jeff Schewe. Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS4. Berkeley, Calif: Peachpit, 2009.

Over the next few posts, I will discuss the equipment and the software tools needed to restore photos and to manage your photo collection. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Google Translate goes multi-species as well as multi-cultural

As announced by Google, "For millennia man and animal have tolerantly coexisted, separated by language and the development of opposable thumbs. Today we can proudly say that we have overcome one of those hurdles. Presenting Google Translate for Animals, a new application available in Android Market."

Of course, it is unlikely that any of the animals you know personally will have any valuable genealogical information, but you might need some of the other Google products such as

Google Translate, now with speech capabilities. Quoting from the Google translate blog, "In November 2009 we launched a “text-to-speech” feature which allowed users to hear words and sentences in English read out loud by Google Translate. Since then we’ve added Haitian Creole and in March added French, Italian, and German to the list of supported languages. To hear any of languages out loud, just click the icon next to the translation when you visit"

Now, Google also has transliteration of non-Roman scripts. As featured in the Official Google Blog, "Most of us use a keyboard to enter text; it's one of the most basic activities we perform on a computer. However even this simple activity can be cumbersome in many parts of the world. If you've ever tried to type in a non-Roman script using a Roman keyboard, you know that it can be difficult to do. Many of us at Google's Bangalore office experienced this problem firsthand. Roman keyboards are the norm in India, making it difficult to type in Indian languages. We decided to tackle this problem by making it very easy to type phonetically using Roman characters and we launched this service as Google Transliteration.
Using Google Transliteration you can convert Roman characters to their phonetic equivalent in your language. Note that this is not the same as translation — it's the sound of the words that are converted from one alphabet to the other. For example, typing "hamesha" transliterates into Hindi as: Hindi  transliteration example, typing "salaam" transliterates into Persian as: Farsi transliteration exampleand typing "spasibo" transliterates into Russian as . Since our initial launch for a single Indian language, we've been hard at work on improving quality, adding more languages and new features."

Thanks to John Newmark of TransylvanianDutch Genealogy and Family History, for the link to this newer feature from Google.

Please read the interview with David E. Rencher on NFS

Randy Seaver, of Genea-Musings has a multi-part interview with David E. Rencher, Chief Genealogical Officer for If you have any interest in New FamilySearch at all, you will want to read this insightful interview. Thanks to Randy for publishing this hugely useful information.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Who was Ralph Carum Tanner? And why do I care?

In my last post, I related some of the problems found in an Family Tree containing information supposedly about my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner. Primary in those problems was the addition of three extra children to the Henry Martin/Eliza Ellen Tanner Family including one "Ralph Carum Tanner." In searching the Web and in New FamilySearch, I find a number of instances of family tree submissions containing the elusive Ralph Carum Tanner as a child in the Henry Tanner family.

Looking at the entry in New, I find Ralph listed as born 6 Apr 1904 in Snowflake, Navajo, Arizona with no death date. He has some 4 combined records, all showing him as a child of Henry and Eliza and all certain about his birth in 1904. So, do I really have a long lost uncle missed by all of the other family records including U.S. Census records from 1880 to 1930? Let's search the Arizona Department of Health Services, Arizona Genealogy Birth and Death Certificates site and see if he shows up. Just to make sure, I search the Arizona records by the last name "Tanner." Eager to see if I can connect with a new near relative who apparently eluded all of his siblings and their writings also.

It turns out that the Arizona Website is a bit cranky today and doesn't want to respond. Perhaps its budget has been cut to support the crackdown on illegal aliens or the closing of the State Mineral Collection. Oh, there it is, the list of all the Tanners in Arizona who were born or died during the time period covered by the records, some 260 Tanner entries. Hummm! Guess what? There is only one Ralph T. Tanner listed and he was born in 1938 in Lowell, Cochise County, almost the entire state away from the Henry Tanner home in Navajo County. (Arizona is a really big state and Lowell is about 432 miles from Joseph City and the Henry and Eliza Tanner home.

Using some of the accumulated knowledge gained studying genealogy during the past twenty to thirty years, I make an educated guess that Ralph T. Tanner the son of William D. Tanner and Frances Cienfuegas is not the son of Henry and Eliza. But there is still all of the "evidence" on New FamilySearch and (lacking, of course, even one source citation) claiming that Henry and Eliza had a son named Ralph. On to the research.

So far, it has taken me about ten minutes or less to determine that there is a serious issue with including a child named Ralph Carum in the Henry Tanner family but the superior wisdom of all of these other Tanner family members must mean something, after all he appears on any number of family trees?

Let's get on with the search again. How about the Social Security Death index, after all, Ralph was supposedly born in 1904 and would have had a long an illustrative career under Social Security. Well, there are about 200 or so Ralph Tanners in the SSDI. Sorry, no matches. How about the Ancestral File in Bingo. There he is and guess what? He is listed as a child of Henry Martin Tanner and Eliza Ellen Parkinson. The Ancestral File shows that he was submitted by someone in Laveen, Arizona. No sources, no notes, nothing to support the claimed relationship but he is claimed to be living at the time of the submission. How about the Arizona Obituary Index, nope, no Ralph C. Tanner, only a Ralph M. born about 1925.

Hmm, where else can I look. I figure that if he was born in 1904, then if were still alive, he would now be about 106 years old. I do another search online, this time The Sprague Project. Oh dear, that site also lists the elusive Ralph Carum Tanner as a child of Henry and Eliza and also has 15 children listed, rather than the actual 11. The source in Sprague is listed as a "Family Group Sheet." I don't know if my actual knowledge that Henry and Eliza never had a son named Ralph can hold up to this superior documentation! They do claim that he is dead however. On to the Tanner book,

Tanner, Maurice, and George C. Tanner. Descendants of John Tanner: Born August 15, 1778 at Hopkintown, R.I., Died April 15, 1850 at South Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah. [s.l.]: Tanner Family Association, 1942.

Sorry, we strike out here too. There is no Ralph Carum Tanner listed at all. Not even any close.

Well, let's sum up the evidence so far. Nothing. Apparently, some one believed there was person named Ralph Carum Tanner and that he was in the Henry and Eliza Tanner family but no one has taken the time or made the effort to list any documentation. None of the Arizona sources show his existence, birth records, death records, obituaries, nothing.

Who is Ralph Carum Tanner? Interesting that all these online collections of names help to multiply and perpetuate his existence. Moral of this Story: Don't believe all that you find online especially in family trees.

Contradictions in genealogical research

Here is an interesting observation. I did a search for my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner, on This is not an observation about as such, but more about the legions of people who post their family records online. When I look at the entries for Henry Tanner, I find what I already know, that he had two wives (and at the same time also). But that is not the issue, one of the contributors to has Henry Tanner listed with his two wives, Eliza Ellen Parkinson and Emma Ellen Stapley. Eliza is listed as having 14 children and Emma is listed with 4.

Now, here is the interesting part. Right in the heading to the Family Tree listing, there is a link to the Utah Pioneers and Prominent Men which has this exact entry:
TANNER, HENRY M. (son of Sidney Tanner and Julia Ann Shepherd). Born June 11, 1852, San Bernardino, Cal. Married Eliza Parkinson Jan. 25, 1877, St. George, Utah (daughter of Thomas Parkinson and Mary Ann Bryant of Beaver, pioneers 1858). She was born Sept. 8, 1857. Their children: Martin Ray b. Jan. 22, 1878, m. Prudence Miller; Thomas William b. Jan. 25, 1880, m. Marian Miller; Julia Alice b. March 4, 1882, m. John L. Fish; Mary Ida b. Feb. 25, 1884, m. Jesse H. Rogers; Rollin C. b. Feb. 9, 1886, m. Anna Harbracht; Hazel b. Aug. 5, 1888, m. Harbert Cooper; Marion Lyman b. Aug. 7, 1890; Arthur b. Sept. 19, 1892; Leroy Shepherd b. Jan. 12, 1895; George Parkinson b. Jan. 26, 1897; Donnette b. March 31, 1899. Married Emma E. Stapley March 24, 1886, St. George, Utah (daughter of Charles Stapley of Toquerville, Utah, pioneer 1858). She was born Nov. 30, 1862. Their children: Eva b. Oct. 29, 1891; Horace b. Aug. 2, 1894; Clifford b. Sept. 23, 1896; Golden J. b. Dec. 29, 1899; Charles Stapley b. Jan. 10, 1890, d. March 14, 1896; Francis Sidney b. May 23, 1904. Families resided St. Joseph, Ariz. Missionary to England 1888-90; superintendent of Sunday schools, Arizona, 1889-97; member bishopric of St. Joseph ward since 1878.
I realize it may tax anyone's patience, but this information is only partially correct, because my Grandfather, LeRoy Parkinson Tanner is identified as Leroy Shepherd and my uncle George Shepherd Tanner is identified as George Parkinson Tanner. There are also several misspellings But none the less, this record, which was incorporated into the Family Tree data shows the right number of children, eleven. The Family Tree listing has three extra children. Likewise, for the listing of the children of Emma, she is listed in the Family Tree with four children and as shown by the history above and in reality she had six children.

The obvious question, didn't the person submitting the Family Tree read the history he also submitted? Apparently not. If he did read the history, where did he get the three additional children? Let's take one of them for an example. One of the children listed is Ralph Carum Tanner. Who is he? He is not one of Henry Martin Tanner's children by either wife, but he is listed repeatedly in various submitted genealogies as a child. Kindred Konnections MyTrees, lists 15 children for Henry and Eliza, including the elusive Ralph Carum Tanner. There are several Google listings for "Ralph Carum Tanner" all in association with the Henry Martin Tanner family.

As I get into this issue, I find that the topic is more complex than I originally realized. My next project is to determine who is Ralph Carum Tanner and why is he repeatedly listed as a child of my Great-grandfather. Tune in for the next installment.

The point I am making here is that there is a lot of inaccurate and obviously inaccurate information in the submitted family trees whether they be in or New FamilySearch or whatever.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

RootsMagic 4 Releases Update with FamilySearch AutoMatch

With the newest update to RootsMagic 4, the program becomes the first software program to automatically match people with their counterparts on New FamilySearch. In an announcement dated March 26, 2009, the company;s news release stated:

As FamilySearch certified software, RootsMagic and RootsMagic Essentials both allow you to share information to and from new FamilySearch as well as find and reserve incomplete temple ordinances for ancestors. In order to do any of this for a person, you must first match the person in your own file with the same person in the new FamilySearch system. In the past, a user was required to find a match for each person one-at-a-time, person-by-person.

"Our users told us that this was one of the more time-consuming aspects of working with new FamilySearch," explained Bruce Buzbee, president of RootsMagic, Inc. "If you had an average-sized file with 6000 people, it may take you several days of repetitive work just to match each one up with new FamilySearch. People want to be able to jump in and actually work with new FamilySearch and matching by hand was always a tedious first step." Buzbee added, "The new AutoMatch feature does most of this grunt work for you so you can just begin sharing data about your ancestors."

RootsMagic developed the AutoMatch feature over weeks of experimentation and guidance from FamilySearch. The AutoMatch examines each person in your RootsMagic file, searches the FamilySearch database for the person, and after carefully comparing them, matches them together if they are the same; all without requiring user intervention. "What used to take days of manual work is now done automatically in only a few hours," said Buzbee. "You can start the AutoMatch, leave it running while you do something else, and return later to find most of the matches found." Although the match is made automatically, no actual data is transferred without the user requesting it.
I installed the update and used the Automatch function and found that the claims were correct, the program really does find nearly all the people in your file. Of course, when the data on New FamilySearch has generational errors such as listing a grandchild as a child and other such problems, there are issues with linking to these people. Also if the data is not complete enough to allow for identification, there is nothing much RootsMagic or any other program can do to help the situation, but it is a boon to finding an making the links. Also linking to an individual in New FamilySearch does not mean that you need to copy any information from New FamilySearch to your own file. Information should be used from New FamilySearch only when sources are available or you individually know the information is correct.

Video tutorials, demonstrating how to work with New FamilySearch using RootsMagic 4 are available at

Monday, April 19, 2010

Clicking on green arrows

My Great-grandmother, Mary Ann Linton Morgan, spent most of her adult life completely involved in genealogy. Back in the early to mid 1900s she used the limited resources she had available in Salt Lake City, Utah combined with the U.S. Mail, to research thousands of individuals. After inheriting her huge files, I spent another ten years or so digitizing and entering all of the information into computer files. Grandmother Morgan had three children before her husband died at a relatively early age. She lived as a widow for 57 years. She died when I was about six years old. And I should probably mention that her husband was a General Authority in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (to those of you who are not members of the Church, he was one of the leaders of the Church).

Now, fast forward to 2010. I am certain that Grandmother Morgan is not just turning over in her grave, she is likely spinning fast enough to melt metal. I am certain that she would be totally appalled at the total lack of responsibility evidenced by the submissions to New FamilySearch masquerading as genealogical data coming out regularly in the files on New FamilySearch. Just recently someone on New FamilySearch added another child to the John Morgan/Mary Ann Linton Morgan family. They added a child named Mary Ann Morgan who was born in 1888 in Acklington, Northumberland, England. Did I mention that Mary Ann Morgan lived in Utah and Arizona and never traveled to England? Did I further mention that John and Mary Ann got married in 1888 in Logan, Utah? Did I also fail to mention that Mary Ann only had three children, all boys?

OK, so you argue that Mary Ann could have traveled to England to have a baby and then returned, without the child, to live the rest of her life in Utah and Arizona. Think about it.

If that were the only problem being caused by the names being added almost daily to my family in New FamilySearch, it wouldn't be that big of deal. Here are some other samples of information submitted to the New FamilySearch file:

John Tanner born in 1775 in Cottonwood, Utah (think about it).
Frances Tanner's wife Mrs. Tanner born in Rhode Island in 1612.
Frances Tanner is shown as both a male and a female.

OK, you get the point. Now, what can I do about it other than fret? No a whole lot. I can watch from week to week as more and more GEDCOM files with more and more duplicates with more wrong information are added to the database.

However, here are some suggestions:

1. Allow some well documented families to be locked so additional children cannot be added. This is probably practically impossible, because if the families were locked the people would just add the names anyway. But, it would help with the perception of the program if the locked families had a warning that came up saying that all available information about this family is already in New FamilySearch and the name you are trying to add is not a member of that family or may be a duplicate.

2. How about allowing a rating system for any submission. Something like five or six stars. Anyone could rate the information and the rating would be shown along with the name. So in Mary Ann Linton Morgan's family, the new child would get a one star rating. How about not allowing Temple work to be done for anyone whose rating is not equal to that of the whole family?

3. How about allowing a way to make changes. Let me remove "Mary Ann Morgan from England" from the family. Let's have a wiki-like interface where I can make all the changes back to my hugely documented family line.

Just three suggestions.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Impressions of the iPad

Let's just say that I spend most of my waking hours working on a computer and good number of hours each week in genealogy related tasks. I am always interested at anything that might make my life a little faster or easier, although I would debate whether or not computers really make life any easier. Since I have been working on a hourly rate and keeping track of my time for over 35 years, I am acutely aware of how much time it takes to perform tasks on a computer. For many years, I would almost instantly upgrade my computers every time there was an appreciable increase in computing speed. Finally, a few years ago, I got to the point with my genealogy files, including all my scanned images, that all of the computers seemed slow. Although all computers are "fast" in some sense, as you work on a machine for a while, you find out that most of the time you are waiting for the computer to perform some function. There is acceptable waiting and unacceptable waiting.

Waiting is unacceptable when you realize that a faster computer would perform the function faster. Some things do not necessarily speed up with a faster computer, for example, I can only input information into the computer as fast as I can type and no matter how fast the computer is, my typing is still pretty slow and the computer is waiting for me all the time. On the other hand, if I scan a photograph into the computer and then want to edit it somehow, like lighten the image or even repair or remove scratches or other artifacts, I end up waiting for the computer all the time. If I am caught waiting for a computer to load a file or make a change in Adobe Photoshop, then I am not a happy camper. I am constantly looking for more processing power and more speed.

It is inevitable that as I get used to a computer system it seems to slow down. It is not that the computer has actually slowed down, but my perception of its operation has accommodated the speed of the machine and now is moving on to something else. I am sure some people would consider that attitude to be overly compulsive, but remember, I get paid by the hour and when I am doing genealogy for myself I am not getting paid, so I want to do things as fast and efficiently as possible. This brings me back to the subject of the iPad. What does the iPad have to do with computing at all?

The iPad is a very fast and very portable computer. One of the ways I can keep working is to do essential tasks at times that do not keep me from working. For example, if when I get to work, I have to spend twenty minutes to an hours going through the backlog of E-mails in my inbox, then I am spending productive time at an unproductive task. It is the same way with genealogy. I only have so much time to work on my genealogy each week and I have to balance that with my many other obligations (like making a living). If I can push some of the essential tasks over into less productive time, then I can make more time to work and more time to do genealogy.

I have been using an iPhone since they came out a couple of years ago. The iPhone gives me a way to push some of the essential but non-productive tasks, like E-mail into less productive time periods, thus opening up more time to work and work more efficiently. The iPad was intriguing as a possible platform to move even more of those tasks to less productive times.

I went to a Best Buy and looked at the machine. I was a little bit impressed, but immediately saw that the machine would appeal to my wife. We visited an Apple Store and I watched the people come in from the Mall and look at the iPads for the first time. It was very interesting. Both very young people and older people (like me) almost instantly figured out how to use the product. The learning curve looked to be about ten to fifteen seconds. Of course, there were a lot of features that took considerably longer to master, but the core idea of the iPad is an operating system that is so intuitive that it makes a mouse look archaic. But, the real question was whether or not the machine would actually perform as a adjunct to getting work done faster and easier. We bought one for my wife, but I am still looking at the machine.

Right now, I have almost all of the functionality of the iPad on my iPhone. The real question is whether or not the larger format supports a practical working environment. Can I use the iPad to produce documents and then send them to my office for printing, for example? I haven't answered that question yet. I do like the new iPad apps a lot better than their iPhone counterparts. I think it will make a fabulous eBook Reader. I am impressed with the resolution of the screen and like photos and videos on the iPad. All of the genealogy apps that I have seem to work just fine and I am waiting for the first of them to be upgraded to work with the iPad. When I get an upgraded genealogy app, I will then be in a better position to make a decision as to whether to use it for genealogy. The other question I would like to have answered is whether or not the iPad in its present form will work for presentations.

I have to get used to the weight. It is a lot heavier than my iPhone but it works well on a lap or sitting at a table. I haven't figured out how I would carry one around. My wife uses a bag but I am not one for carrying things in my hands. I am not sure how I would transport it.

It is an impressive machine. It will undoubtedly sell millions, but as I have said before, the jury is still out on iPads for my genealogical use.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Mountain West Digital Library

Ute Indian, by J.K. Hilliers, Digitized by the University of Utah, J. Willard Marriott Library

The Mountain West Digital Library provides free access to more than 290,000 resources in over 340 collections in libraries in Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Hawaii. The collections partners include:


  • Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library
  • Delta City Library
  • Dialogue Foundation
  • Emery County Archives
  • Green River (City), Utah
  • Green River Public Library
  • Health Education Assets Library
  • Mormon History Association
  • Murray City Public Library
  • Museum of Art, Brigham Young University
  • North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society
  • Park City Historical Society and Museum
  • Provo City
  • Provo City Library
  • Salt Lake Community College Libraries
  • Snow College, Lucy A. Phillips Library
  • Southern Utah University, Gerald R. Sherratt Library
  • Topaz Museum
  • Uintah County Library
  • University of Utah, American West Center
  • University of Utah, Hinckley Institute of Politics
  • University of Utah, J. Willard Marriott Library
  • University of Utah, S.J. Quinney Law Library
  • University of Utah, Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library
  • University of Utah, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
  • U.S. Forest Service, Dixie National Forest
  • Utah Council of Land Surveyors
  • Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah
  • Utah State Archives
  • Utah State Historical Society
  • Utah State Library
  • Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library
  • Utah Valley University Library
  • Weber State University, Stewart Library
  • Westminster College, Giovale Library


  • Great Basin Association
  • Great Basin Museum
  • Great Basin National Heritage Area
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University Libraries
  • University of Nevada, Reno, University Libraries


  • Brigham Young University Idaho, David O. McKay Library
  • North Bingham County District Library -- Shelley, Idaho


  • Brigham Young University Hawaii

Why I use Apple computers especially for genealogy

It is about time to explain why I use Apple computers for genealogy and all the rest of my computing. The obvious first question is why waste time/money/frustration with using a computer to do Windows 7 in emulation when I can be a "just as fast" PC for less money? The beginning response is that the Quad Core i5 iMac is a lot faster than even I need for my thousands of graphic files, videos, audio files and etc. But the real answer is that our family does graphics. My wife runs a graphic design company, I do huge composite 360 degree photographs and we are in the processing of digitizing literally tens of thousands of family history documents. If you add up all the options you need to do that level of graphics easily on a PC you can spend 50% or more than an Apple iMac. So granted, I am not your usual computer user and besides I really like Apple's OS X series of operating systems for the same reason I use FireFox instead of Microsoft Explorer and the same reason I like Google and not Bing.

Another plus for me is the integration of my iPhone with my iMac technology. I can use the computer to move my genealogical information, photos, scans whatever from the iMac to the iPhone and carry my whole work product around in my pocket. For me, the iPhone is liberating. I sync automatically with my office calendar, docketing system and E-mail. I can keep up to date with my clients' needs at any place (or time) I happen to want to work. I am no longer tied to an office or even to my computer. If I find out something about my family or my work I can instantly add it to my programs and then sync all of that to my computers from where ever I happen to be at the time.

If I have a question, I can do a Google search from almost any place I find myself. I even know most of the spots in Arizona where I can't get reception and can simply stop before leaving a service area if I need to communicate. So people look at cell phones as being like an anchor. I learned very quickly that they have an on/off button and I never turn my phone on unless I really want someone to call me. I can also keep up with the news about volcanoes in Iceland or earthquakes in Chile in between doing other things or while doing other things rather than spending time watching some mindless TV news anchor.

Genealogy is a data intensive activity. Information grows geometrically with the number of your ancestors and even more with the number of their descendants. There is nothing that justifies using raw computer power more than trying to keep up with a huge data intensive family. Especially if that family is spread all over the continental U.S. and make trips all over the world. Using the iPhone with my iMac and video conferencing, I can talk to and see my family in various parts of the country any time we can agree on a time. Far from splitting up my family, the electronic media, phones, computers, iPads, and all the rest give us a variety of ways to interact even if we cannot live in the same towns and even the same states. In all this the Apple products do this elegantly and with class.

That's just a few of the reasons why we use Apple products. Now, that said, I also use PCs daily and intensively. I choose to use Macs, I have to use PCs.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Apples big and small for genealogy -- Part One

Apple Inc. is a topic that draws both praise and criticism. In case you have been on an expedition to somewhere they don't have telephone, TV or Internet service, you may not be aware that Apple has just released a new product called the iPad. Apple now sells six, soon to be seven, major product lines, MacBook laptop computers, Macintosh desktop computers, iPods, iPads, iPhones and iTunes downloads. Just get a little perspective about these machines, by the third quarter of 2008, iPod total global sales had reached over 220,000,000 (a sizable percentage of the entire population of the U.S). The newer iPad reportedly sold over 450,000 units in the first week of sales. By early 2010, customers of the Apple iTunes store had downloaded over 4 billion apps. In the first week, iPad users had downloaded over 3.5 million iPad apps (programs). The seventh new product from Apple is the iBooks store which sold 600,000 books in its first week of operation.

The real question for genealogists is whether or not any of these lovely electronic devices or online services make our lives easier or help with doing real genealogy. As a side note, I do appreciate the insightful comments from Dick Eastman about his experiences with the iPad. He also recently provided a link to a review of the Reunion 9 program from Grant Brunner.

First of all, doing genealogy or family history is not about either hardware or software. Many genealogists get along just fine, thank you, with paper and pens or pencils. But in today's online world, failing to use digitized resources from online sources is like wearing blinders. Even if you do go to a repository in person, you may still have to look up your information on a computer. But any kind computer or other device (iPod, iPad, iPhone, HP Slate) that can access the Internet may provide you with access to digitized sources. Any computer company's products, Apple, Dell, Sony, Hewlett-Packard (HP), IBM or whatever, will connect to the Internet in some fashion. Some devices have inherent limitations, for example, my iPhone will not view some kinds of Internet sites because it lacks Adobe Flash (there is currently a dispute between Apple and Adobe over this and other issues). But you should be able to view most any site on any device. For example, I just did a search of the Ellis Island site on my iPhone.

You don't even need to own a computer, most larger public libraries provide some kind of free computer access to library card holders. There is really no way to estimate Internet usage, but the latest studies seem to indicate that worldwide from 1.4 billion to 1.8 billion people will use the Internet in 2010. In the U.S. alone it is estimated that 223 million people out a total of 380 million will use the Internet in 2010. So, both Apple computers and devices and any other type of device designed to access the Internet, can be used to do online research.

But, there are significant differences in the various devices' abilities to maintain genealogical information locally. Focusing on the Apple products, there are genealogical computer programs for all of the popular Apple devices, laptops, desktops, iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. As a note, almost all the apps developed for the iPhone also work on the iPad. But do you really want to use a keyboard only about one inch square to enter genealogical information into your program? Obviously, some devices are more suitable than others for serious data entry.

But the real question is whether or not any of these new devices make you life as a genealogist any easier?

As a long time computer user, I can unequivocally say that using a Macintosh computer or any computer, desktop or laptop, magnifies my ability to do basic genealogical research and record keeping. As time goes on, the question of whether to use a computer or not will largely become as antiquated as typewriters. Almost everyone will just assume that you are using a computer to do your genealogy. In fact, if I had to write out blog posts in long hand, I would not be doing this today.

Now, how about using devices such as the iPod Touch/iPhone? The programs on these devices are helpful references. I can carry around my entire genealogy files on my phone, but they are extremely limited in the input capability. Unless you are a record class text user, you probably will find, like I do, that entering any amount of data into an iPhone or iPod Touch is tedious and slow. But they do take pictures and I can use my iPhone in a pinch to take a picture of a document for later use. It has always proved handy to have my files for reference when I run across a relative or find some new information. But I would not use any of the smaller devices to enter any larger amounts of data into my files.

Now along comes the iPad. It takes a little getting used to the iPad's keyboard but it is major improvement over the iPod/iPhone on screen keyboard. In addition, you can run copies of the genealogy apps and synchronize the new data with your desktop computer. In every case, so far, the programs developed for the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch have been like satellite programs and I have not been willing to use any portion of the programs for actual data entry. The iPad is entirely different, its keyboard is sufficiently large for even my uncoordinated fingers and data entry is not only possible but also likely. You can also use any one of hundreds of kinds of laptops and desktop computers to do the same thing. The main difference is portability. I like working on my laptop, but I do not like to lug it around. Will I lug around a iPad? I would guess not routinely. But it would be really a lot easier to take to a library than my laptop.

But what about the difference between an iPad and a netbook? Netbooks are really small laptops, but they do have keyboards. I would argue that the iPad is more elegant and easier to use, but there is an argument if you can't get used to typing on an iPad. I can use the iPad to load in photos from my camera, but that supposes that I am also carrying around a camera. I guess the summary to this point is that a lot of the new big and little devices out there can be used for genealogy, just like I can use the handle on my screwdriver to pound nails, but there are some physical and software limitations that may make some of these devices less useful than others.

But I must admit, that I am working with my wife's iPad to see if it would work as a substitute for a laptop. The jury is still out on that one.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Searching for perfect in genealogy programs

Actually, the perfect genealogy software program doesn't really exist, but like running after rainbows, you just never know, you might finally find what you are looking for. In response to a comment on one of my posts, I decided to compile a wish list of features I would like to see in my perfect genealogy program. All of the perfect features fall into three categories; necessary, useful and imaginary. You will likely recognize some or all of these features in many different programs, it is just that no one program has managed to have all of the features presented in a useful fashion, yet. Just as a note, I know some of my perfect genealogy program features are not only impractical from a programming standpoint, but probably would never work properly, but you can always dream.

Obviously, the PGP (Perfect Genealogy Program, yes, I know the acronym also means Pretty Good Privacy) stores information about individuals and all of the possible family relationships. Each and every event or fact about an individual or family would have a place for a source citation. It would also let me assign sources to multiple individuals at the same time and re-use sources at any time for any number of individuals. The PGP would link easily to,, and similar databases and also to any Webpage so that citations could be directly imported without copying and pasting. The PGP would search my entire computer for photos and other media and let me assign and incorporate photos directly from an interface like Google's Picasa. My ideal program would automatically check for duplicates when any new individual was entered into the database and let me combine the duplicate individuals and select which information to retain and which to discard.

I have no issues with the standard methods of displaying individual relationships, but in my PGP, I would have the option of displaying information in both traditional and non-traditional (i.e. spreadsheet type) ways. The PGP would have all of the possible report formats and also let incorporate you data into a page layout program, such as Adobe InDesign, for final presentation. Speaking of presentation, my PGP would also share data with a presentation program, allowing me to build a presentation of my file and incorporate any screen view in my presentation. Of course, the PGP would allow me to attach photos, scans, movies, sound files and all sorts of multimedia.

I would have my PGP expand the incorporation of maps and mapping capabilities, with the ability to attach a map to any event. The geographic database would not only tell me about counties, but it would be tied into historical maps and let me know changing national political boundaries as well.

As you can probably tell by now, my PGP is almost available now. There are a number of very good genealogical database programs that have most of the features I outline. Personal preference begins to play a larger and larger roll in program selection when most of the popular programs have similar functions. I like the ability to edit whole lists of events at the same time, such as geographic locations and to merge duplicate sources, names, events, locations and other data. Many programs have good resources to clean up files in this way.

What I have found to be one of the biggest challenges to almost all programs is duplicate individuals. I have yet to find a program that does a really good job of finding and combining all the duplicates in my huge files.

My PGP would write a book about my genealogy in a way that even the professional genealogists could not detect that it was written from a computer. One last thing, my PGP would also keep my time doing research and allow me to create an invoice and a bill for my research services with a summary of all of the information I gathered.

Write and tell me other features you would want in your own PGP.

Closing in on Kerlin's Well

In 1829 or 1830 Captain Ewing Young led a large trapping party west from Taos, which at the time was still part of Mexico, over the Mogollon Plateau (now the Colorado Plateau) and west along the south side of the Grand Canyon to the Mojave Desert. Sources indicate that one younger member of the party was named Kit Carson, later to be famous as an Indian fighter. The party reached the head waters of the Verde River, which is very close to Kerlin's Well. It may well be that this was the first European expedition to reach this area of what is now Arizona.

My interest in Kerlin's Well stems from the fact that my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner, stopped at the waterhole long enough to carve his name in a rock with the date, 1877. In past posts, I have been reviewing some of the information I have discovered about the location of the site and its history. Since my last posts on the subject, I have found a lot more information. I am currently planning another trip to follow up on my one unsuccessful trip to find the location of the Well.

Following the Young Expedition of mountain men trappers, most of the following expeditions focused on routes further to the south, down the Gila River to the Colorado River. It is well established that these early "explorers" were following well established Indian trade routes through the desert and were certainly not the first humans to use these trails.

Most of the European visitors to northern Arizona were trappers looking for beaver. Kerlin's Well, as one of the more reliable waterholes, was likely visited by trappers such as Antoine Leroux and Bill Williams (actually William Sherley Williams).

It is very interesting to me that a place so well visited by early explorers and trappers was so completely lost from modern maps and records. As I did more research I became even more determined to locate this elusive site.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What do we mean by features in genealogy programs?

Looking at almost any advertisement or Webpage for a genealogy program and somewhere it will mention the product's "features." Generally, these features are functions of the programs that are highlighted by the promotional materials. For one example, if you look at the Family Tree Maker Website, you will see a link to product features. Often, the features of a program are used to differentiate it from similar competing programs. Like all advertised products, product differentiation is big issue. There is always an attempt to correlate more features with a better product.

Going back to my long use of the Personal Ancestral File (PAF) program, I realize that there were a lot of the "features" of the program that I never used. A example would be the ability to input an address for anyone in the file. I can imagine ways to use this feature, but I can't remember ever using it. I think most genealogists would consider PAF to a be a fairly basic program but even as a basic program it has a few features that probably almost never get used. A feature PAF had that gave it an advantage; it was and is free. One way subsequent programs have differentiated themselves in the marketplace from PAF is to add features.

Some of the features of software programs, including those for genealogy, fall into the category of all of those handy items advertised on TV for $19.95 (and if you buy now, you get two of them for the same price), they are attractive but but probably not necessary. In this way, a lot of products, including genealogy software features, fall into the category of nifty tools for something you may only do once every year or less. Software features have the same relationship to utility as the highly specialized TV tools, there is usually a standard generalized tool that can do exactly the same thing, but in a less elegant way. I am one of the first to buy the right tool for the job, but I find myself going through long lists of features of software programs and I know that I will likely use very few of them.

I hesitate to get into a more specific discussion of the types of features available or not available in the different programs, because sometimes two programs accomplish the same thing in totally different ways and everyone has their own favorite program and features. Additionally, some of the items listed as features in software program sales literature is like listing tires as a feature for a car, everyone expects that the program will do what is listed, or no one would be interested in buying the program at all. In addition, if you look at any software list of features, you will probably find several items that are not "features" but merely advertising hype. This is especially true about claims that the programs are easy to use or are Windows or Mac compatible.

Presently, genealogy software features fall into a number of broad categories; data entry, navigation, searching, editing, printing functions including custom designed charts, reports, multimedia, Web sharing, research and sourcing. Any genealogy program worth purchasing should contain enough of these functions (read features) to do more than just an adequate job of recording family data. Over time perceptions of what constitutes and adequate program changes as computers get faster and have more storage capacity. More storage memory means larger programs and larger programs mean more features. Some of us are old enough to remember when software for personal computers came on cassette tapes.

Basic to genealogy is the presentation of names, dates, locations and relationships. Doing all this well and in a format that is easily understood and used important. Lacking these basic elements, no program can have enough features to make it worth buying or even downloading (if it is free).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

More Apple Genealogy

Apparently, I was not specific enough in my last post about Apple Genealogy. John Newmark in his TransylvanianDutch Genealogy & Family History blog had a lot of comments. All of his comments, as usual, are very good and to the point. I do agree with his conclusion about my post that Apple genealogy programs are not as feature filled as those on the PC. I attribute this to a lack of competition on the Apple platform. One example will suffice. Many PC/Windows based programs have direct look-up capabilities with online databases. Of course, Family Tree Maker from is closely tied to the online database. But many of the other programs also tie into online databases, like RootsMagic 4 and Legacy Family Tree. Legacy Family Tree has a very extensive research guidance function. Now, admittedly, this is a function you may not need or ever use, but the PC programs have many functions that you can get really used to using all the time.

Now, back to John's comments. He apparently thought I was saying that "the best option for Mac users being to run Windows using Parallels Desktop." I guess I would clarify that to say, one option for Mac users is to run Windows using Parallels Desktop. I do not suggest Parallels Desktop or any other dual (or even triple) operating system environment unless you are a pretty sophisticated user of both (or all) operating systems. If not, stay with the Mac or PC but not both. But if you are a very sophisticated user and you own a Macintosh, you can use the PC programs if you need to do so.

Almost every time I talk about programs on either the Mac or PC computers, I am asked which is the "best" program. There is no best program. John points out the virtues of the iFamily program. I immediately downloaded a copy and began using it. I am not in a position to comment on the program but it does appear to have some really good features. What I say over and over to answer the question about the best program is this:

1. All of the supported commercial programs have good features and which program you chose is largely a matter of your own individual preference.

2. I like a lot of programs and have yet to find the perfect program for doing genealogy, but right now, I have on my computer the following programs, loaded with my own huge database:

Reunion for the Macintosh
RootMagic 4
Legacy Family Tree
Ancestral Quest
Personal Ancestral File
Family Tree Maker 2010
MacFamily Tree
and now, iFamily

I have used The Master Genealogist in the past and many, many other PC and Mac based programs. Do I have to choose? Can't I use them all? I will certainly run out of time and may run out of money trying them all. By the way, I have tried some programs that I think are really dreadful and have erased them from my computer.

Thanks again to John Newmark for his insightful comments.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Apple for genealogy

There is a commonly inaccurate perception that there are no programs for doing genealogy on Apple Macintosh computers. As it turns out, the list of available programs is very limited, and there are barely enough offerings to make the Macintosh a viable platform for those doing their family history. But there are at least two or three programs that compete favorably with anything available on the Windows/PC type computers.

The now old Personal Ancestral File (PAF) program, called Family Records, was one of the first extensive programs for the Apple operating system. Unfortunately, the support of the program was discontinued after version 2.3.1 and after some Apple operating system upgrades it ceased to be a viable product. Translated, that means the program would not work on newer computers. There are a few programs available that use either the old PAF format or use the program itself as a basis for the present offering.

The lineup of currently available programs includes a long list of both commercial programs and freeware (that is programs that can be downloaded for free) but unfortunately, most of these programs are either lacking in features or are very difficult to use. For a current review of the available programs, click here. Browsing through the reviews, you will quickly discover that there are only three, or at most four software programs that could be favorably compared to the PC/Windows programs. To contrast these offerings, there are at least ten PC based programs that could be considered useful and functional.

The simple answer about keeping genealogical information on a Macintosh, is yes, you can do it but almost none of the support programs such as those supporting personal histories, advanced charts and printing, research guides and all of the other programs are available for the Apple operating system.

The solution to this problem is possible but not simple. Newer Macintosh computers are extremely fast and have adequate storage and memory to support running both Windows and Apple OS X on the same machine. The program for doing this is called Parallels Desktop. Originally, the program was rather slow and clunky and did not support a great many Windows functions. The present version 5, runs Windows 7 and supports every program I have tried to use with it. The reason I say the solution is not simple is because running two operating systems simultaneously can be very confusing unless you are well versed in both. In other words, it makes no sense to try to run Windows 7 if you have no idea how to operate in a Windows environment. Likewise, running Apple OS X's current edition, Snow Leopard or 10.6.3 without some familiarity with Apple's OS takes some time to learn.

But, if you have the desire to use Apple, running Parallels Desktop is not impossible and is a very elegant and reasonable solution to having the graphics advantages of a Macintosh while still preserving a beachhead in the Windows world of genealogy programs.

Apple Computers and genealogy -- all things great and small

My earliest attempts to use computers for genealogy began with an Apple II with a primitive program that was entirely text based and used a dot matrix printer with fan-fold paper. I remember that I ended up re-entering my entire file a number of times either due to data crashes or to incompatible upgrades. The amount of information about each individual and family was minimal, but the promise of organization and convenience was worth the effort to keep entering data. Eventually, and coincidentally, Apple introduced the Macintosh computer in 1984 and I really began to see the promise of actually doing my family history on a computer and GEDCOM version 1.o was released the same year. Doing genealogy on a computer, for me, dates officially from 1984. Personal Ancestral File 2.0 was released in 1985 and eventually, released for the Macintosh.

Eventually, because of the limitations of program availability, I moved from using a Macintosh to using a PC especially after the Personal Ancestral File version for Macintosh was discontinued.

Now, fast forward to 2010. I am presently using the latest version of the Macintosh, an iMac with a 27" high resolution monitor. I also run my genealogy programs on my iPhone and now, on an iPad. Coming full circle, I am also beginning to keep my data in Apple based genealogy programs like MacFamilyTree and Reunion. After years of working on PCs, it is like coming back home for me. I have always unabashedly been an Apple enthusiast. Although I am completely accustomed to the PC/Windows environment, I still return to the real Apple operating system when I want to do some serious work.

I will write my impressions of the iPad in the next few posts, but this post is kind of an introduction to the world of Apple computers. If you have ever wondered why there is always such a big media commotion whenever Apple releases a new product, it is probably because you haven't used one. For example, my wife has used Apple computers all along, she never really went over to using a PC very much, and then only for genealogy. Recently she was using a PC based program to enter a large amount of genealogical data for a client (she runs her own computer business) and was becoming extremely upset with the programs (and with Windows). I showed here Reunion on the Mac and she instantly loaded all her files into the program and abandoned the PC (I probably should have done this a long time ago but she was still using Personal Ancestral File until recently).

Anyway, now we are back to using Macs entirely, even though I am using several PC/Windows based programs for my own data. I am running Windows on a Macintosh. Goodbye PCs, I can't say I am sorry to see you go.