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

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.


  1. Have you tried TMG (The Master Genealogist)along with GenSmarts - I get direct links to subscription sites that is 'sometimes' useful.
    I alos like the Merge People part of the program because I could be specific about what events would be marked primary & keep what was relevent. I like your idea about it automatically pulling in the source information - that would truly be a gift ;-)

  2. I agree that many genealogy programs out there have a lot of what you mentioned, but the thing that I think is hard and frustrating is that one program has one thing, another has one, and yet another and something completely different. I guess that is the point of your PGP.

    I use Reunion 9 and I really enjoy it. At this point, there are only a few features I wish it had and then it would be pretty close to my PGP. I wish it had a feature like RootsMagic to create a "shareable CD", and also their source wizard that is based on Evidence and Evidence Explained. I also wish Reunion was FamilySearch Certified(I have been told they are working on it, but have yet to receive a date when).

    I also wish the Web Family Cards in Reunion looked more modern than they do. I think they look old and outdated. Incorporating more CSS functions and possibly javascript and Flash would make the Web Family Cards better.