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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Looking for the ideal lineage linked database program

There have been a rash of Blog posts about the release of Family Tree Maker 2011. It looks like I last visited the subject of lineage linked database programs back in January of 2009. For those of you who are not used to that name, a lineage-linked database program is software that stores your family information such as Personal Ancestral File, RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest, Legacy Family Tree and so forth. There are new programs coming out all the time and it is difficult (read impossible) to keep up with all of them. I am constantly having people ask me if I am familiar with [fill in the blank] program. Sometimes I have looked at it and sometimes not. There is one site, GenSoftReviews that claims to have "All the genealogy software, reviewed and rated by you." They have 527 programs reviewed. There is just one problem, almost every program, without exception, is highly rated, between 4 and 5 stars or has no rating at all. OK, now, I know some of these programs are not worth the cost even if they are free, so how do so many of them get such high reviews? Easy, almost no one has used more than one or two genealogy programs. So there is no way for anyone to form an opinion as to better than what. The ones that are not rated haven't made the radar yet (or never will).

Let's look at Family Tree Maker. Really, who do you know that uses the program that also uses two or three other programs? (Randy Seaver excepted). When people ask me what genealogy program I use and I start listing off four or five or so, they probably think I am banging on less than all cylinders. Right at the moment, I have Legacy Family Tree, RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest, iFamily, Reunion, Family Tree Maker 2010,  MacFamilyTree, Personal Ancestral File and a couple I may have forgotten on my computers. So how would I know whether any of the ones I am currently using are any better or worse than others? Good question. Even I don't have unlimited funds to buy every genealogy program that comes along (I am spending too much on other programs like Photoshop). And, I don't have anything near the time to even look at all of them (unless someone wants to pay me to do so). So here we have a problem, the people who are rating programs, for the most part, are only familiar with one or two or so programs, so how do they know if what they are using is good or not? The answer is, they don't.

In addition, there is another problem: developer hype. Try going to a few websites for the programs. In every case the software will be described in glowing terms as award-winning, faster, easier, and on and on. So who do you believe? Some of the software sites have tables comparing features between programs. You can guess, every time, their program comes out way ahead of any of the other programs. But they get to select the features and the comparison programs. No one is going to select features they don't have or compare their program to one that is obviously better.

I have been teaching various aspects of Personal Ancestral File for years. Do you have any idea how hard it is to convince someone that Personal Ancestral File isn't the only genealogy program in the universe?

I'll tell you what I am looking for this week. A program that does my research for me and keeps me informed of its progress!

This is my disclaimer: One time I won a free copy of Family Tree Maker in a drawing at a genealogy conference (I always win stuff). Other than that I have purchased every single program and upgrade I have ever used. No developer or software company has ever given me a free copy of their genealogy program unless it was already free. No one paid me to mention their program and no one paid me not to mention their program. The ads I have on my site have never generated me even one red cent of income. In fact, blogging has turned out to be interesting but certainly not profitable. Even if you were a software developer and gave me your valuable program for free, I wouldn't use it if I didn't like it and if I liked it I would tell a hundred people I liked it and if I didn't like it I would tell another hundred people I didn't like it. I have had enough rotten software to last me a lifetime.


  1. I like the disclaimer better than the actual post. But I agree with the post...

  2. Since programs on GenSoftReviews can be rated 1 to 5, 4 out of 5 really means 75%. There are some well known lower rated programs: The Master Genealogist 3.57, Geni 2.83, Family Tree Maker up to Version 16: 3.93, Family Tree Maker Since Version 2008: 2.24.

    The help to find that "ideal" program isn't in just the ratings, but it's in the reviews. Each program has good and bad reviews, they include different opinions, pros and cons about the program, and they are very helpful in the same way as Trip Advisor's reviews and Amazon's reviews are.

    Since what is ideal for one person is not ideal for another, you still have to be the one to decide what's best for yourself. Most programs do have free trials or 30-day moneyback guarantees, so you don't need unlimited funds. You just need a bit of time and patience. And you may save that time ten times over if you do find a program that speeds up your data entry. Even better, maybe you'll find that (close to) ideal program for you that will make the hours you spend in front of it just a little bit more pleasant.

  3. I use several programs -- Family History System (old DOS program, 1993 version) for basic data entry, then port it to Legacy via PAF 4.0.

    Why via PAF 4.0? Because if I import the .GED file directly into Legacy it scrambles the RIMs. I tried Family Tree Maker 2006, didn't like it, mainly because I couldn't see or search for RINs, which for me makes it unusable.

    I'm fairly happy with Legacy, might use Family Tree Legends for its reports.

    So I'm not searching for the perfect lineage-linked program - we are spoilt for choice.

    What I AM looking for is a program that doesn't exist - a Six-Degrees program that is event based and will include all sorts of relationships besides family ones - boss, friend, acquaintance, enemy, neighbour.

    Instead of yet another lineage-linked program, something like that would be really useful. See Software for family historians, biographers and others | Hayes & Greene family history