The last time I had a post with this title was in 2013. See
Here is a comment I recently received to this old blog post.
I am a beginner genealogist and have only used ancestry.com and family search.org. I inherited a FTM file with 64,000 names on one of my lines and was able to upload it onto ancestry.com. However, I want to go through the names one by one to verify them before I put them in my family search.org tree or do anything else with them. I'm looking for a program that will help me create a methodology or system for going through these names. Since I'm a beginner, right now, I just randomly work on names or lines that seem interesting but there is no rhyme or reason to how I am going about this. I would like to have a system so that I know where I am going, where have been and what I have accomplished. Let me know if anyone can give an update on the debate about online versus desktop software for genealogy and recommendations on which program might help me accomplish my goal the best. I realize this is a personal decision so maybe there is no way to comment. Just thought I would ask.This commentator is looking for the same things I have been looking for since about 1982. I am not sure that what we are looking for exists even now more than thirty years after I first got involved in doing genealogical research. To be a good tool, the tool has to assist in doing the work you want to accomplish and not become a task itself. For example, computers are marvelous tools, but learning how to use a computer is just as difficult as getting any benefit from its use. Sure, ultimately, the benefits far outweigh the effort, but the effort needed to obtain the benefits takes valuable time away from the work objective. Hmm. That sounds really complicated to me and I guess it is.
For all the many years I was learning about genealogy and the same time learning about computers and computer programs, I could see that eventually, computers would help me with the massive amount of information I was gathering in my genealogical research efforts. I also think that this blog and my other genealogy blog are simply ongoing reflections of this ultimate objective to make it "easier" to make progress in my genealogical research. There is no doubt that my ability to do accurate, pertinent, and effective genealogical research has been magnified hundreds, perhaps thousands of times as computers and computer systems have developed. But, and this is a huge "but," the basic ideas of finding accurate historical records and applying the information to my research have not changed.
Back in 2013, my perspective about a local program was entirely different than it is today. One thing that has changed is that steps have been taken by the genealogical computer program developers to finally integrate both online and local desktop programs so that information can be relatively quickly and somewhat more easily moved from one program to another. The limits on being able to do this are still rather rudimentary, but they are beginning to be implemented. In 2013, we were still talking about GEDCOM and whether or not we needed to "back up" our data in an online family tree. Now, I think the question of maintaining more than one family tree and including a desktop program has evolved and taken on a different set of considerations. Also, back in 2013, the ideas of linking your desktop program or two different online family trees were still in the idea stage and not yet a reality.
First of all, you need to seriously consider the fact that the big, online genealogy programs that host family trees, such as Ancestry.com, FramilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com, and Findmypast.com all provide automatically generated record hints that augment your research. By having a family tree in one or more of these programs, you are in effect hiring a full-time research assistant to search records on each of the programs hosting your family tree. My experience is that these record hints are extremely valuable and provide information that you would likely overlook. So let's suppose you have your family tree data on one or more of these programs, are you going to spend the time to maintain an entirely separate desktop-based program? You have to answer that question for yourself.
From my perspective, the big issue has become the time involved in maintaining more than one family tree that I consider to be my "primary" place where I maintain my research. I can more than adequately do this with any one of the online family tree programs. This is especially true if I am not short-sighted and do not want to collaborate online with other members of my extended family.
For a beginner, I think the best idea is to start with an online family tree using one or more of the big database programs. Later, if you think you need to have a more proprietary family tree, which I think runs counter to the whole idea of genealogy by the way, then I would investigate your options. If you decide to do genealogy today, the reality is that you will need to learn to use some kind of computer program, either online or desktop-based. If you start out using paper, you are only guaranteeing that your information will be lost at some point or that you or someone else will have to spend the time duplicating your paper information in a computer program.
What are the main considerations? I would consider the following:
- Will the program be supported and available for upgrades in the future?
- How much time do I want to spend duplicating my data on more than one family tree?
- Do I feel comfortable with all my data online?
- Do I know enough about the available programs to make a reasonable choice? (See GenSoftReviews.com)
- Do I want to take advantage of the automatic record hints online?
- How much do I know about using a computer and will I be able to learn more than one program?
There are probably a lot of other questions that should be considered, but this short list should start you thinking about the options.