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

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Why do genealogy websites and programs keep using the word easy in their advertising?

 Easy is not a word I would use when talking about genealogical research. Apparently, those people who sell genealogy programs and websites must have some magic formula they drink or eat that makes doing research easy. Why don't they sell the formula instead of their programs? They would probably make a lot more money. 

Maybe they have a different definition for the word. One dictionary definition of "easy" is "achieved without great effort; presenting few difficulties." I can only guess that all their ancestors and relatives must have left individual documents with sources attached telling when and where they were born, married, and died including a four-generation pedigree of all their spouses. These relatives who made all their genealogy easy must also have done and a complete set of recorded oral interviews with everyone in every line going back seven generations. Interviews that included a complete history of the birth of every child and supplemented with copies of every genealogically important document. If all that was the case, then I suppose copying down all that information and putting it in a family tree program would be relatively easy. 

Oh, but maybe they aren't talking about actually doing genealogical research but they are referring to their complex and hard-to-understand programs and websites? Genealogy programs and websites are far from immune to the dreadful feature creep disorder. Feature creep infects almost every program ever developed for almost every computer ever sold. Each revision or upgrade has to have more features than the previous program or website that seemed to work just fine, thank you. Granted, some websites and programs need to add new content all the time to stay competitive but remember, the number one most popular genealogy program of all time was and still is Personal Ancestral File (PAF), one of the most basic programs for genealogy ever written. Development of PAF stopped in July of 202 with support for Windows 9 and NT. Support from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the program ended on July 15, 2013. 

Notwithstanding the lack of development, upgrades, new features, and even general availability, PAF still gets 4.9 out of 5 stars overall on Here is a recent (2020) comment showing something even if I can't figure out what it is.

Easy, simple, just does what it should do. Very reliable.

Biggest Pro: Works without updates with all Windows versions the last 25 years

Biggest Con: none

Was PAF (or is) "easy" to use? Actually, there was a substantial book of instructions for the program. You can still buy copies of the Users Guide online for more than the cost of the original program which was $6.00. I still have a like-new version of PAF 5.0 in the original box with the original documentation. The Users Guide ended up being 189 pages long. Of course, it needed all of those pages to tell you how easy the program was. 

I provided one-on-one support to PAF users for many years and I can tell you, there is nothing easy about the program. It is only easy once you learn the program and compared to learning a new program. 

I have been going through some of the genealogy websites for The Family History Guide Show Me series. See The reason why we have Show Me videos plus the written descriptions about the websites is that the websites are extraordinarily complex. I go through the websites and the instructions word by word and step-by-step and I have to go slow and repeat the steps several times before I get the gist of what I am supposed to be doing. 

But I am sure that I will get an ad by email in the next few days telling me how easy some new feature or another is and I will spend hours learning the new feature and then deciding whether I ever needed it in the first place. 

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