Friday, December 07, 2007

Genealogy-specific software makes it easier

As you may know, I've been researching my ancestors in France and have been working with a genealogist from the APG in France. It turns out that the ancestry that branches of the family did in 1900 is incorrect!

I sent you all of the references of material that they had looked at back in 1900 or so, and had the genealogist look over the reports that they looked at back then. His response was entirely different than what the branches of our family had assumed was the case back then, not knowing the French system of reports and how documents were filed and what they implied.

It was evident that [previous researchers] had come up with some false assumptions based on the mistakes they made back them.

To give an example: one of the researchers tried to assert that a certain noble family was of our background due to similarity of events in both families backgrounds (back in 1900, from what I've been told, this was quite common for people to try to link themselves up to a "noble" family, crests, etc., and it was certainly true with a few of our branches
in the family from back them as well.)

The problem though became apparent almost immediately in today's terms, as the noble family that they tried to assert we belonged to, was childless, thus we couldn't be from their lineage in the couple's case that they were asserting we came from. Also, it turns out that noble families were not allowed to have trades per se, except in very rare cases where the trade was of such a rarified trade, like stain glass making for churches, that nobles were indeed allowed to study that and carry on that trade. [However] being a merchant, or a furniture maker, wasn't allowed for noble families from what I've gathered.

That was a major roadblock and couldn't be denied in our ancestors backgrounds, since our ancestors did indeed have trades and were very well established. It most likely [they] weren’t a "noble" family per se, but records are few and far between for the time period, so nothing at this point is cut in stone, so to speak.

In any case, I've eliminated the "noble" family from our family tree, and have inserted the merchants that these latest documents prove (up to a point) are our ancestors in the 17th century. I am still having research done and I should have more information, if records are found, to clarify relationships more than where they stand right now. I hope that I'll have
more news for researching records next week on this family history conundrum.

In terms of what to do with the documentation, I have the baptisms for some of the family back then and a marriage record in a zip file on my computer. How do I attach these records to the branches of the tree where they belong? That is where I'm struggling due to the different scanned formats some of the documents are in. Some are .jpg pictures; some are
not, but are documents and all of the text isn't coming through in the scanned images.

I'm not sure what to do about converting these records in a doable format that is readable and printable for attaching to the tree branches. Please advise on this if you would be so kind.

Happy Holidays to You & Yours.

Thank-you for attaching many of the compiled details on your family tree in Word, .pdf and .zip format.

You are justified in requesting readable scanned images of original documents from that APG (Association of Professional Genealogists) researcher. Having said that, it is entirely possible that the photocopy from microfilm of the original record is difficult to read, and that the “fuzzy” image plus a word-for-word transcription from your professional researcher may have to suffice.

To solve the problem of how to pull things together, Ol' Myrt here is going to ask you to obtain a new software program – one designed specifically for family history. Contrast this with the word-processing program you are using where it is indeed hard to “attach” identifying documents, and keep track of all family relationships. Genealogy-specific software makes it easier to record the accumulated info.

Do it because I asked you to! OK, the real reason family history researchers use them is that genealogy programs are designed for tracking individuals in family groups and arranging things in pedigree format. This visual representation of families also makes it easier to navigate through your compiled genealogy while adding to and amending the database. You’ll type the information in ONE time, and then print a variety of reports including name lists, locality-sorted event lists, books and sharable CDs, to name a few. There are options for including different ancestral lines including blood, adopted and disputed lines. Most 21st century software allows for foreign language characters.

The ability to retain info on the disputed lines makes it easier for you to explain the problem to another researcher who may follow in your footsteps. Yet keeping track of the disputed lines does not affect your ability to print “clean” (read that accurate) pedigree charts, family group sheets and books on your proven blood line.

Once you have transcribed the accumulated information into your genealogy software (starting with yourself, adding parents, siblings, spouse and children) you can work back through the paperwork you’ve shown me to document each generation with the basics such as birth, christening, marriage, death and burial info. Cite your sources using the source option for each event. Additional events can be added when necessary. Ol' Myrt adds biographical information in notes. When viewing an ancestor’s individual edit screen, there is an option in each of the mainstream genealogy software programs to add multi-media files, which can include photos and scanned images of the documents you’ve collected about that person. Alternately, those scanned images of source documents can be attached to the source citation for each event in a person’s life listed in your genealogy software program.

The simple answer is use the program that the majority of the members of your local genealogy society are already accustomed to using. That way you will have a large pool of near-by advisors if you have questions. However, most genealogy programs are quite intuitive, unlike the earlier versions released in the mid-to-late 1980s.

Another requirement for genealogy software is that it must be able to create and import GEDCOM files. Don’t worry about that technical term right now. Suffice it to say that a GEDCOM file is a generic file format that allows researchers with different genealogy programs share data fairly seamlessly.

Here is a partial list of genealogy management software for your consideration:

Windows PCs

  • Ancestral Quest
  • Legacy Family Tree
  • RootsMagic
  • The Master Genealogist
  • At this point in time, I do not recommend Family Tree Maker because notes are sometimes lost, when restoring from backup or when creating a GEDCOM file. Even in Ol' Myrt’s experience among friends, this has proven an unfortunate problem. There are other issues the users of the current version are quite vocal about.


Please note that Ol' Myrt here is not expecting you to keep your data online. Eventually this may be the way of things for all our documents, be they word processing, photos or genealogy data. For readers with more experience, consideration should be made using such options as:

  • TNG The Next Generation of Site Building (a neat program assisting you in the transfer of your compiled data to your own website.)
  • (Where you rely on the web to maintain (and not lose) your genealogy files and search for new connections using Ancestry’s extensive databases, a particularly nice option.)
  • (Where you create a great place and maintain your genealogy.)
  • WeRelate (An intuiative place on the web where you search for connections and share your data.)

Newbies will be quite busy getting the accumulated genealogy typed into their newly-acquired genealogy management program. I do not recommend placing genealogy data online unless one is particularly well-versed in using genealogy software at home, are accustomed to the use of the internet, and are able to assure the privacy of living individuals. Perhaps having established a PO Box or other private mailbox should also be a prerequisite for security’s sake.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

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