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From the Green Valley News, Sunday 10 February 2008, page B9

Genealogy Today, by Betty Malesky

Choosing a Genealogy Program

During the beginning genealogy class at the Green Valley Public Library last month, many students expressed an interest in obtaining a genealogy program. If you are in the market for genealogical software, consider the following suggestions in making your choice.

Genealogy is ideally suited for the computer, as a multi-generational family is just a huge database. It’s never too soon to begin computerizing your family information—it will save you time and effort in the long run.

Genealogy software serves two purposes. One is planning and organizing your project, the other is recording data, documentation, analysis of evidence, etc., very necessary parts of any project. A by-product of these goals is charting, photo editing, creating a web site and sharing data with family and others.

The dividing line between programs today is fairly indistinct, but the single most important feature to look for is the ability to easily document the source for each fact entered. Without proper sources your genealogy is virtually worthless by today’s standards. Next in importance is ease of entering descriptive notes about each individual so they print out in your family narrative.

Several excellent comprehensive programs are available. Choosing one is an individual decision. No one can tell you which is best for you. A good program for beginners however is Personal Ancestral File, better known as PAF. Developed several years ago by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, PAF has stood the test of time because it is easy to use and contains all the necessary functions.

With PAF you can quickly and easily collect, organize and share your family history. It and a companion charting program, appropriately titled PAF Companion Basic are each available on the Internet at via the Free Download links at the bottom of the page.

PAF and a full Companion version with ten additional charts and reports can also be downloaded from the Order/Download tab at the top of the page for only $8.25. The upgrade comes in six languages and runs on any computer using Windows 95 or later or on an iMac with a Windows emulator. The Web site also links to lessons to help you learn to use PAF.

When and if you decide to seek a more sophisticated program, data entered in PAF is easily transferred to another genealogy program by GEDCOM, a utility created for that purpose. Popular commercial software offerings include Family Historian, Family Tree Maker, Genbox, Legacy, the Master Genealogist, and RootsMagic. Find the Web site for each of these programs by entering its name in Google or another favorite search engine.

When shopping for software, look for either a free trial or a 30-day money back guarantee. If you’re not happy within 30 days, it won’t get any better. Return a program you’re dissatisfied with and try another. Data entry and data handling differs in each program while the output in most is similar. If a program has a lot of extra features you won’t use, disregard them in your evaluation of it. Do your homework; select your software and it should serve you well for years.

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