Genealogy Software

Before we look at some of the programs, lets consider what might be important to you. If you have a database of several thousand people, easy input may not be that important to you but charting and publishing, including to the Internet, might be. Grouping and listing may be important if you have a lot of research left to do (and who doesn’t?).

The Genealogy Report Card ( lists the author’s ratings on 21 genealogy programs. It rates them on several criteria so you can choose the ones most appropriate for you. The author also provides charts for many of the important factors. (Modified 10/8/05 to update URL).

PC Magazine also rated several genealogical programs in its After Hours section (,4149,482150,00.asp). Each program was rated by the editors and the members and the results were quite divergent. Clicking on each program takes you to a review of that program and what it costs.

Family Origins started with Parsons and is now owned by FormalSoft. You can get a demo of RootsMagic and a trial copy of Family Origins at

The Master Genealogist is highly acclaimed but is somewhat more difficult to use than some of the others. You can get a demo at

You can get to Legacy at

Two programs are free for the downloading; PAF from the LDS site and Ancestry Family Tree from They are almost identical and were created by Intellectual Reserve, Inc., the company that holds the copyright to the FamilySearch web page. The relationship calculator in each of them is identical and outstanding.

But there is one significant difference; Ancestry Family Tree takes your family tree and compares each individual against it’s database and will tell you how many trees include each of your ancestors and how many records exist. Clicking on the numbers it shows takes you directly to the tree. This is free for a short period then you have to come up with an annual subscription. Consider doing this when you have the time to look up all of your “loose ends” during the free period. And remember to verify all of the results in reliable sources.

Searching the Web

Here are few questions:

1.         I found a scrap of paper with a phone number on it. How can I find out whose it is?

2.         How do I find where to get a Small Business grant?

3.         Ancestry and LDS don’t list the ancestor I’m interested in. Is there another place to search?

4.         I know a page exists but now when I search I can’t find it. What do I do?

5.         A librarian found something for me once but when I search I can’t get there. Why?

6.         Why can’t I search Google for documents from the NEHGS Resister?

7.         What’s the Deep Web and should I be afraid to go there?

1.         You can do reverse telephone searches at or but you have to navigate to find out how. You should have Google where you can get to it in a hurry. Type the number in Google and avoid all of the pop up ads that the others provide. It doesn’t seem to work for cell phones.

2.         Go to Google and enter Small Business Grants. One of the first listings will be the Small Business Administration listing for small business grants. You could also go to www.firstgov.govThat’s the index to all Government sites. It’s an education in itself.

3.         Try searching for the name in Google. It will search pages people have put up on their own without submitting them to Ancestry (Rootsweb). Add spouse’s name or children’s names to limit a search that’s too broad. Use - (minus) before terms you want excluded as Dill -pickle -herb -relish.

4.         Perhaps the search was too specific. If you search for “David Dill” (note the quotes) you’ll miss the document that reads:

David, John and Mungo Dill arrived in Nova Scotia about 1770. David was the eldest. He had more cattle and was taxed more.....He married..... He died in 1830.

The name “David Dill” never appears in that document but it’s his short biography. If you don’t have success with the narrow search, broaden it by removing the quotes. If the search gets too broad, narrow it by including other terms such as Mungo. (You can’t get much narrower than Mungo).

5.         Perhaps the librarian has tools that you don’t have. Many libraries subscribe to search engines that can find and print out material from specialized sources. They include JSTOR, LexisNexis Academic, Mergent Online and Safari Tech Books Online. See the listing of “Niche” search engines in PC Magazine’s May 27, 2003 issue or online at,4149,1047718,00.asp

Lake County Library System. You can log on to the Lake County Library System at home through a link from Pastfinders’ Home Page or by going to that page, click on Online Reference Databases. That leads you to a page from which you can select either EBSCAhost or Gale. For genealogy purposes select Gale. You will be asked for your library card number and I'll tell you what to enter. Go down the resulting list of databases until you come to Ancestry Plus. Here you’ll find all of the benefits of a subscription to Ancestry. Census images are available through 1930, the last released by the Government. Of course you can also do this from the library and it might be faster than doing it at home. You'll have to pay for any printouts, however.

6.         Search engines extract information from the pages that they search but if they can’t read the language or get to the pages that hide behind an authentication screen then they get stumped. Adobe’s PDF (Acrobat Language) stumped most search engines until recently but that is no longer the case. Thus the mysterious Deep Web is mostly pages where one would need a subscription to access the data as in financial newsletters, scientific and medical journals, and subscription web sites such as NEHGS or pages that constantly change as in database queries. That may, however be the best part of the web since it's mostly scholarly work. But see 5 above because your library may be able to help.

There are other search engines besides Google so consider using one of them if you don’t get any results. See the PC Magazine online page above to see some of the others and to see a review of which ones are best for certain types of searches. If you want to search many search engines at once try a a metasearch engine such as Dogpile. But whatever one you use, find out all you can about how to use it to get the best results. Also, see all of the specialized searches that can be done in Google such as images, groups and news. The Google toolbar is a free download and it makes searching easier but it also keeps statistics on where you go.