Open Thread Thursday – Running Multiple Genealogy Software Programs

Geneablogger's Open Thread Thursday this past week was:
· Which genealogy software program do you use and why?
· If you use more than one program, list them and tell us why you use more than one program.
· How do you “sync” multiple programs? Do you simply enter the data more than one time? Do you export data from one program and import into another?
· What do you think about the inter-changeability of data between genealogy software programs? Do you fear data loss if you export your data and import into a different program? What improvements would you like software makers to make?

I've used a number of different programs, but I'm only going to cover five plus one online tree, ignoring the ones I've tested or otherwise only used once, because otherwise I could go on for ages.

When I started in genealogy, I got myself a copy of Brother's Keeper. I didn't know much about genealogy software, but I figured starting with a free program was best. After a couple of years, I got a copy of Family Tree Maker (FTM), and since then, that has been my program of choice, though I'm no longer as happy with it as I was. I currently use Family Tree Maker 2006, and I doubt I will upgrade it again, though I might if I find the 2008 version. I also now use Family Tree Builder (FTB) and The Master Genealogist (TMG) (which I'm still learning), and I still have a copy of Legacy on my computer that I've used for a few months now.

At the moment, FTM is still my main program, though I'm working with TMG in hopes that it will become my major program. I've been entering everything into the program from scratch using all the paper copies of my documents, since I was quite lax with citations in FTM, and since the stuff in FTM has become quite a mess from merging multiple files together over the years. At the moment, when I test out a program, I use the gedcom from FTM to transfer in what I have about my family, though I am hoping that in the future, I will used the one from TMG.

FTB I use mostly as a search engine, with a gedcom pulled from FTM at the moment, though I do occasionally (if I'm searching for someone specific) update information to get better results. I'd love to see a major overhaul of this program, as I think it's the best of the three (not including BK and Legacy, which is basically a FTM clone aside from reports), but doesn't have the functionality of either. I think if the program improves, it could well become my main program—to the point where I might be willing to pay for it.

For my online tree, I use Geni, though after the first entry, the site is very slow and clunky. I like that people can be connected to events regardless if they're primaries to the event or just witnesses, and would love a software that would allow the same. I've not paid for the site, so I can't be sure if entry gets any easier with a paid account (though I don't believe it does), so I tend to go through spurts of adding people by hand, which is time-consuming, and therefore I tend to put it off more than I should.

I think compatibility is not a huge issue, as gedcoms are pretty good at storing the basic information, though I'm not sure as far as citations go yet (see above), and if you have added any custom fields, that can cause issues as well.

My biggest issue with software is how clunky citations still are, and how "Western" (ie US-oriented) the programs are. I know that's partially because I live in the US, and that's where I'm buying my software, but it seems to me there are plenty of people in the US who have Scandinavian family, and/or other ancestral groups where naming practices are very different from in the US (ie, the Scandinavian patronymic system).

Most programs still seem stuck in the 90's, but maybe that's just me expecting too much from them yet. I'm glad most come with an online component these days, but I'd like to see a more user-friendly system in place. I'd like to see a system that asks you questions and fills in the fields for you. I know when I started, I didn't even know where to put a lot of the information I had, and because of that, I'm still learning new things every day. I'd even love it to ask questions when you add a new branch to your tree that might guide you in your search, and would set up that branch with the basic appropriate information, instead of having to thumb through tons of "possible" citations for baptisms and christenings for my Jewish family. I'd also like to see a way of recording events that include all the people at the event, not just two – weddings being a prime example of this.

I think software needs a major overhaul to be updated to today's genealogist. There are so many different types of families out there—the software itself should be able to understand this and compensate for it, so that we don't have to deal with all these nuances ourselves.


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About this blog

This blog is maintained by two sisters who have had a life long interest in geneology.
Mika writes here mostly about our family (Hansen, Hillinger, Bordewick, Park, etc), and her search for more information.
Shannon mostly uses this space as a place to make the many stories written about and by her husband's family (Holly, Walker, Walpole, etc) available to the rest of the family, present and future.

Our blog is named Oh Spusch! mostly because Shannon is bad at naming things. The first post I put up includes a story about the time Walker's great grandfather took his whole family out to see a play and the littlest kept saying "Oh! Spusch!" No one ever figured out what she meant by that.