Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Thoughts on the Program Dilemma

Which program should I use as my primary genealogical database? That seems to be the most re-occurring issue for the past few years. I must say that my response to that question has changed considerably over the years as the programs, computers and the Internet have changed and evolved. The question is usually phrased to me as to which program I use as my primary database. I used to avoid taking sides and answered by saying that I used all of them. That is no longer true.

The crucial issue with genealogy programs in light of the huge increase in online data is connectivity. The main challenge today is to keep up with newly added online records and other resources. For example, in the past few days, has added millions upon millions of new records or newly indexed records. recently upped their online collection of fully indexed digital books to 450,000 and applied their Super Search capability to finding content applicable to our ancestors in our family tree on has added some invaluable Irish records and continues to add millions of records to the British Newspaper Collection. also continues to update and add content to its vast collections.

Each of these online programs has a well-developed family tree. Of course, because of my background, I am partial to the Family Tree and I am focusing on putting as much of my information as I can in that program, but I find the others immensely useful and I am delighted to benefit from their huge resources.

Because of the huge growth in online resources, my work flow has changed considerably. In total, right now, I have literally thousands of records hints waiting to be processed on all four of the large online database programs. I often find crucially useful information by using the record hints. I view the incomplete and sporadic connectivity between these online programs and the other desktop programs to be the greatest obstacle to efficient research. There is currently no "one way" to move information efficiently between programs. So to a great extent, I now judge the value of the programs by the ease of entering sources and other data.

I must say that some of the programs with the best user interface have cut themselves off from consideration because of their lack of connectivity. If I have to make multiple copies of every single piece of information added to the program, I will simply move on to a more efficient system. Most of the programs still require multiple steps to add a source or media item and I simply do not have time to bother with that process. Secondarily, if my ultimate goals require moving all of my information into the Family Tree, then the ease of moving information in that direction also becomes a major consideration.

There are certainly a large number of very good genealogy programs out there on the market. Apparently, some of them see no reason to become involved in the wealth of online records because they have made no accommodation for adding records from online sources. For example, some of my entries on the Family Tree have dozens of source citations. Do I really want to re-enter all that information into a desktop program one entry and field by field at a time? Not really.

At the same time, I recognize that there are still people out there who have everything on paper. Essentially, they are running the risk that all of the information they already have and all of the "new" information they find has already been found and processed by others. I am drawn to the Family Tree because, at least, I can see what all my relatives have done and what they think. As an example of my own personal problem, I have over 100,000 Smart Matches on That means that has found about that many people I am related to. There only way I can work with numbers that large is to have unified family tree such as the Family Tree, where I can see what everyone thinks about all of my ancestors and relatives. Don't get me wrong, the information provided by is immensely valuable but I need a way to manage the huge amounts of information available.

If I were starting out as a newly minted genealogist today, I would subscribe to all four large online database companies programs and put begin my family tree on each of them. I would then let them find all the sources for me and add people to each of my family trees. I would then consolidate all of the people and sources to one family tree. If I got to the point where I was actively doing research, I would evaluate what I needed and choose one program to be my primary one.

From my perspective I think the issue of "changes" to the Family Tree is trivial and transitory. But I do recognize the need for some way to anchor my information and hence, I am adding all the sources I can accumulate as I make additional discoveries. That is my bottom line.

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