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Using Computer Software to Streamline Your Genealogy Research

By: Paul Duxbury

Computer software can make your family tree research a breeze, relatively speaking – pun intended, of course. Using family tree software allows the creation of online data bases to sort records; the storage of digital photos with other documents, scanning of old records, easy sharing with other researchers, and a world of information at your fingertips through the Internet.

When looking for appropriate genealogy software, look for easy to use features that seem intuitive. Many programs will allow matching of information from various online data bases. Some have features that check various name combinations that are similar and rate connections according to probability. These features are quite handy. It is also helpful if the program allows you to input data from other genealogy programs or data bases and spreadsheets like Microsoft Access and Excel.

The software you choose should be well organized and easy to read, displaying needed information on the screen in an easy to follow format. Many allow you to click on name tabs of a child or a parent and view the personal data, which can include the name of spouse, place and date of birth, marriage, death and of burial. Good software will also allow you to tie in other lineage information, such as adoption records, step children, biographies, descendant charts, and other information you will find helpful. Some deluxe software programs go a step further and offer extra features. These can include a county verifier for counties in the US, allowing the user to view all of the counties in a state with their founding dates to hunt for discrepancies. All genealogists who have tried to find a location in a county that has been dissolved or reorganized can appreciate this feature. Another nice added feature in some deluxe software is the ability to search for a location by various means: county, state, country, town, city or province.

Some software even has a potential problems report, this will highlight dates the genealogist should double check. Another nice feature is the reformatting of inconsistently formatted data bases to make sure that records match. And another deluxe feature is web site creation. Some programs will allow the user to make their own genealogy web sites without knowing HTML or other computer code. By creating web sites a user is able to share work easily with other genealogists without having to retype information, make photo copies or spend a bundle on postage. And think of the time that is saved.

Before personal computers became popular genealogists had to spend many hours in libraries and research centers. The tool of choice was the micro film reader. Photo copy machines received a workout. Handwritten notes were extensive, and subject to misinterpretation. Today’s computers, with good software and the internet provide a world of opportunity for the genealogist that would have seemed like magic only thirty years ago. Additionally the need to visit libraries in many cases is now no longer necessary. While there are times when information is still only available on microfilm, many libraries have converted their microfilm to digital format and have made it available online, allowing a person to do research from the comfort of their own home. Imagine doing your genealogy research in your pyjamas, at 4 a.m. if that is the time you prefer. Good genealogy software makes it possible.

When looking at software, remember that most of the best companies have enough faith in their programs to offer a 30 day free trial period. You can try the software out, use it for a month and make sure that it truly fits your needs and desires. Then if you choose to buy, paying online with a credit card allows you to keep using the software permanently without having to reinstall. This is another improvement over the past, and certainly an improvement no one complains about.

Whether you use Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, NT or XP, there are many good programs on the market for genealogists. And it doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, intermediate or an expert. All researchers can benefit from good genealogy software, so give it a try and you’ll certainly be glad you did.

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