Blog post

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An ending, and a new beginning


I've made a big decision. I’m leaving the one I love. After indecision and agonising, I'm changing genealogy software. This isn't something I take lightly as I still remember how much work it was the last time I changed (from TMG to Genbox) nearly seven years ago.

I've been thinking about it for some time but, perversely, it was Kerry Scott's post Why It Doesn't Matter Which Genealogy Software You Use way back in February that gave me the final push I needed.

That post had stayed in the back of my mind and as I agonised over the idea of changing, I went back and reread it. I thought it would persuade me to stick with what I had. No! As I read, I realized that the thing that was holding me back from changing was that I placed too high a priority on all the things I love (and will miss!) about Genbox, but things have changed, and they are no longer so relevant.

You see, in the last seven years the way I research has changed. The internet allows me to find more records, more quickly. I have always liked to trace down at least a few generations from my ancestors, but over seven years I have pushed back a few generations and 'tracing down' now involves different types of records, most notably census records.

Features that were a high priority for me seven years ago, aren’t so much now. Kerry's post helped me to realise that I will live without the special features I love. While desirable, they are not essential. Thanks Kerry for the perspective!

So having more objectively considered which features will best suit my needs, and after much experimentation and consideration, I have decided to switch to Family Historian.

Factors that weighed in on my decision:

  • It appears that the product is still being actively developed. They recently put out a call for more beta testers for the upcoming version 5.
  • Using GEDCOM as a native format means that I have a better idea of will go through when I upload to my family data site. I can also edit the file myself in word or even Excel if I want which makes the initial clean up much quicker and easier.
  • Ancestral Sources, a free program designed to work with Family Historian, allows form based data entry for census and baptism records, with more records types coming. I find census records in particular very time-consuming to enter.
  • Alternatively, merging in other GEDCOMs seems to work well, opening up the possibility of using something like Geves (described previously) for focused data collection on a branch and then importing and merging. I wouldn’t want to merge on a wider scale. My early tests looked promising.
  • Auto-citation feature where you designate a source to be added to anything you add, until you tell it to stop. Genbox also does this and it’s something I would prefer to keep.
  • I can live with less granularity to the source citations (Genbox allows you to set different sources for date, place, details etc of an event). So far as achieving quality citations goes, I think I’ll follow Randy Seaver’s lead and use freeform text. Again, I’ve experimented with this a bit already and I’m sure it will improve the sources that go onto the website – which is the public face of my database. This wasn’t a concern seven years ago! 
  • Multimedia capabilities look promising - I need to explore that more.

Now that the decision is made I’ve no regrets and am very excited by the change. I’m looking forward to learning more about my new software!


  1. Let us know how it goes.  The thought give me chills.  But you have the idea back into the forefront of my mind.

  2. That's a big change there, good luck Shelley!

  3. It's a bit daunting but I'll get there. My database isn't gigantic, so I've got that going for me.

  4. Thanks! So far only two unexpected hitches... there had to be some!

  5. Hi Shelley, Just discovered and enjoying your blog :-) I figure it's now been about 10mths since you changed to Family Historian and wonder how it's gone? ... I'm thinking of changing back to FH because I'm having such probs with the synchronising on Ancestry's Family Tree Maker but ...??? Cheers, Catherine

    1. Thanks Catherine, it's going well. I'm still happy with the decision. I'm settled in to it well enough now that I've started making customisations. It must be time for another blog post about it!