Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fresh Eyes

Seeing my family data presented in a new format  this week has made some glaring omissions jump out at me.

My kids always claim they have trouble buying gifts for me but I think that my genealogy obsession makes me easy to buy for. There are so many genea geegaws, apps, magazines and books that I would love to have but baulk at purchasing. On the eve of Mother's Day I was visiting one of the kids who said "I still don't have a Mother's Day gift for you". My response was "You can buy me a piece of software if it's not too expensive". She agreed and passed over her Amex card so I could make the purchase then and there.

As a result I now have a copy of "The Family Historian", version 5. When I first looked at it I was flummoxed as the interface is so different from The Master Genealogist that I have used for over ten years. Last night I imported my gedcom into The Family Historian and started playing. That I did not need to refer to any help to accomplish this was a good sign. The data transfer appeared to be clean except for some of my notes. After a couple of hours playing around with the excellent (included at no extra cost) guide I began to feel quite comfortable negotiating the package. I added a couple of people, added some events, modified some records and added some sources referring to the free guide "Getting the most from Family Historian 5" beside me. 

I like that when in the Project Window that lists everyone in my database I can sort by each column eg Name, Dates, Birth Place, Relationship to Root Person (me but can be changed - nifty) and Date Modified. Down the track I will be able to customise this to see other than the fields that are presently displayed. Looking at my data from this summary view a few things jumped out at me: it was easy to see where I had no birth details (and I was able to fill in some straight away) and to identify my closest relations to whom I will give priority attention. 

 I like the ease with which one can negotiate from the Project Window to individual people's records. I have yet to explore the customisable Ancestor and Descendant Diagrams but they appear stunning. I viewed a couple of reports that can be shared and printed,; this was a simple process.

When I mentioned to people at Congress in Adelaide that I was exploring new software options I got a range of responses most of which fitted into the "If it ain't broke don't fix it" category. I will not throw my present program away without careful consideration.

Why did I decide to seek out new software?

* Having used TNG (The Next Generation) for publishing my tree online I realised that by comparison The Master Genealogist is rather clunky. I was seeking something with a more user friendly interface that was easier to navigate.
* I discovered that there is an addon from Family Historian that makes publishing to TNG ever easier than what it is.
* I thought a product from the UK would be more in sync with my needs as the ancestors all came from the Old Country.
* My genealblogging mate Shelley, from Twigs of Yore, has blogged about her positive experiences with Family Historian software; I value Shelley's opinions highly. Unlike me she thinks carefully before making decisions.
* A prominent Australian genie person has indicated that, in his opinion, The Family Historian  is one of the two top programs available.
* There are positive reviews on GenSoftReviews for The Family Historian.
* As with The Master Genealogist there is is online support from an active group of forum members.
* I believe it is a good idea to check the market occasionally to see what alternatives are around  -otherwise I'd still be using Internet Exploer for web browsing.



4 comments:

Rosemary said...

Jill, how does it handle Australian records? I'm thinking of the Electoral Rolls in particular. I use Family Tree Maker and have been using a generic census template for the sources which is working pretty well.

Shelley Crawford said...

@Jill Yes it's definitely a different user interface! I now tend to work with a bare-bones diagram on one side and the properties window on the other. It makes it easy to navigate from person to person and to quickly work out who a name in a record refers to. It's fun to just drag on the diagram to create a new parent or child. I did think that working with a diagram was gimmicky at first but now I love it.
The diagrams can also be used to see at a glance what information is there and missing by use of flags and custom text schemes. I haven’t got that set up yet, one thing at a time... I also like that you can add eg a residence fact to a husband, copy the fact on the Facts screen, click his wife on the diagram and just paste the same fact to her record, source and all. It takes a little setting up, but it’s so customisable and the customisations are all shareable.
Have you downloaded Ancestral Sources? It’s great for entering census data.
@Rosemary It doesn't have source templates, just "title", "short title", “author”, "publication information" and "repository" fields. I have taken to entering the entire citation as I want it to appear in the title field and keeping a separate document with my own templates to cut and paste for document types I use frequently. I miss out on having parts of the title italicised and having variations for first citation, subsequent citations and bibliography (which most programs provide) but that’s not a big deal for me.
I’ve been doing a lot of electoral roll work myself and your comment inspired me to try something – I just created my first plugin! It takes details of the Division, polling place etc and assembles them into a new source record. I might have to do my own blog post on that. Now I’m getting all sorts of ideas about expanding my little plugin to other common Australian records…
@Jill I’d be happy to forward you a copy of the plugin if you wanted to try it – probably best to use on a test database as I am a complete newbie at programming.

Rosemary said...

@Shelley, That sounds intriguing. I can, if left to my own devices, become the complete software junkie. I have to slap my hand to stop purchasing every new little thing otherwise I would get absolutely nothing done.

Jill Ball said...

@Rosemary I don't worry too much about how a source is cited. When I cite my aim is to provide sufficient information for another person to find the resource that I am citing. It is easy for me to do this in Family Historian so I am happy. Disciples of ES Mills may be able to comment further on this part of the program.

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