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A Genealogy Software Primer: Part 1 - What to Look for in Genealogy Programs

You'll find that all genealogy programs aren't created equal. While there are a variety of them available, many are either too complicated and hard to use or lacking in organization and basic features.

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Prepared by: Bob Brooke
Word Count: 517 (approx.)
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Assembling your family's genealogy can be a daunting task if you're a beginner. But today's technology can help to make it less of a challenge and for a reasonable cost. To use any of the available genealogy software, you'll have to be somewhat computer literate. So if your computer skills aren't quite up to par, you should take a basic class to get yourself up to speed.

You'll find that all genealogy programs aren't created equal. While there are a variety of them available, many are either too complicated and hard to use or lacking in organization and basic features. And while you can get several as free downloads on the Internet, you'll be better off investing the average $30 fee for one of the better ones.

So what makes one genealogy program better than another? One of the most important things to look for in genealogy software is its user-friendliness—meaning how easy it is for you to navigate around its interface or how it looks on your computer screen. Selecting the right genealogical software program can make all the difference in how much satisfaction and information you'll get from your research. Accessing, recording and reviewing data about your ancestors should be easy, as well as fun. Otherwise, you'll become overwhelmed and stop.

Another thing to look for is how easy a program is to install and setup on your computer, especially if you're not too computer savvy. The program you eventually choose should include all of the features you'll need to research and organize your family's ancestors, including reports, charts, searching capabilities, Internet access, and efficient ways to store the information you collect.

After accessing the information you need, most programs will allow you to create reports showing an individual's direct-line ancestors, so you can see exactly how far back a particular line extends. Or you may want to create a story about a specific person, following their lineage. You'll find this the best way to share your results with the rest of your family. Data reports alone can be dry and uninteresting. Your goal should be to make your family's heritage come alive.

Lastly, you may want to show entire families including husband, wife and children on either side of your family.

To link the various family units, you'll need organizational tools that join them together based on relationships, creating a family tree. Some programs also notify you of problem areas and duplicate entries.

Lastly, you'll want to choose a program that offers good support, either through its in-computer or online Help feature, FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions–usually on the program manufacturer's Web site), tutorials, or through E-mail or phone technical support.

To find which program may offer you the best tools for your needs, you can often try some for a 30-day Free Trial. However, these trial versions often limit you to just a few records and many of the features you may need will be grayed out, thus unavailable until you purchase the full version. But they do let you see how easy or difficult it will be for you to navigate from one feature to the next.

Source Information: Everyday Genealogy, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2009.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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