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Family History CD's and the Software That Makes Them

Sharing data in a customized and entertaining format is also a part of genealogical research.

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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Larry Naukam
Word Count: 853 (approx.)
Labels: Publishing 
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It's no secret that I am in favor of creating family history CD's. After all, we genealogy researchers spend some amount of money and significant portions of our time on earth researching information about our ancestors and collateral families. This is all well and good. We learn (or should be learning) about history, economics, religious life, social customs and other things that touched the lives of our predecessors and current family members. For almost all of us, our family makes us the people that we are. Our thoughts and actions are shaped by those who bear and raise us.

We reach a point where we have found considerable information. We have collected photographs and other graphic representations of the family. We may have movies or sound recordings of these people. We might have maps. We could have genealogy program data files. You can see were this is going. We have done a lot of work, and we want to share it with the other folks who have an interest in the family. Since I have a number of family who are overseas and whose command of English is not fluent, I also want to show them audio-visual data and provide word processing files which they can then translate.

But we don't want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars (or euros, pounds, etc.) printing a "book" on paper - at least not as a first option. (The question of whether a software package can "write a book" is a topic for another time.) What we can do at the present time is to create CDs or DVDs of family data, with easy to use software that enables both talented folks and the creatively impaired, such as yours truly, to do this easily.

Again, why? Let me pass along a story. Thirty years ago a grandparent gave me original pictures of family from the 1860s through the 1890s. I lost them, plain and simple. I have mastered the difficult physical task of kicking myself for all time.

A year ago, another distant relative made contact, and lo and behold, she was the great granddaughter of the sister of the brother who was my ancestor, and sure enough, for over 100 years the "girls" in her branch had saved and preserved copies of the photos that I had once had. Do you have a stopwatch that could time how quickly I made backup copies of those photos on a CD, and how quickly they were delivered to my current family? The speed of light would seem slow in comparison. That loss should not happen again. If I had had software in the past and had made disks, the loss of the original pictures back when wouldn't have been a catastrophic. I did type information and pass it out in 3 ring binder "books" (yes, typed, not word processed), but there are no pictures in those binders. And the overseas folks never did get them - I did not meet them until years after the original production.

What we want to do these days is to preserve our work, share it, and make it entertaining for those family members who are interested in the results of our searching, though not in the searching itself. An interactive disk which contains data files, pictures, movies, word processing documents, sound or movie files used to be a work which required a good deal of thought and preparation. Five years ago, this was the case.

What is needed here is software that can assist in the production of our desired disk. We want software to help design an opening or top page, to draw the user in and help them navigate; to help organize your files logically; to assist in making informative labels, such as for the people in a picture (rather than labeling them all underneath the photo); and to give you a workable copy of a standard document reader, such as the Adobe reader for PDF files. Lastly it should be able to burn a disk without having to own a separate disk-burning program.

I have had the pleasure of recently examining some software that does address these concerns, and in addition was not created and marketed by of the mega-genealogy sites to sell more of their own products. "Family History CD" by The Jefferson Project is a self-contained, one-CD program that will do these above-mentioned tasks for you. It runs only on Windows machines (though there are analogous programs for the Macintosh now). It costs $30.00 and can save you a great deal of planning and aguish, but a manual in PDF format, is included on the disk. The web site is at www.familyhistorycd.com. You can learn a lot about the program there, work with a small business, and get an easily created product that could make you the hit of your next reunion. This hobby isn't supposed to be all work; it's supposed to bring us joy and connections as well, and this product can help. Do check them out.

As my childhood hero Smokey the Bear said, or would have if he were a computer-using genealogist, the data you save may be your own.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2005.

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

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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