Beyond Pedigree Charts: Using Your Genealogy Software’s Research Tools

Beyond Pedigree Charts:  Using Your Genealogy Software’s Research Tools

by Dayna Jacobs, AG®

(You are welcome to copy this for your own use, but please do not publish online or copy for distribution to others.  Thanks!)

You have probably used your genealogy software to print pedigree charts or family group records, and perhaps you have added photos or shared files with cousins, but there is so much more to your program.

Genealogy software has powerful tools that can make you a more effective researcher, giving you that extra help to unpuzzle your tough research problems.

 Which genealogy program should you use?

 Gensoftreviews < > has a comprehensive list of genealogy applications.  As of this week it has reviews of 711 products, including 374 for Windows computers, and 69 for Macs. Filter by operating system, and sort by rating or number of reviews.  Many have free versions you can download and take for  a test drive.  The “best” program is the one you feel comfortable with!

Popular Windows programs that are user-friendly:

  • RootsMagic
  • Legacy Family Tree
  • Family Tree Maker
  • Personal Ancestral File
  • Ancestral Quest

Popular Mac programs:

  • Family Tree Maker
  • Reunion
  • Mac Family Tree
  • iFamily

 Things to consider

 Are the screens intuitive to you?  Can you find your way around, and does it feel comfortable? Are you better off with simple screens, or do you want a lot of information available on one screen?

Does it have the features you want? Decide which features are most important to you and eliminate programs that do not have them.  You might use 10% of the features 90% of the time.  Get the product that does those features well.

Tools for research

 These are tools that most applications have in some form or another, but are not universally found in every program.  Decide which ones are most important to you, and find out which applications support that tool.  Look at the application’s “Report” or “Publish” options to find the logs, lists, and reports below.

  • Research Log
    • Avoid duplicating your searches
    • Stay organized as you research
    • Record sources as you find them
    • Easier to resume work after an absence
    • Track conclusions as you go
  • To Do List
    • Record ideas as they come to you
    • Make trips to the library more efficient – print a list specific to the library
    • Prioritize your research tasks
    • Turn your “To Do” list into your “Research Log” with one click
  • Attach Sources
    • Document your research
    • Find your sources again
    • Collaboration benefits
    • Create bibliographies and books/reports with footnotes
  • Mapping
    • Easily identify locations in your database
    • Identify possible repositories for family records
    • Identify nearby towns
    • Identify migration routes
  • Timeline/Chronology
    • Discover discrepancies
    • Identify new places to search for records
    • Integrate historical events to understand the context of your ancestors’ lives
  • Correspondence List
    • Avoid requesting the same record twice
    • Keep track of responses to requests
    • Maintain a database of names and addresses
  • Locality Report
    • Prepare for a research trip
    • Look for multiple individuals in one source (avoid looking at the same film over and over!)
    • Get ideas for record groups to search
  • Research suggestions
    • Generate a list of sources to check
    • Add them to your “To Do” list
The ICAPGen ℠ service mark and the Accredited Genealogist® and AG® registered marks are the sole property of the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists.  All Rights Reserved.

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