Finding the Ideal Setup for Genealogy Research

In the Beginning

There were a lot of negatives about operating in the early years of my genealogy research hobby (or should I say 'obsession'). Although the internet was beginning to open doors for researchers, there was not much data available online, whether free or paid. This meant As a result, a good portion of my research had to be done the old fashioned way using 'snail mail', the fax machine and the telephone. The internet helped me locate the resources and organizations to whom I should correspond and what specifically was available to be accessed.

I used the original free Ancestry Family Tree software that was available prior to Ancestry.com taking over Family Tree Maker. Although I had tried Family Tree Maker, I hadn't like it at all because it was primitive and the interface was rather unattractive and 'clunky'. Had Ancestry.com decided to work with and improve the original Ancestry Family Tree software, I'd probably still be using it.

Learning and Adapting

I continued using the same primitive computer and equipment, becoming much more proficient and knowledgeable. The software, however, was problematic. I was never happy with Family Tree Maker and after doing some research, I switched to RootsMagic. I loved the smooth interface, reports, charts, source cataloging, and data entry features including the flexibility handling unorthodox formats for dates, etc.

By this time, I had become very dissatisfied with the image editing quality in Windows software. I had long been considering switching to a Mac, and soon after moving to British Columbia, my Windows computer crashed and I took the opportunity to switch. I immediately realized how much better the Mac was for working with documents and images, but there was one huge drawback - there was no Mac version of RootsMagic.

I diligently researched all Mac software available and wasted a lot of money trying several. The first one I tried was the Mac version of Family Tree Maker. I didn't like it any better than the Windows version. In order to continue with my genealogy research and input, I tried three virtual environments, Parallels, VMWare and VirtualBox,  so I could operate RootsMagic on the Mac. Parallels caused a lot of performance issues on the computer, ranging in severity from system slowdowns to outright crashes. VMWare was only slightly better. I finally tried and liked VirtualBox and although it wasn't as smooth and seamless as I would have liked, I continued using it.

Stumbling Along

During the next couple of years, I tried several different genealogy programs including Mac Family Tree, Reunion, MyBlood and Legacy. Meanwhile, I missed RootsMagic horribly and decided to purchase a NetBook so I could use RootsMagic on the required Windows operating system.

Then I heard about Heredis, a new software that operated on a Mac. I purchased it because the free trial would only allow working with a small, limited quantity of individuals, therefore not allowing me access to test the majority of individuals and their data, formats, etc. I loved this software, but there was one huge drawback I couldn't live with. It did not provide the flexibility and variety of date formats I needed. I'm a stickler for observing the 'record dates exactly as they appear in the original source and only use the calculated date for the sort' camp. My husband's ancestry is deeply rooted in the Welsh Quaker culture and therefore I frequently find, use and interpret the Quaker date formats like '3d mo. 17 1682'. In Heredis, this had to be translated to a more standard date format and left a great deal of room for error.

I installed RootsMagic once again, and I still use it today. I use the Mac for the more intricate and detailed image editing and everything outside my genealogy pursuits. I would still love for RootsMagic to release a Mac version, but after years of requesting they do so, I've given up.

Another issue I've experienced through the years is ensuring the security, storage and portability of data. I tried everything up to and including CDs, DVDs, and flash/thumb drives. All of these options have notoriously short shelf lives and are vulnerable to malfunction, corruption and damage. Instead, I invested in an external hard drive a couple of years ago and it has worked out very well. I still keep my files on my computers and back up frequently to the external hard drive. This drive is easily ejected and inserted for portability and is not nearly as vulnerable as the other storage media choices.

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