After twenty years, it is time to say goodbye. I have struggled in vain but it will not do. I have decided to say farewell to my old genealogy program.
Twenty years: it feels like forever in this digital age where three-year-old software feels outdated. My old program was MS-DOS-based and did not even work with a mouse. To keep it running on new versions of Windows required me to jump through an increasing amount of hoops. Emulators, virtual machines, miscellaneous tools and gadgets: whatever it took to keep the program alive.
So why did I even bother? Because entering data was super fast thanks to all the shortcut keys: an important criterion if you’re working on a population reconstruction that often comes down to entering every person in a record series into the database.
My requirements for a genealogy program have changed significantly in the past twenty years. Back then, I was a high school student who had just started doing genealogy. Just being able to record the facts and sources was enough for me. In the years since then, I’ve shifted from being a conclusion-based genealogist to an evidence-oriented genealogist. Rather than registering “the” birth date, I wanted to record all alternative birth dates I found in sources, so I could analyze and compare the data and later see how I came to any particular conclusion.
I also felt an increasing need to attach digital materials to my family tree: not just family photos and videos but also photos and scans of original records. My old program was incapable of handling media. I found a work-around by using an online genealogy program on the side, where I added the images and movies.
Last year, I purchased a new computer, which added a few more hoops to jump through. What pushed me over the edge was that I was unable to get the copy-paste functionality working. I had piles of transcriptions just waiting to be processed, but I was unable to attach them to the right people.
After months of trying out demo versions, I have chosen a new program. How wonderful to have all the information about a person in one place: facts, sources and images. The program comes with an app on my phone, which allows me to carry my data with me wherever I go. Just the other day, I was at a cemetery where I discovered a grave of my great-great-grandfather. I quickly took a picture with my phone and attached it to this ancestor using the app. I feel like my genealogy software has finally entered the twenty-first century.
I still miss my old program. I knew all the tricks and tips and feel a bit disoriented. But the data I enter now is well-documented and I see patterns that I would not have seen before. This is the beginning of a new phase of my research.
This column is a translation of my column that appeared in Genealogie, the quarterly magazine of the Central Bureau for Genealogy, in June 2012.