RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees No. 3

Return to:  Original Format  |  Index of Guides

RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees
Guide No. 3:  Using Technology to Dig Up Roots

Genealogy — an old hobby — is greatly enhanced by the new technology — computers and the Internet. It's a match made in cyber heaven, so to speak.Many new genealogists do not remember a time when they didn't use a computer for their genealogy. However, many others are just beginning to use their personal computer, or are just now considering genealogical software applications.How can genealogical software aid you in tracing and compiling your family tree?

There are dozens of different types of genealogical programs and applications available. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Some are easy to learn; others are difficult. About the only thing all experienced genealogists who use computers agree on is that there is no one program that will do everything for everyone. Genealogy programs will help you keep track of your ancestry. There are a variety of programs available for the different computers. How do you know which one will serve your purposes?

Among the best and most popular genealogy software programs (in alphabetical order, not ranking) are the following:

The Genealogical Software Report Card (does not include any Mac programs) is designed to aid by providing and easy-to-use guide for the selection of software. It is based on a scorecard of more than 300 items.

Resources for Macintosh users including genealogy software, utilities, and more can be found here.

Regardless of which genealogy program you select, be sure it has GEDCOM capabilities.

What is GEDCOM? It is a file format, developed by the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to provide a flexible and uniform format for exchanging computerized genealogical data. GEDCOM is an acronym for GEnealogical Data COMmunication. A GEDCOM filename ends with the extension of *.ged (like smith.ged). It is necessary to convert your genealogical database to a GEDCOM file in order to upload it to RootsWeb's WorldConnect.


Software Mailing Lists at RootsWeb

Learn more about a particular genealogy program and applications by subscribing to its mailing list.

Database programs are different from genealogy programs. Many people use the term "database" interchangeably with the term "genealogy applications" when talking about their software. But they are not the same.Database programs are those you can use for a variety purposes such as keeping track of inventories or organizing your personal library or VCR tapes. These do not necessarily lend themselves for compiling genealogical data, as you cannot get them to print out a genealogy report. However, they have their functions, particularly when you are extracting information from say census or cemetery records. Using a database program for this type of work keeps the information in a set format, allows you to do quick searches, and in some cases, will allow you to export to a format you can use in your genealogy program.

Word-processing programs are perhaps the best known type computer programs (besides games, which we have all bought — for our children and grandchildren, of course.). When used in conjunction with your genealogy and database programs, you can generate a genealogy book or prepare large detailed family history or genealogical report. The newer word-processing programs can generate forms, create letters to fellow researchers with data from your genealogy program included, and make quick corrections — all without you having to retype the entire letter or report.

Communication programs help you to contact other genealogists. The online communities (both commercial and noncommercial) offer unique resources in that they bring fellow researchers into contact via mailing lists, Chat Rooms, IRC, and web pages.

There are a variety of genealogical applications available. A lot depends on just what your main goal is and your computer's hardware. If you are interested in publishing a book, then you will want to concentrate on a powerful genealogy program and a good word-processing program. On the other hand, perhaps you have found a book that sorely needs an index. If so, then you will want to look at a database program or an indexing program (a program specifically designed for generating indexes). If you are interested in extracting all the census entries or deeds for a specific surname or certain locality, then you look at either the database programs, an indexing program (if only generating an index rather than a full extraction) or some special applications designed to do the particular job. New to genealogy? Many of today's genealogy programs can help you learn the proper ways to record your ancestors, cite your sources, and share your data. They make it much easier to work with the data and free you to do the fun stuff — hunt those elusive characters lurking back there in your family's past.

Ahnentafel. This is a German word meaning ancestor table. It is an efficient way to organize a pedigree for it creates a continuous list of ancestors instead of chart. It is particularly useful when corresponding with another genealogist because it allows him or her to see immediately where your genealogical research ends and also where your family and his or hers might have common ancestry. Many genealogy programs will create an Ahnentafel-style genealogy report for you.

Note that if you double a number it gives you the father of that person; double the number, plus one, and you have the name of the mother.

Your basic Ahnentafel

  1. your name  
  2. your father
  3. your mother
  4. your father's father
  5. your father's mother
  6. your mother's father
  7. your mother's mother
  8. your father's father's father
  9.  your father's father's mother
10. your father's mother's father
11. your father's mother's mother
12. your mother's father's father
13. your mother's father's mother
14. your mother's mother's father
15. your mother's mother's mother

Numbering Systems in Genealogy by Richard A. Pence

Suggested Reading & References

Additional Resources

Links in this Guide
(in order they appeared)

[an error occurred while processing this directive]