Computers in Genealogy

Wayne Thalls

Do I Need a Computer?

A frequently asked question is, "Why do I need a computer to do my genealogical research?" The answer is of course that you do not have to own a computer. Your task, however, will be much more difficult, and will require considerably more time. Just the sheer volume of information you must record, may overwhelm you. For example, a typical one-family search going back ten generations could easily include 10,000 or more individuals, with as many as a quarter million items of information.

Even if you do not own a computer, you will inevitably encounter them in your research. More and more libraries have retired the old card catalog. You will now find that catalog is on a computer. The modern library has terminals scattered around the facility, numerous people can perform simultaneous searches. In addition, you can look for information in a number of ways. For example you can look up publications by subject, even though you don't know specific titles or authors.

The Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County  CA) provides a computer in the library for use by members and the general public. This system is dedicated to genealogical research. Numer- ous programs and files of information are available now and the collection is growing. More and more data is becoming available in digital format. Society members have priority in the use of the machine.

To take advantage of the tremendous resources available through the efforts of the LDS Church, you will need to become familiar with the computers in the their facilities. Records which formerly were available only in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, are available in our own community---on computer. You can search for and print out the information you desire, in a fraction of the time required to look through books or scan microfilmed records. You can even save the desired information on a computer disk and take it home with you, where you can transfer it to your own system without retyping.

Genealogical Records

You will find a computer helpful in writing the many inquiry letters which are a keystone in genealogical research. Form letters can be customized quickly to fit a particular need.

Equally valuable is the ability to keep records on the computer. Genealogy programs are specialized database programs tailored to our needs. Once records are entered you can easily add entries and make revisions. All the individual links among individuals are maintained by the computer.

A computer equipped with a modem allows you to utilize the rapidly growing resources to be found on the internet. There are thousands of sites devoted to genealogical research---in virtually every corner of the globe.

Finally, when you have accumulated sufficient data, you will want to share your information with family members. The computer makes it easy to put the story into a format suitable for publishing. You can even incorporate maps, drawings and photographs.

Genealogy Programs

There are many different genealogical programs on the market. They range from the relatively basic to much more sophisticated programs suitable for professional genealogists. Some of those programs are listed here.

In selecting a program for your own use, follow these basic rules. Your hardware must match the program requirements. In other words an Apple program is not suitable for an IBM compatible PC. The computer operating system must be compatible---DOS, Windows, MAC, etc. Memory (RAM) requirements must be observed Adequate hard drive space required. Processor requirements observed; 286, 386, 486, etc.

Any program should have GEDCOM capability. Most do today. This is essential to allowing you to exchange data with other computer users, including the LDS Family History Library.

The prices of genealogy programs range from free to $250.00. Significant savings can result from carefully shopping for best price. It is not necessary to purchase the most expensive program. Usually however the more costly programs offer greater power and versatility. PAF, although a somewhat basic program, can be enhanced with add-on utility programs in the shareware arena. This adds both cost and complexity.

For specific information on programs refer to the genealogical magazines. The Genealogical Helper and others carry advertisement for these products. Reviews and how-to articles will also be found in these publications. Ask an existing user about the particular software program you are investigating.

Genealogical Software Sources

Brother's Keeper
6907 Childsdale Road
Rockford, MI 49341
Ph. 616-866-9422

The Dollarhide Systems, Inc.
203 West Holly Street - M4
Bellingham, WA 98225
Ph. 206-671-3808

Parsons Technology
One Parsons Drive
P.O. Box 100
Hiawatha, IA 5223-0100

1580 East Dawn Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84121
Ph. 801-943-6908

Computer Services
1050 East 800 South
Provo, UT 84601
Ph. 801-377-2100
Note: GEDCOM conversion requires a separate "Family Tree Print Utility"

Banner Blue Division
P.O. Box 6125
Novato, CA 94948-6125
Ph. 800-474-8696

Flying Pigs Software
P.O. Box 688
St. George, UT 84771
Ph. 801-628-5713

W. L. Futures Associates
613 Calle Del Cerrito
San Clemente, CA 92672
Ph. 714-361-7402

LDS Church
FamilySearch Support
50 East North Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84150
Ph. 801-240-2584

Leister Productions
P.O. Box 289
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
Ph. 717-697-1378

P.O. Box 310
Windsor, CA 95492
Ph. 707-838-4300
Note: GEDCOM conversion requires a Roots III Communication Utility

P.O. Box 310
Windsor, CA 95492
Ph. 707-838-4300

The Master Genealogist
Wholly Genes, Inc.
6868 Ducketts Lane
Elk Ridge, MD 21227
Ph. 410-796-2447

© 1998 Originally published in the newsletter of the Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County (CA)

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