[APG Public List] Best genealogy software for historical research?

DESloan at aol.com DESloan at aol.com
Tue Oct 26 22:01:23 MDT 2010

I think that Brother's Keeper can do either all or at least most of what  
you want. You can download a copy at _www.bk.com_ (http://www.bk.com)  Also 
at the bottom you can send an  email to John Steed the author of Brother's 
Keeper. Explain why and what you  want to be able to do and ask John if you 
can do it with his program. I have  found that John is very responsive and you 
can find out from the author himself  if his program will do what you want.
Let me know what you find up and what you end up doing.
Good Luck,
Dave  Sloan
Grandkids Ancestors LLC
Specializing in East central IN, West  central Ohio, Quaker Records, and 
Brethren Records.
"The world is my country,  and my religion is to do right" David Hoover 

In a message dated 10/26/2010 10:51:54 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
raybeere at yahoo.com writes:

I've  added my comments on your specific requirements, below.

--- On Tue,  10/26/10, Katherine Pickering Antonova 
<katherine.antonova at qc.cuny.edu>  wrote:

> - I want to keep track of three interrelated families from  the 17th
> century to the present. So, I need to be able to print  something more
> complex than a “tree” structure with all the branches  coming from one
> common ancestor or one common descendant. This has  been a problem with
> some of the trials I’ve looked at.

With _any_ software I am aware of, you'll have problems with  this, 
depending on what you're trying to do. You could print trees of each of  the three 
families, and you could print certain other charts - but you  probably 
cannot print a single chart showing all individuals in these three  families. (I 
say probably because the precise answer would depend on the exact  nature of 
the inter-relationships.)

> - I have to be able to attach  notes to each entry. At least one bit of
> block text, along with birth,  marriage and death dates.

Almost all genealogical  software allows for notes, usually formatted as 
block text. Some allow you to  print notes on charts - but since notes are 
very variable in size and thus  different programs handle them differently, you 
may have trouble with this  feature using just about any program.

> - I want to be able to print  a report that includes birth and death
> dates, and distinguishes  between males and females

I cannot think of any  software that will _not_ allow you to do this.

> - I want to input  all the info I have, but be able to choose to print
> only simplified  versions of the tree with only the branches I’m most
> interested in on  it.

The Master Genealogist for Windows is quite  strong in this area. It allows 
you a _great_ deal of flexibility in choosing  who will be included when 
you generate a report or chart.

> - I want  to be able to use the software on different computers, and
> backup  files very easily. It would be nice if the files were easily
> converted  to other formats. These features are not essential, just
>  desirable

Since you mention using it on different  computers, I suspect you mean you 
should be able to _sync_ files, not just  back them up. I happen to have a 
very strong interest in emergency  preparedness - and there is _no_ genealogy 
program with a built in function  suitable to rely on for critical work. 
You'd be much better off setting up a  separate, custom solution.
The software I use myself to  sync my most important files is an open 
source application called Toucan.  Unlike nearly every backup / syncing solution 
I've tested, I am reasonably  sure that I cannot make a mistake which will 
result in the loss of  irreplaceable data. _But_, I am a fairly experienced 
computer user,  comfortable writing batch files and macros - and after I set 
up the settings  for my environment, I tested them thoroughly.
The  bottom line here: unless you are an experienced user, you would be 
_much_  better off paying a _reliable_ geek - _not_ the "Geek Squad" - to 
either set  up Toucan or a similar tool for your needs, and show you how to use 
it, or to  write and install a custom AutoHotKey script on your computers 
which will  perform as you need it to. With something as critical as this - and 
the use of  multiple computers - I think in your situation, I'd choose the 
AHK script,  since it can be bulletproofed for your situation. And the 
expense would be  more than justified, considering the amount of work you'll be 
putting into  this.

> - I have a lot of information to enter and time is a very  big factor,
> so I need the input to be easy, and the learning curve  minimal (I
> already tried doing all this on a database of my own  devising using
> Filemaker, and it became hopelessly  complex)

A minimal learning curve rules out the  programs most likely to suit most 
of your other requirements - except the most  basic ones. You need unusual 
flexibility. Flexible programs take a long time  to learn, because they can't 
be flexible without providing a lot of complex  options.
A custom database might actually be a better  solution - but unless you are 
a database designer, don't even think of trying  to do it yourself. Since 
it would be designed to fit your needs, it need only  include the options you 
want, which would make it simpler to learn. But you'd  need to hire a good 
database designer - and a database capable of reflecting  genealogical 
relationships is a major project. I doubt you could afford to do  this, although 
I've never tried to price a project of that  magnitude.
Either you're going to have to spend  thousands to get someone to set 
something special up for you, you're going to  have to accept a very steep 
learning curve, or you're going to have to forget  about all your most demanding 
requirements. You just can't get a program which  will do the things you 
need, and which is also easy to learn.
Ray Beere Johnson II

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