28 December 2020

Genealogy Software Questions

I started my genealogy quest some time ago.  I couldn’t give an exact date, but it was in 1997 or so.  I had retired from the Army and was working at a small computer shop.  I set up my first account at Ancestry and didn’t have any software on my home PC, so everything was online. 

One day I was working on a client’s PC at his house and noticed that he had lots of family history items displayed.  One thing that caught my eye was a large, framed photo of a soldier in a Union Civil War uniform.  He told me it was a picture of his grandfather.  I thought that a photo like this was something I wished I had.  One thing led to another and when he learned that I had just started in my family tree search he showed me his laptop and how he did his genealogy.

He was using Family Tree Maker.  Back then it was published by Broderbund.  So that’s what I bought and started using as a local copy, as well as keeping my Ancestry tree going.  FTM has been bought and sold by quite a few companies since then.  And I’ve continued to use it off and on since.  It’s a love-hate thing.

I’ve played around with other software over the years.  I still have Legacy Family Tree installed on my laptop.  I mostly use that for looking at what I call my “combined” tree.  It’s combined because it has both mine and my wife’s trees together.  The problem is this tree is riddled with errors.  Back when I started this whole genealogy thing, I would tend to accept any and everything I found.  I now know better, but back then I was naive.  I added branches from known cousins to both sides of the tree that turned out to have no documentation at all.  Some of those I have proven to be good connections, but mostly I was burned.  But this big tree helps me look at the possible connections that I’m trying to prove now.  It is for reference only.  I’ve also played around with Heredis, RootsMagic, and The Master Genealogist.  Hell, I even tried GRAMPS on Linux!

I have not tried the Family Historian, but from I remember it doesn’t sync with Ancestry.  It has been some time since I looked into it, so it may have changed.  And I may be misremembering too.  Wifey says I do that all the time.

But as I mentioned, I have a love-hate thing with FTM.  Their tech support isn’t the best, but it’s not terrible.  But the usual answer I get for some of my bigger issues is “start over”.  I have no desire to start my main tree all over.  There are over 7000 names in the tree. 

The three main issues I have with FTM that tech support can’t figure out;

1.       I have cross-linked documents.  By this I mean I’ll have a census for a member of the family that is linked to not only the correct person but also to someone else that is not a member of that family.  Or it will be linked to a second person that was not alive when that census was taken.  This has been going on for over a year, and probably longer, but that’s about when I got this new laptop, and the log files start with the new install, and that's as far back I we can go to troubleshoot.
2.       I have documents linked to folks in Ancestry that do not get linked to my local copy when I sync.  So while the 1870 census shows up for a ancestor in Ancestry, it’s not showing on my laptop in FTM.  This is a rather common occurrence.
3.       My local tree has about 100 more people than the online version.  Tech support showed my how to get a chart that will show the folks that aren’t attached.  Great! If it worked.  The chart does show about 15 people floating in jetsam.  That’s nowhere near the difference in the head count.  Plus, the majority of the folks unattached are listed elsewhere in the correct families in the chart.  If I removed the floaters, both entries go away, the correct person and the “extra”.

So, here’s the question.  Sorry it took so long to get around to this.  How about some recommendations for what you use and why? 

Here’s what I need:

  • Must sync both ways with Ancestry.  I’ve been with them too long to start over.  Plus, all my siblings are there and I’m not about to try to walk them through switching to something else.
  • Gedcom import/export.

Things that would be nice:

  • Support for other software packages like Evidentia or Clooz.
  • Tech support that isn’t on Facebook.  I really, really, REALLY do not care for Facebook.  User groups for the software on FB is fine, but not the company.
  • Good reporting tools.
  • Charts.  Oh yes, I need charts.  Lots of them.
  • Mapping. 
  • Support for more than one tree.

I did have an account with MyHeritage but had to let it go due to expenses.  I can only afford one big genealogy service, so I will stick with Ancestry for the reasons I stated above.

So, what are your thoughts?  Do you have a genealogy software package you love?  Please let me know in the comments.  But I have to admit that putting the issues I’m having down in writing makes me think a “do-over” may be in order.  I may try to sync the online tree with a new empty tree locally first.


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08 December 2020

Fun With Photos

In my post “A Picture Is Worth…” I mentioned Nanny’s “photo album”.  This past week I was looking through that book and found something I had never noticed before. 

On my desk I have a small picture of Nanny and my dad in a nice frame.  I need to replace the frame as I knocked it off the desk one day and a piece broke off.  It’s not noticeable, so I’ve put it off. 

The broken piece is at the very top.

In Nanny’s album I found this picture in a larger format.  And true to Nanny’s way of doing things, she dated it 1919.  There was something new to me in this slightly larger photo.  Nanny has a pendant or something on a ribbon around her neck.  I’ve been looking at the picture in the frame for at least 30 years and I never noticed that pendant.  It’s clearly visible, but I never noticed it before.  </sigh>

The larger, dated version

Needless to say, I immediately posted the larger photo to several genealogy groups on Facebook and to several Twitter lists.  I was curious if anyone could help me identify just what it was.  Folks seemed to think it was anything from a War 1 emblem, to an asafoetida bag.  I had to look that one up, it’s usually a bag with a stinky resin to ward off disease. While Nanny was a believer in home remedies, I don’t think she would have worn something like that for a studio photo session.  The most common, and likely, answer was a memorial locket for her recently deceased husband.  This would also explain why her husband, Herbert, is not in the picture.  Although a simple ribbon to hold the locket seems a bit strange to me as a chain would be a better fit.  But I’m looking at this was 21st century eyes.  The ribbon may have also had a special significance that is lost to us now. 

The pendant in a zoomed view

I have no idea where this picture was taken.  The larger version is glued into the photo book and I don’t want to damage it by trying to separate them.  The smaller one doesn’t have any studio imprint that I can find.

Herbert died 5 February 1919 in McKeesport, PA.  and I cannot find Nanny and dad in the 1920 census.  I do have a Sunday School certificate for my dad from the St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal church dated 25 September 1921.  I can find this church today in State College, PA, and I have many pictures of Nanny and dad in State College as well.  The certificate is signed by the pastor, John W. Long, which matches with the history on the church’s website.

This is one of my favorite pictures of “The Friend’s Union” in State College.  This was an establishment run under the auspices of the Quakers that Nanny had a kitchen in.  On the back of the picture someone has written “This is where the cookies come from”.  Nanny was an amazing cook, and she’s the reason I enjoy cooking. 

The Friend's Union

Nanny's BBQ Restaurant in Altoona, PA

What are your thoughts on that there pendant?  I’m leaning towards the memorial for Herbert.  I just wish I could find it among her things, but all that’s left is this photo album.


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