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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