Folks collect all sorts of things: thimbles, shot glasses, t-shirts, figurines, you get the idea. The problem with collecting that sort of stuff is that you have to dust it, wash it, pack it carefully every time you move, and most of it can break. My collection is unique! I collect dead ancestors! And now that I can store all of my data in my computer, my collection only takes up ‘virtual’ space. (Mostly.)
Seriously, I began researching my family history about twenty-five years ago, right after my oldest son was born. We were living in South Texas at the time, and many of my ancestors had lived in that area, too, making research very easy. I started out just looking for information on my father’s family, then as I gathered more and more info, decided to try to follow every branch back to the immigrant ancestor. I have discovered that most of my family has been in the United States for well over 200 years, making it rather difficult to reach my goal. But the more challenging, the more fun!
In June of 2005, our home burned, and I lost all of my genealogy files in the fire. I had fortunately sent hard copies of various branches of my tree to different relatives, and many of them have been very kind in sending me copies of what I’d sent them! I had also uploaded my GEDCOM onto the internet, so I have been able to rebuild quite a bit. I am really lacking information on the living, though, so if anyone has any info that might be helpful that they’d be willing to share, please let me know. I would really appreciate any and all help!
I am not going to take up a lot of space here providing information on what I have learned, but I do want to make a few comments about genealogy software. While all genealogy programs are basically glorified databases, not all are created equal. The first software program I ever used is still my favorite, but unfortunately they only make it for Macintosh computers now. So, if you have a Mac, I highly recommend Reunion! I love it. (It’s available for download or shipping for $99.00. The Reunion iPhone App, which I also really like, is available from the App Store, for $14.99. For the same price, they now have an app available for the iPad.) 🙂
The software I used for my research before the fire was Family Tree Maker, and I have a Genealogy Home Page you can visit and view some of my research. I have a few neat old family photos there, along with GEDCOM files. (GEDCOM stands for Genealogical Exchange Data COMmunication)
However, since the fire gave me an excuse to buy new software, I started really researching other options. I never cared for Family Tree Maker’s interface, because you couldn’t see all of the children at the same time if there were more than three or four children in a family.
RootsMagic is the program I finally choose, and I am very pleased with my choice! It has a very user friendly interface, and doesn’t take much time at all to figure out how to use. I especially love that it automatically capitalizes all surnames and gives you the age of a person at any given event in their life (i.e.: baptism, marriage, etc.). RootsMagic has a very easy-to-use “web page creator”, which I’ve not yet had time to play with (or you would find a link to mine on this page!) But it looks very professional.
A new thing that genealogy software programs are starting to do is create “shareable CD/DVDs”, so that you can share your information with anyone, even if they don’t have the software. RootsMagic has this feature, as well.
One of the best things about RootsMagic is it’s price: $29.95. That’s for the full program. You don’t have to figure out which level of the program you need or want. (Family Tree Maker has so many variations of the program that it makes my head spin!) $29.95 buys you the whole thing. They also offer a FREE trial version. Being able to test drive the program is what hooked me, in the end.
Note (2008): I would be remiss if I did not add that Family Tree Maker recently did a total overhaul of their program, and I really do like their new product! It meshes perfectly with Ancestry.com, which I have a subscription to, so that makes it amazingly easy to document sources. Now, I’ve read a lot of reviews online, and the die-hard users of the old FTM versions hate the new one. Probably why I like it so much, because, as I mentioned before, I really didn’t care for the older versions. It’s a little buggy, but I’m sure they’ll get that all worked out soon. HOWEVER: I still prefer RootsMagic, because, as of now, it is a much more stable program.
Note (2013): I went back to using a Mac several years ago, and so am also using Reunion again. I do have a copy of Family Tree Maker for Mac ($69.99 downloaded) running on my computer, as well, and I do love the little “Hints” that they give you. However, Reunion is still my software of choice, and the one I use most. I tend to use FTM solely for the fact that I can copy the source citations that Ancestry.com automatically adds to it when I use their “Hints”!
(Page last updated 19 February 2013)