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Most genealogists have lots of information to store, mostly binders full of handwritten notes and photocopies of books or photos. These resources not only occupy a great deal of space in your home or office, but are difficult to carry around on research trips. And unless you are incredibly organized, specific information in these binders is often difficult to locate at a moment's notice. This lack of easily-accessible information causes many amateur genealogists to put aside their work out of frustration, sometimes indefinitely.

Most people have access to a computer, either at home, school or office. Computers were designed to make information storage and retrieval simpler and less time-consuming. This includes genealogy. Programs have been written to allow genealogists of all skill levels to enter, store, cross-reference, update, and share their family history. Although it is very important to keep copies of primary sources, information gathered from them can be entered into the genealogy program and kept on file digitally, and can be archived to CD's relatively inexpensively. Photos may also be scanned and digitally arcived to the same CD's. Some genealogy programs even have the capability to include images within the text content of its files.

An excellent genealogy application, Personal Ancestral File, was developed by the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). It was created originally for church members to gather family ancestral information. It is now available to anyone, regardless of church affiliation, to download and use for free. In addition, the church has put its entire genealogy database online, which can be used by anyone at no charge. The Master Genealogist is another excellent program, but is rather pricey. Family Tree Maker is very popular, affordably priced, and comes with several data CD's.

Designed for the average computer user, Personal Ancestral File allows easy entry of names, dates, and places. Individual files are cross-referenced, so all family relationships can be determined quickly and easily. Records may be viewed in individual, family group, and pedigree format. All records are printable, and references to the LDS Church may be disabled. Most importantly, the application allows users to create a GEDCOM file. A GEDCOM file (also developed by the LDS) is a uniform genealogy database that can be exchanged among researchers and opened by every genealogy application.

For advanced computer users, Personal Ancestral File has one more special feature. An entire web site may be generated from within the program, containing some or all of the data entered, which can be uploaded to the internet for research purposes. The information may then be viewed on any computer with browser application and an internet comnnection. This is especially handy for researchers who prefer to post information to the internet and access it on library computers, rather than carry around armloads of 3-ring binders full of "stuff."

For further information on using genealogy software, please refer to these web sites:

Personal Ancestral File - free genealogy software that can be downloaded from the Family Search web site, operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For Windows.

Using Technology - Lesson Three of "RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees."

Genealogical Software Report Card - reviews and ratings of popular genealogy programs.

© 2008 Joe Defazio, Uncle Joe's Genealogy 

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