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Dernière mise à jour : 7 janv. 2021


Time-consuming writing, correcting and drawing tasks

Some may think this is only the old-fashioned way

to do genealogy research and that it is


It is time-consuming indeed but this is the way everybody used to do genealogical research in the past. I remember the old days, more than 30 years ago, when I started diving into it with just a notebook, a pen, an eraser and some large sheets of paper to draw my tree charts.

The worst moments happened when I wanted to correct mistakes in my research papers, either I had to write it all again from the start or I had to cross out names and leave it them so, the ugly way.

Using computer programs later saved me a lot of time, I'm not of the artistic type and will never be able to draw or paint a beautiful family tree so I prefer to leave that tedious task to a computer program.

Organization skills needed

Even if you are allergic to the use of computer softwares doing it manually will also require organization skills : an alphabetical file with one bristol worksheet for each person in your tree with his / her info, binders, notebooks, pens , paper charts, ready-to-be-filled family worksheets etc. and a specified location where you will keep all this stuff safe and locked.

With time, you will notice that all your notebooks and papers will take on a yellowish colour or will get damaged with time or weather conditions just like the old papers and records our ancestors left us.

Don't get me wrong! I am not telling you you shouldn't do it that way , it is up to you ...

But you will admit that, if keeping track of about 65 ancestors is easy on paper ... this isn't so with 100 or 1,000 or many more. Did you know that after just 10 generations you may have up to 2,048 ancestors and 1 million in 20 generations ? No joke, it's true but not everyone will be lucky enough to trace his ancestry more than 10 generations back in time. Because at some point, there will be no more paper trail of the people who came before the others who lived in the 16th or 15th century for instance.

For a paper-type family book transmission

A family story can be told and written in many different ways.

The person who is in charge of it is often called a family historian because he /she is the one who will make sure all the memories, all the happy and painful events of a family will pass from one generation to another.

This person either undertakes to do genealogical research by himself / herself or hires a professional genealogist to do this type of research for him /her.

The result of all this research work is often a printed family book of hundreds of pages filled with data such as names, dates, places, photos, maps and charts .

All the ancestors in this family book usually get numbered (also called Sosa numbers for ancestors and Aboville numbers for descendants) to make it easier to find them later and to differentiate them from homonyms. And each section is usually displayed one generation after another and each person's life is thus summed up in a few lines or paragraphs.

I am all in for this type of typed and printed masterpiece: a family book helps family members belonging to different generations connect more easily and share precious moments together.

Add to that that some people prefer to read it and see it on paper rather than on just on a screen.

So, that should also be, according to me, what all serious hired genealogists should offer to their customers first : a gorgeous printable (or printed) family book along with charts and a Gedcom file (computer file). But this is becoming easier these days to make it and tweak it with a computer program before it gets saved as a PDF file or printed.


A computer and basic computer skills needed

- To do genealogical research with a computer program you need of course to have a computer : a desktop or laptop computer, this is up to you.

- It is obvious that if you want to use it in an efficient way you need to have some basic computer skills. If you have never touched one in all your lifetime , it will be harder for you without some training.

- Opting for a digital tablet could be a good choice for some people but entering data could be slower then.

I will make a future post for those of you who are just using chromebooks or Android tablets.

There are a few interesting genealogy apps but many of them are just gimmicks or don't have all the good features of a good genealogy software.

-If you choose to make an online tree instead on websites like Ancestry, Geneanet or MyHeritage you will also need a good internet connection because you will only be able to update your tree when you are online. Some websites will let you build your tree for free while others just have paid options.

All your online data is stocked on their commercial servers so you'd better trust them to keep your personal data and think about saving and exporting a Gedcom file of your tree from time to time.

Start with easy-to-use and appealing genealogy computer programs

-There is a large choice of genealogy computer programs running on Windows, free and not free alike, fewer for the MacOS operating system and just 2 good ones for Linux distros.

- It is important for beginners to start with an appealing to the eye and easy-to-use genealogy program available in your native language or one you understand.

-My recommendations for those who are English speakers only (best coming first) are ...

...For Windows users :

those you have to purchase online:

1) Family Historian 6 2) Family Tree Maker 3) RootsMagic 4) Legacy 9 5) Heredis

and for free options:

1) Ahnenblatt 2) MyFamily Tree 3) RootsMagic (free version) 4) Ancestris 5) Gramps

...For Mac users :

those you have to purchase online:

1) MacFamily Tree 2) Family Tree Maker 3) Reunion 4) Heredis (Mac version) 5) Ancestris (free)

and for free options:

1) RootsMagic (free version) 2) Ancestris 3) Gramps

and finally for Linux users (two free options only):

1) Ancestris 2) Gramps

-My recommendations for others : same as above except that for French speakers only, there is also a very good, but not free option, a genealogy computer program called Généatique.

Keep your data updated the easy way

-With a computer genealogy program you can edit your data as you wish :

Add a missing parent or sibling or other relative, update a person's profile infos, remove, add, correct, merge, locate ... a genealogy software features are numerous and can make it easier for researchers to build a tree.

Some genealogy computer programs even have direct access to, or findyourpast databases and can suggest you matches or give you direct access to online genealogy records.

Visualize and print as many charts as you wish

-Some genealogy computer programs, but not all , include many charts and graphical tree templates easy to tweak and print in A4 or poster PDF format.

-But the big plus with a computer program is that you can type any name in a genealogy file and see a family tree rebuilt fom this person and redisplayed on the screen no matter which generation this person belongs to.

You can very quickly with some dynamic trees enlarge or resize a tree, visualize several generations at a time, restart from another root person and check another tree.

You can even edit each person's box in a graphical tree just with a right click and update a name, a date, a place name etc.

I don't know if I have been able to convince you to get a genealogy computer program BUT I am one of those who think these kind of tools are a MUST HAVE if you want to get involved in efficient and fast genealogy research nowadays.

Of course, simple tools won't make the work, you will still have to learn how to do your own research from civil and church records, cite your sources and so on ...BUT genealogy computer programs or online trees will make you work faster and more efficiently.

You still don't want to purchase one ? The price for an online tree subscription is too high ?

Fine, opt for FREE options then . "When there's a will, there's a way " and genealogical research can still be done anyway.

I am always making a point to remind people who would like to hire my services that it is best to download and install at least one genealogy program of their choice on their computer.

This way, they are then able to import their Gedcom file (a computer file of their whole genealogy research work done for them) and visualize this work displayed on a computer or TV screen.