August 1, 2014

Ancestry, Genealogy Programs and Online Trees

Family Trees: Online, Or On Your Computer?

Recently, a genealogy novice asked the question, “Which is better, a genealogy program, or having your family file strictly online?” While in my opinion I believe in using a genealogy program, the fairly recent availability of free online family trees on Ancestry might be confusing to beginners.

  • Genealogy programs, no matter which one, give the genealogist the freedom to add names, dates and additional information from other records and printed documents.
  • You can work at your own pace with no ads or loss of privacy.  Some programs like Family Tree Maker allow you to search on Ancestry right from the name of the person you’re researching.  Results are then more likely to be accurate because you’ve given ‘rich’ search keys [to Ancestry] if the name, dates and locations are filled in almost completely.
  • Genealogy programs usually have a backup feature built in so that you don’t lose data you’ve just input, and a secondary backup to deliberately (“save as…”) backup the whole family file before closing the program.

I do have my family trees online, but in a (sort of) limited way.  I uploaded my GEDCOM’s after first making sure they were privatized.  Privatizing does just what it says, it privatizes the personal information of anyone in your files who is living.

Never Put It All Online

You’ve heard the old saying, “Never put all your eggs in one basket”, right?  While I like working with my family trees online, I do it mainly to share them, and the documents I find in Ancestry with family who may not have total access to the site.  It’s an abbreviated version of what I have in my main file on my computer.

When I find a document or photo on Ancestry I save it to the person in the tree, and download the same file for my records.  Extra work, yes a little bit, but sharing is more important to me than a little extra clicking and “mousing”.

So, to sum it up for those new to genealogy, please don’t put all your family tree(s)  just online on a genealogy site.  If that site goes away for some reason, so does all your hard work.

Finding a genealogy program that works for you should be considered an investment.  You have decided to compile your family history and it’s important to get it as accurate and easy to understand as possible.  Serious genealogists use a genealogy program. At least in my opinion.

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