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Unsupported Genealogy Software - Mon, 15 Sep 2008

I’ve almost got the new Genealogy Software Review site ready. I spent the weekend entering data, information about over 100 genealogy programs from my Genealogy Software Links page. I’ve still got a couple of hundred foreign-language programs, online programs and utilities to enter and then its done.

But I was having too much fun. As I added each program, I went back to that program’s website and checked it out in some detail. For many of the programs, I hadn’t done that in years, just validating the links and not much more. It’s interesting how so many programs don’t really change over time. Maybe a new version comes along, but they are generally as I remember them many years ago. It’s like that friend you hadn’t seen since Grade 4. He’s grown older, but you can still recognize him by his looks and personality.

Then I realized that I should also include some defunct programs in the review site. There are many people still using them and there are some good things they might have that other programs don’t. So far I’ve included 17 of them, but there will be more. I’d prefer the word “defunct” but I ended up using “unsupported” just because it alphabeticaly ended up at the end of the list of License types.

For those unsupported programs, I tried to write up a bit of their history. I did the research and then thought back. Do you remember ROOTS by CommSoft? It was quite an advanced program for its time in the 1980’s. I would have loved to have it, but I didn’t even have my first PC yet and those were over $2000 at the time plus several hundred dollars for ROOTS. Couldn’t justify it back then.

Well ROOTS ended up being bought by Palladium Interactive, who turned it into Ultimate Family Tree, possibly the most comprehensive program ever developed (with The Master Genealogist now at its level). By then, I was using Reunion for Windows, which then sold their Windows version to Sierra On-Line who renamed it Generations. I was a beta tester for one of the early versions of Generations back in 1998. Then there was another program named Family Origins, which was the original effort of Bruce Buzbee who now has RootsMagic.

Ultimate Family Tree, Family Origins and Generations were among the best and most popular programs at the time. But the number one program in sales was Family Tree Maker, and it was not at that time considered to be in the same class as the other three.

So what happened? Genealogy.com, the parent company of Family Tree Maker bought out all three programs. For a couple of years, they did continue to sell them as well, but it did not take long before they were dropped, leaving Family Tree Maker in a fairly dominant spot. Recently, Family Tree Maker has gone through major changes and improvements, but there is still a gap where the other three used to be. Many useful and interesting ideas have been lost.

It will be interesting to see how many people fill out reviews for the “unsupported” programs, and especially how UFT, Family Origins and Generations are rated in comparison to Family Tree Maker.

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