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Louis Kessler’s Behold Blog » Blog Entry           prev Prev   Next next

The State of Genealogy Software Today - Fri, 31 Jul 2009

Disk Eastman just posted a great article in his blog: It’s 2014! Do You Know Where Your Data Is?

In the article, Dick talks about the ways to convert data from one program to another (primarily through GEDCOM), and then talks about what genealogy programs will in business and supported years from now.

My take on this is that most of the current lot of desktop genealogy programs are pretty well the same in using forms-based input and mostly inadequate reports. So maybe you need a program that:

  1. Can read everything your old program exported to GEDCOM.
  2. Can record everything you wanted to record
  3. Can export everything you recorded to GEDCOM for your next program or for someone else’s program.

If the program could also display your data in a useable way, that would be a bonus.

Having the security that your data will not be lost is truly the most important thing. So do this test right now: In your current program, export your data to GEDCOM. Now start a new database and import that GEDCOM. Now export it again. Compare the two GEDCOMs. If they are the same, then at least your program can read everything from its own GEDCOM. That will not guarantee that it is writing all your data to the GEDCOM file, but at least it will tell you if that author of the program is putting some thought into his GEDCOM input and output.

This gets exponentially more difficult for programs when you start talking about Citations and Sources. See what Mark Tucker at Think Genealogy says about this as he compares how Family Tree Maker 2009, Legacy 7 and RootsMagic 4 export their source data.

If you go to an online database to be your primary record, make absolutely sure that it will allow you to dump all your data out again. If it doesn’t have a GEDCOM export, you could be in trouble. An export function promised in the future means you should wait until the future before you consider them. And export your data to GEDCOM and save it on your computer at least once a month. You never know when the service might just close up shop and your data goes bye-bye.

Of course, if you really want your data preserved, don’t forget to manage your paper records well. All those boxes of material you painstakingly collected for many years have been summarized into names and dates in a computer file. The names and dates can be recreated from your records if absolutely necessary. But the names and dates will never replace your records should they get lost.

Hmmm. Forget everything else. Get a digital camera/scanner and go to it.

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