The first two articles in this column produced an overwhelming
response from our readers. Many wrote simply to express their
appreciation. I thank you very much for doing so. Since it wasn’t
possible to reply to all letters individually, I had to hope that the
second article would sufficiently answer all questions on software. Many
other questions were general of likely interest to all readers. So this
article is devoted mainly to those questions.
Many people asked
to be enrolled in the Computer Interest Group. Your names have been
noted. We, unfortunately, haven’t yet formally established such a group.
The notice in the April-May NEXUS should have read “is planning
to form” instead of “is forming”. The concept is approved, but the
actuality is a little in the future. For the moment this column will be
the CIG “forum.” Your comments regarding the focus for this CIG
are most welcome.
A number of people, especially in remote areas,
requested information on whether a modem could connect them directly to
a library, such as the LDS library in Salt Lake City or one of the
Family History Centers. Unfortunately, we aren’t yet connected that
well. I don’t know of any library genealogy database that is directly
accessible. Bulletin boards and networks like Compuserve and GENie are
the closest we have at the moment. Commsoft (the developer of ROOTS 3)
has a bulletin board with a large number of “tiny tafels” that can be
directly accessed via a modem. These “tiny tafels” match seekers of data
on an individual with those who have the data. It is more thorough than
a surname query system. ROOTS 3 is the major software supporter of tiny
tafels. BK supports them also.
The magazine Genealogical
Computing was mentioned a few times in previous articles. it is
published four times a year by Ancestry, Inc., 350 South 400 East, Suite
110, Salt Lake City, UT 84111, and typically is 40-48 pages long. Other
magazines, like Heritage Quest and Genealogical Helper, run
an article on genealogical computing in each issue.
of Yarmouth, N. S., adds a corollary to the caution “always verify!” He
notes, “Always include a primary source.” Not checking input data
against documented sources is a frequent failing of computer
genealogists and some programs discourage the user from following Mr.
Trask’s valuable rule.
There is some dissatisfaction and
confusion about numbering systems. Most programs assign a “record
number” to each record (person or marriage) in the database. This number
is ONLY FOR TRACKING PURPOSES by the computer. It has nothing to do
with the numbering that you would find in a report, such as the
Register, Record, or Henry numbering systems. Those numbers will be
generated automatically when your computer prints those reports. In
fact, it is one of the major benefits of using a computer. You don’t
have to determine laboriously what number each person should have every
time you print a report. It’s done correctly and effortlessly by the
computer. Many programs include a separate field in each record so that
you can insert a number of your choosing. Some people have unique
numbering systems that they find useful for their purposes. Usually,
these numbers are not used when a report is printed.
asked about support for the “Henry” system of numbering. This system is
probably the third most popular numbering system, following the Register
and Modified Register (also known as NGSQ or Record) systems. The Henry
system, sometimes called “abracadabra,” uses a string of letters or
numbers to indicate lineage and birth order. A progenitor is “a”. The
first child is “aa”, second child "ab," third child “ac,” etc. The
second child’s first child is “aba” and so on. Everyone’s Family Tree by
The Dollarhide Systems is the only software I know of that supports the
Faced with an ever-growing database, some people
are not certain how to handle it. Generally you have two options:
purchase more memory for your computer, or split the database. The first
solution is mostly a financial consideration. Splitting the database
might be the better solution if you don’t mind having all your father’s
ancestors in one database and your mother’s in another (or some other
split). Your particular software might offer clues as to which decision
to make. If you choose to add RAM, remember that additional RAM is
handled differently. There is “expanded” and “extended” memory. When the
ROOTS 3 database, for instance, outgrows the normal RAM (typically
640K, or 512K on older machines) it works in expanded memory. Checking
your manual or calling your software’s customer support will set you on
the right path. A third option - removing resident programs from your
normal RAM - is only temporarily useful as you will soon find that your
database has again filled the available RAM.
Data files are
normally stored in a directory separate from program files. You can
specify what this directory is called, and you can have more than one
directory of data files Thus, you might keep your own ancestry in a
directory called “OWN” and a client’s ancestry in a directory called
We received some offers of members’ databases on floppy
disks. We have to decline the offer. At this time NEHGS doesn’t have
storage, indexing and accessing capability for such donations. You might
look into the possibility of uploading into the Ancestral File database
maintained by the LDS Church.
One reader took exception to my
suggestion that any of the programs mentioned in my last article would
work fine on a 286 computer with 640K of RAM and 20 megabytes of hard
disk space. My suggestion was meant for people considering the purchase
of a used computer primarily for genealogy. If you are buying a new
computer, then you definitely want at least a 386 and probably 
should consider 4 MB of RAM. You'll get faster speed and be able to
input more records. The basic 640K holds (typically) about 3,000 records
and notes. Recently I've noticed that 486 models outnumber 386 models
nearly 3:1 in the catalogues. Although 386 computers are still the
largest selling models, they are moving toward obsolescence. Recent
dramatic price cuts on computers have put the 486/33 where the 386/20
was last year and the 286/10 the year before. The current genealogical
software was written (for the most part) when the 286 with 10 MHz speed
and 640K RAM was the norm and works well on it. Macintosh users, on the
other hand, don’t have so large a choice of genealogical software, but
their record on hardware obsolescence is enviable.
My comments on
shortcuts in data entry omitted two shortcuts in PAF. The F8 key will
copy the same field from the previous record (good when two children are
born in the same place) and the F9 key will copy data from fields in
the current record. Since I mentioned these shortcuts in Brother’s
Keeper, I felt it only fair to correct the omission. It would have saved
me a lot of time if I had known these two keys when inputting data into
I was called to task for using the term “surety code”
instead of “date sure flag” when describing the code (0 thru 3) that is
used by ROOTS 3 to describe how certain you are of the correctness of
event data. Entering a “0’ in this field means that you have doubts
about the accuracy of the date; a “3” means that you are absolutely
certain it is correct. It’s a very useful code even if it is correctly
called a flag.
Quite a number of people wanted advice on using
genealogical software with their word processor to write a book This
subject could occupy a book in itself, but I will try to address it in a
There was a bit of confusion regarding the
comment about a friend who used his software to help make a census
search. The software (in this case PAY, but others will do it) searched
HIS database to find everyone who was alive in a particular census year.
He then printed out this focused list and took it with him to the
National Archives where he viewed the microfilms for more data on these
people. No computerized database has been established that would permit
access for such searches via modem.
Can You Help?
person has been using Genealogy ON DISPLAY for eight years,
needs some help, and has lost track of the program’s author, Melvin O.
Duke, formerly of Morgan Hill, Calif. Is there anyone using this program
who can help or supply the present whereabouts of its author?
MacDonald, a native of West Bridgewater, Mass., has been a Library
Assistant at NEHGS since 1989. A member of the Society’s Computer
Committee, he is compiling a genealogy of the descendants of Thomas
Chubbuck of Hingham, Mass.