Last year I stated in this column (9:112, 155-56) that any genealogical computing program on the market would work quite well on a 286 machine with a 20 Mb hard drive. That statement was true partly because the major programs had been developed a few years earlier when that configuration was the standard. This year we are beginning to see programs which require as a mini-mum a 386 processor, much larger hard drive and RAM. GEDCOM, too, is undergoing change.
First to appear was The Master Genealogist. CompuServe users remember a very active dialogue in the software section of the genealogy forum last winter. Tantalizing “leaks” told of the program’s capabilities. The release date, however, seemed to recede further and further. TMG finally appeared in July; a version 1.1 has already been issued. TMG promises to be prominent in the genealogy software market.
Roots 4 made its debut in October. Announced in March and demonstrated at key genealogical gatherings since, the program has just been released at this writing. People who have already received it are unanimous in saying that it does much more than Roots 3. Some say, however, that the increased flexibility complicates data entry. We hope that this difficulty is just part of the development process and not a permanent feature. There also seems to be a problem with the program’s speed. Commsoft is working on a maintenance upgrade at this writing. Roots 4 requires a 386 processor and at least 4 megabytes of RAM.
Quinsept issued Family Roots 4.0 this fall. It has a long list of new and improved features. Banner Blue, developers of Family Tree Maker, have also released a new version. Restricted to a small database, FTM has been used by genealogists mostly for its charting capability. The new version doubles storage capacity to 2400 records -which will be satisfactory to many more people.
After my software review last fall many people asked why I had not mentioned Family Origins by Parsons Technology. I obtained a copy of the new version, which appeared last winter, and was impressed with the program. It’s as easy to use as Personal Ancestral File, without some of PAF’s shortcomings. Family Origins allows users to cite sources at the point of data entry and also has a genealogy format reporting capability - both absent in PAF. A Windows version of Family Origins appeared in October; people who have used it like it very much.
Reunion, a popular program for Macintosh users, issued a Windows version this summer. Reunion was the first major program to use Windows. Of course, Sesame has existed for several years but is used mainly for data collection and analysis. Sesame isn’t meant to be a lineage-linked genealogy program.
I’ll be very busy in the next few months testing these new programs for review in a future issue of NEXUS. If you are using one of them, please let me know your opinion. The introduction of so many new software packages - in effect a new generation of programs - will almost certainly change the list of major players in the field.
Donald MacDonald, a native of West Bridgewater, Mass., is NEHGS computer systems manager. He is compiling a genealogy of the descendants of Thomas Chubbuck of Hingham, Mass.