Sunday, January 8, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy - Paid Genealogy Tools

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy is a series of weekly blogging prompts (one for each week of 2012) that invite genealogists and family historians to highlight those genealogy resources for which they are thankful. You do not have to be a blogger to participate. If you do not have a genealogy blog, write down your thoughts on your computer, or simply record them on paper and keep them with your files.
  • Week 2 – Paid Genealogy Tools: Which paid genealogy tool do you appreciate the most? What special features put it at the top of your list? How can it help others with their genealogy research?

This could have a number of meanings.   Did you pay for genealogy software that helps you research and keep your data organized?  Did you subscribe to an online service, such as or or any of a number of other paid tool/repository websites?  Or how about this - did you hire a professional genealogist to assist you with a specific problem, or even your entire genealogy?  All of these could be seen as fitting the question posed this week.

As I've treated genealogy as a low-budget hobby for most of my active time with it, I haven't used many paid tools or sources at all.  It simply hasn't had the priority in my budget that other people have for it.  That said, I've used several genealogy softwares for a long time.  Some of those have been paid, others free. 

My current software of choice is MyHeritage Family Tree Builder.  I started using it back when it was very young, and a free product.  I quickly found it to be very intuitive, and the tools it included helped me further my research much more rapidly than I had been able to do with my previous softwares.  It does this by incorporating some "smart" features, which basically come down to automated online record searching, the results of which you can then examine for suitability and incorporate into your own data.  It also has online comparison with other users' trees.  Both of those features can be very helpful, but both also require that you be very careful of the validity of the data you get from it.  As several other bloggers have noted, when you simply hoover up data from any old source, you're as likely as not to get garbage. 

After a few years of using MyHeritage, the service side of the business shifted to a paid model.  The software remains a free download, although when you pay for the service, it does enable more features of the software.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I had been using MyHeritage, and when it went to paid service, I simply could not afford to purchase it at that time.  I continued to use the software in a crippled state (you can still use it for up to 250 people per tree for free).  I mentioned this on my blog and that I was unemployed and unable to afford to purchase, and Gilad Japhet of MyHeritage saw this and gifted me with a free three-year subscription to their Premium Plus level, which allows me to use the software and service with an unlimited size tree.  You can consider this Full Disclosure - I have never been paid for my blogging, but I have been given this, the one tangible thing my blog has brought me.  So, my thanks to Gilad and the rest of the folks at MyHeritage!

So, what else?  I've recently purchased Legacy 7.5 and Rootsmagic 5 software.  Why, if I'm happy with MyHeritage, did I do that?  Well, in part, it was because both were offered at excellent discounts.  Also, I wanted to be familiar with more than just one software.  As an IT professional, I like to know the available options for computers and software.  Also, through watching several webinars, I was intrigued by some of the features of each.  Whether these will be as useful to me as they appeared in those webinars remains to be seen.  Each of them is interesting in its own right, and have all of the necessary features for accepting, containing, sorting and reporting your genealogy data.  I still prefer the user interface of MyHeritage, but I admit to the bias of having used it for several years and being quite comfortable with it. 

My plan for one or both of Legacy and Rootsmagic is to start my database over from scratch, entering in ONLY people for whom I have solid documentation and sourcing.  I admit to being sloppy about this early on with MyHeritage (who isn't sloppy before they learn better?) and so I want to rework the data into a separate database with no "contamination" of undocumented data.  This will be a slow process, by the nature of it.  But it will be assisted by a more recent use I'm making of a paid genealogy tool.

Over the holidays, it seems every genealogy source and service was offering steep discounts for purchases and subscriptions. was no exception, and I finally made the decision to purchase a subscription.  Yes, I've been working at this for all this time with no general access to's online repository, excepting their occasional free week of access to "X" enticements.  Imagine, an IT professional NOT making full use of all of that digitized data!  Well, that's how it's been, until now.  I purchased a U.S. subscription for six months, and I am using it to get that source documentation I am looking for to rework my database.  I am not able to travel to local repositories where many of my ancestors lived, so I must make do with what I can find online in this manner.  Yes, I know I'm missing huge swathes of records that have not been digitized, nor are likely to be in the near future.  At least this way, I have access to the many records which have been digitized.

Those are the paid tools I'm currently using.  I can't rule out others that might be available in the future, or I might drop back to not using any.  I don't foresee myself hiring a professional genealogist, in part because that's out of my price range, and in part because this is my hobby I wish to do for myself.

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy Blogiversary!

I started writing this blog on 04 Jan 2011, exactly one year ago today.

Over the course of that year, I've written  over 265 posts.  That's more than two posts for every three days, on average.  I'm not up there with the more prolific geneabloggers like Thomas McEntee or Randy Seaver or Ol' Myrt, but then again, I'm not retired, either.  Many of those posts were "prompted", meaning I participated in a common theme or activity, like the 52 Weeks series  Some of them were "How To" technical articles, mostly about digitizing photographic or genealogical records.  I'd like to get more of those written!  They were some of the most-read, so I know there's a need for the knowledge out there.

For those 265 posts, you, the readers, have racked up well over 8,350 page views!  I am somewhat surprised, and definitely gratified that my writing is important to someone other than just me and my family.   I appreciate each and every one of you reading my posts.  

When I started writing this, I was not sure if I could make a go of it and keep it up.  Fortunately, the cost of entry was very low (free!) and it wasn't going to be a huge problem if I let it go, but I did want to see if I could make it work.  At first, I was unemployed, like many in the economic troubles over the last couple of years.  I was more prolific when I wasn't employed.  My output dropped off a little when I picked up some part-time work, and then dropped again when I got re-employed full time.  There was a bit of adjustment to the lack of available time to write posts.  Recently, I've managed to pick it back up a bit, even if it's mostly been prompted posts.

So now that I've said all of that, are you writing a blog?  If not, why not?  If I can do it, YOU can do it.  Do it for yourself.  Do it for your family.  Do it for your descendants.  Do it for the "genealogical community" that everyone is discussing lately.  Everyone has a story to tell about their life.  Blogging lets you do it on your terms, on your time, in small chunks.  You don't have to commit to writing a book.  And as I've discovered, you WILL have people reading your posts!  Probably more than you expect.  Don't be intimidated by the output of the big name geneablogs, you don't have to write frequently, or regularly.  Write on your own terms.

If you've looked at many genealogy blogs, you've no doubt seen that there are a wide variety to choose from.  Pick a style that suits your life story, or the things you want to cover.  Mesh more than one if you choose.  Looking back at my posts, I started with more of an information provision style, but as time went on, I changed to more of a journal style, talking about my life and those of family I knew.  You don't have to stick with any one thing.  The important part is to START!  Use the prompts if it helps, that's why their creators put them up.  Write what you know, whether that be your life, or your family history or something else.

Sorry I got so long-winded!  Thanks again, dear readers, for following along and letting me know it's worth continuing.  I look forward to another year!

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman

Sunday, January 1, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy - Blogs

Amy Coffin is starting another “52 Weeks” project on Sunday, January 1, 2012 and it is entitled 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy. It is a series of weekly blogging prompts (one for each week of 2012) that invite genealogists and family historians to highlight those genealogy resources for which they are thankful.  Here's the first:

Week 1 – Blogs: Blogging is a great way for genealogists to share information with family members, potential cousins and each other. For which blog are you most thankful? Is it one of the earliest blogs you read, or a current one? What is special about the blog and why should others read it?

For me, this first one is an easy one.  No question, as a genealogy blogger, I'm most thankful for Thomas McEntee's Geneabloggers.  It's a fantastic resource for getting started in genealogy, plus a great central clearinghouse for all sorts of current information about the genealogy blogging scene.  Thomas regularly posts the blogging prompts for the week and items of interest you might want to incorporate into your blog, such as national and international days of various note.  He also has a series of articles about various aspects of producing a blog.

If you're thinking of starting a genealogy blog, give Geneabloggers a look, you'll see how much easier it will be with Thomas' words of wisdom and experience to help you get up to speed.  If you're already writing a blog, take a look anyway!  You'll be sure ot find some helpful information to make your blog even better!

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman