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 Ancestry.com or Footnote.com 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.  Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com'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