Family Origins. (genealogy software package) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Tracy Mygrant
Sifting through family ancestry can bring to life a heritage of old, as well as a frustration of new-keeping track of it all. Family Origins, a genealogy software package, can help arrange the entire family tree-potentially forever.
At first, I thought this would be quite a maze to wander through. After phoning for technical support and receiving relatively simple instructions, though, I got into the program. Then, I discovered the software's best feature: its simplicity once you start using it.
You begin with a root person and work generations backward or forward. Individual records include fields for name, birth, christening, marriage, death, and burial information. You can also add people unlinked to anyone listed and import and export gedcom files, the standard format for exchanging genealogical information by computer. Or, to call up a specific person, just use the Search command. Because the entries appear in a tree-style format, the user can see the relationships onscreen.
Some links take more work than others to create. Stepsisters or stepbrothers, for example, are entered differently from full siblings. While full siblings are entered as children of the same set of parents, you change the parents' names of half sibs or stepsibs accordingly, and enter children under those parents' names. Selecting which brother or sister (and thus which parents) you view onscreen requires highlighting your choice and hitting Enter. The downside: You can't see full sibs with half sibs or stepsibs.
Ultimately, the software can maintain 225 databases with 30,000 people in each; any of the databases can be deleted or modified at any time. A notes-and-sources capability lets you record where you found facts, as well as give personal anecdotes or background information. I made notes ranging from where a husband and wife met to comments on an ancestor's land.
Once enough information is typed in, printed charts and reports allow for virtually any custom hard copy. From a summary of a certain family to an ancestry sketch to a special combination you create yourself, you can produce a document tailored to your needs. I tried all 17 options and was more than pleased. These documents could easily be turned into gifts, given their variety and appearance.
Any faults (and there are a few) can be worked around. For example, choices under marriage information don't take account of a deceased spouse, offering only married, divorced, unmarried, and annulled as categories. But you can enter the date of death for an individual, then display it as part of the information under his or her name. Also, the system supports up to ten spouses per person.
If you're interested in tracing family roots and sharing that information with others, Family Origins makes that goal more fun and easier to reach. I expected that using this program would be hard, initially--but, much to my joy, it proved quite easy to figure out in a very short period of time. IBM PC or compatible, 512K RAM, hard disk--$49 PARSONS TECHNOLOGY One Parsons Dr. P.O. Box 100 Hiawatha, IA 52233-0100 (800) 223-6925 (319) 395-9626 Circle Reader Service Number 364