Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 77 / OCTOBER 1986 / PAGE 108

IBM Personal Computing

Donald B. Trivette

Root Computing

In about 1742, a small band of Pennsylvania Indians murdered a settler and his wife and kidnapped their infant daughter. A short time later the Indians boldly rode into the village of Pennington, New Jersey, where the Reverend James Davenport recognized that something was amiss. He and his wife traded the Indians a jug of wine and a loaf of bread for the child and christened her Deliverance Paine—Deliverance for her rescue and Paine for Mrs. Davenport's maiden name. Deliverance grew to womanhood and married her school teacher, William Paisley, Jr., in November 1763. She and William moved south to settle in what is now Greensboro, North Carolina. They raised six sons and two daughters. Deliverance died in 1818 and her husband died four years later.

Deliverance and William Paisley are my great-great-great-great-grandparents. I came across that and lots of other family lore recently when I began researching and recording my ancestors.

Computer Genealogy

Paul Andereck, in his book Computer Genealogy (Ancestry Press, 1985), describes several pieces of software available for maintaining family records. He favors three programs for the IBM PC: Roots II by CommSoft ($195), Family Roots by Quinsept ($185), and Personal Ancestral File, written and distributed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ($35). After using all three programs for several days, I prefer Personal Ancestral File. However, my objections to the other two are more personal than substantive, so don't reject them automatically if you're in the market for genealogical software.

Though its price is quite low, Personal Ancestral File is a solid piece of software. And it's simple to use, which may be more important for a genealogy program than for other types of software. Even a computer novice should have no difficulty using this program.

Personal Ancestral File is driven by an old-fashioned numerical menu and each screen is clearly labeled so that you're never lost. Option 1 on the main menu selects data entry, which is the prime function of any genealogy program. For each person in the family tree, you may enter sex, surname, three given names, and both dates and locations for birth, death, christening, and burial. You may also enter notes of any length for any individual. For instance, the first paragraph in this column is the note I included in the record for Deliverance Paine.

After recording the information for Deliverance, I added William Paisley, Jr., and then selected the ADD FAMILY option. This allowed me to pair up Deliverance and William, enter their date and place of marriage, and record their eight children. While this is a convenient way to work—beginning with the older ancestors and working forward in time—Personal Ancestral File does not demand that you follow this order. You may add all individuals and pair them into families and children later.

Flexible Data Entry

One nice feature is that the program lets you enter dates in almost any order. The form day/month/year is evidently the conventional form, though all of my records were dated in the form month/day/year. Personal Ancestral File converted 1-31-1958 into 31 JAN 1958.

A feature that you may not enjoy as much is this program's obsession with accuracy. You can't simply enter Deliverance and then proceed. The program beeps and asks you to type Deliverance again. If you spell the name the same way both times, it is entered in the program's dictionary and thereafter you may enter the name without having to verify it. This feature slows down data entry, but it does reduce errors.

Once your family is entered, there are many ways to use the data. Option 6 on the main menu lets you print data in several forms, including a descendants list, indented by generation, and pedigree chart (often called a tree). Or, suppose you want to retrieve some information: You can search the database by any field. Perhaps you remember your grandmother talking about an aunt Chat but you can't remember who Chat was. Personal Ancestral File looks through all the records and displays the one for your great-great-aunt Chat (provided, of course, that you entered such a record in the first place). One of the program's more interesting features is the ability to compute the relationship of any two people in the database. It traces back through the chain until it finds an ancestor common to both individuals, then consults a built-in table to find the relationship.

The minimum configuration for running the IBM version of Personal Ancestral File is a 256K MS-DOS computer with 80-column monitor and two disk drives. Apple II and CP/M versions are also available. For those who are interested in customizing the program, the Church also plans to release the source code (Microsoft C) for a nominal fee. To obtain a copy of the program, you must request an order form by calling or writing:

Genealogical Library
35 N. West Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84150
(801) 531-2331