Irish Roots

April 19th, 2010

John Grenham

Family history research is an episodic affair. No one starts off one day with their own birth and works their way back from there as far as possible on every line of descent in a single go. A more typical approach is an hour or two online, followed, when thereís time, by a few days in the General Register Office, then weeks or months later a few days in the National Library, then back online ... As you go further back, each fresh family line partly restarts the process. In addition, the fact that any family story is never fully told, just abandoned when the records run out, is another powerful incentive to keep starting over.

So one experience common to every researcher is picking up their research after a break of months, or even years, and having to figure out what exactly theyíve already done and who exactly is related to whom. After even three generations it is perfectly possible, even common, to be juggling five or six hundred individuals. Without a decent way of storing all this information, you can easily spend more time reconstructing your old information than actually doing fresh research.

Which is why the first marriage of computers and genealogy happened. Long before the internet, even before the PC, computers were being used to store and share family histories. At its most basic, genealogy is just data, and thatís what computers do. Having spent more than my fair share of time staring at two-year-old lists of baptisms wondering what they are, I would encourage anyone doing research to use one of the genealogy programs available, to store, interpret and publish. The best known program is Family Tree Maker (avoid super platinum deluxe editions) and the most powerful is The Master Genealogist. You can find reviews and links to trial downloads at http://genealogy.about.com/.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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