Why It Doesn’t Matter Which Genealogy Software You Use

Why it doesn't matter which genealogy software you useHere’s a bit of pre-RootsTech sacrilege:

I’m starting to think it doesn’t matter much what genealogy software I use.

Crazy, right?

See, I used Family Tree Maker for years.  I’d bought it in the mid-1990s, and I stuck with it.  Then I switched to The Master Genealogist…but I never really mastered it.  Then I more or less stopped doing research for 10 years or so (a decade during which my genealogy database became hopelessly corrupted in one of my computer moves, although I didn’t find out until it was far too late to fix it).  Then I came back to my research, and flailed around a bit trying to find a software program I liked.  I tried the latest version of The Master Genealogist.  Then I tried the latest version of Family Tree Maker.  Then I tried RootsMagic.

So I’ve been around the block, software-wise.  I felt like Goldilocks.  Each program had stuff I liked and stuff I didn’t.  Like most serious researchers, I especially struggled with how citations were handled.  In fact, I think what I was really looking for is something to do citations for me.  I have this fantasy that I’ll just tell the computer where I found something and it will turn it into a citation that will make me look smart…and then I’d print the whole thing out, and it would produce this gorgeous finished product that would make me the toast of the genealogy world.  I didn’t feel like I could really get going until I found just the right software to build my database.

You know what though?  That’s not going to happen…and if such a software program DID exist, it would suck.  Because the whole point of genealogy is doing it yourself.  Otherwise you’re not a genealogist.  You’re a data entry clerk.

I realized I was thinking of my genealogy database as the end product.  That’s wrong.  The database is just a storage tool—like my big black metal file cabinets.  It’s up to me to create the end product.  That happens in Microsoft Word, not in an automated printout.  There’s no shortcut.

There’s no shortcut on the source citation thing, either.  I’m going to have to do them myself.  I’ve seen umpteen blog posts and Llistserv emails on how to get your citations to fit into a database, and the fact is they don’t fit.  Citations are part of the job.  There’s no point in whining about it.

So now I’m sort of a software agnostic.  I see people who are evangelical for their program of choice, and that’s fine.  I’m over that though.  I really like RootMagic, and I’m going to stick with it (and incidentally, I got it to work perfectly on my new MacBook Air by installing a relatively cheap, lightweight program called Crossover, which I cannot recommend highly enough).  If I had to use something else, I’d live through it.  In fact, I’d be just fine.

I feel so much freer now that I see my database as a tool rather than an end in itself.  I no longer spend so much energy on the software; I can work on research instead.  It’s a subtle shift, but it’s made all the difference in the world for me.

NOTE: I have no connection to any of these companies except for Ancestry, who puts out Family Tree Maker.  I’m an Ancestry affiliate, and you can find out more about what that means here.  I’m sure they’re thrilled to hear that I recommend RootsMagic instead.

Photo by fimoculous

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